Category: football

Great News for Jets: Darnold Needs No Protecting

Robbins Nest

Sam Darnold sets up to pass Friday, August 24, 2018. (Photo by Dave Pokress)

By Lenn Robbins

We’re way past the point of wondering if the Jets were lucky or good in the 2018 NFL Draft.

New York football fans that still want to rip the Giants for not drafting Sam Darnold – or any other quarterback they believe could spell, ‘franchise’ – can’t be the slightest bit disappointed in Saquon Barkley – a back for the ages.

We will be ridiculously fortunate to watch Barkley, who has the most impressive thighs outside of those featured in the S.I. Swimsuit issue. He will stop and start, change direction, accelerate, decelerate, catch passes, break off 50-yard touchdown runs and, yes, block.

In just his second season, Barkley is the most complete back in the league.

neil miller /nysportsextra

But can he lead a team to the Super Bowl in this era of carnival passing offenses? Can any back?

Doubtful. In this era of Air Raid offense, the quarterback is the common denominator: Have a great one and there’s a chance to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Have a mediocre one and maybe you win a title with a great supporting cast.

(Side note: Still don’t know where Nick Foles lands in this conversation).

The last team to win it all with a pedestrian quarterback was the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. Joe Flacco, who now is with the Denver Broncos, played a marvelous Super Bowl but it was the Ravens angry-mob defense that carried that team.

The Jets have the makings of a very good, potentially great defense. Once again, we don’t know if they were good or lucky to have Quinnen Williams drop to them with the No.3 pick, but he was the best player in the 2019 Draft.

The Jets also might have that elite quarterback in Darnold.

Darnold, 22, could be the best quarterback to wear a Jets jersey since Joe Namath. He could lead the Jets to only their second Super Bowl win in 59 seasons. The Ravens, for comparison, have won two in 24 seasons.

When it comes to Jets futility there is no shortage of reasons. For this space, it comes down to one fact – they have only had that superstar quarterback once. Once.

Now here is Darnold telling us that he feels great heading into the year and he’s right where he wants to be. His coach, Adam Gase, has gushed that he didn’t appreciate Darnold’s arm strength after Gase saw him live twice last season as the coach of the Dolphins.

Darnold played like most rookie quarterbacks last season.

He threw almost as many interceptions (15) as touchdowns (17). His passer rating (77.6) would put him in the ‘Also Receiving Votes” category for worst rookie quarterbacks of all time.

 One of those on the list is Eli Manning who threw nine interceptions, six touchdowns and a had a passer rating of 55.4 as a rookie. Manning turned out quite well, leading the Giants to two Super Bowls and a one-way ticket to Canton one day.

Now here stands Darnold, about to enter Year 2. He doesn’t not have the greatest arsenal of weapons although running back Le’Veon Bell, who was Barkley before Barkley, can hurt teams in a lot of ways. Darnold has a quarterback friendly coach in Gase. But he has something extra.

Darnold, the former USC quarterback, has a swagger that is the perfect pitch of subtle meets confidence. At his introductory press conference last season, when he was just 20 years of age, he was thrown a tough ball: Was he aware of the Jets quarterback tradition (gag!)?

“I’m aware of it,’’ he deftly responded. “Not growing up a Jets fan, I don’t understand quite to that extent. But again, I’m going to come in here and do my job and be very confident in myself.”

Darnold has a California-sized confidence. How else could he not have crumbled when his first NFL pass attempt turned into a Pick 6? (BTW: Brett Favre also had his first pass picked and returned as well.) Hey, Jets fans will take any morsel of hope that can nibble on.

Darnold took the blame for a couple of losses last season but he was never more accountable than after a 21-17 loss to the Browns.

“It’s not acceptable the way I played,” Darnold told reporters after the loss. “I just made stupid mistakes in the fourth quarter and some missed opportunities throughout the whole game. I have to play better, and that’s on me.”

The Jets franchise now resides on Darnold’s shoulders. He says he is more comfortable and confident than he was as a rookie. But it’s what Gase said that really gives Jets fans hope that finally, the savior has arrived.

“He’s not the kind of quarterback you’re looking to protect,’’ said Gase.

No, the Jets are looking for much more. So is Darnold.

N.Y.Giants practice 08/01/19

The Cloud That Hangs Over the Giants: Ageism

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

  You can’t blame this on Dave Gettleman, or Jerry Reese.

File photo Neil Miller Nysportsextra

 The Giants, a family affair, always looked within, always took care of their own. Reese learned at Ernie Accorsi’s knee and had a solid resume. He was promoted to GM when Accorsi retired.

  You can’t blame this on Pat Shurmur or Steve Spagnuolo or even Bob McAdoo.

 The latter got the head coaching job in 2016 for possessing many of the same characteristics as Reese: He had learned at Tom Coughlin’s knee, had a solid resume and was a good soldier. He replaced Coughlin when the then 69-year-old resigned.

“Twelve years is a long time to be a head coach in the NFL,” co-owner John Mara told reporters on Jan. 5, 2016. “It’s just time. It’s just time. I think he realized it more so than anybody else.”

  No, he didn’t.

“Hey, do I agree with the move? Of course not,’’ Coughlin told the media later that year. “It hurts. It hurts. ‘Former’ is not a good word. I don’t like the word, but that’s the way it is.”

  “It’s just time.” That’s a corporate speak for parting ways with an older employee, even one that’s won those two Vince Lombardi Trophies. It’s really called ageism, one of the most blatant and underpublicized forms of discrimination active in our country.

  This came to mind –after one Giants receiver after another was lost for part or all of the season – as I was trying to understand why the Giants have this dark cloud over the team’s Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford.

Apparently, the Football Gods have been woke.

All those images of an exasperated Coughlin on the sidelines, his arms on his hips, head cocked, looking utterly exasperated after a bad play were creating an ugly narrative. Suddenly Coughlin was too old school.

He was a disciplinarian. He wasn’t a player’s coach. It was time, said Mara.

The World Health Organization said ageism presents a prevalent and insidious problem in America.

Media outlets are much more salaciously interested in reporting on the 25-year-old that claims she was discriminated against because of her cup size than the 65-year-old that claims he overheard an interviewer say he was a great candidate but ‘too old.’’ Both deserve to be heard equally.

There wasn’t much criticism of the Giants when they made it clear Coughlin’s time was up. A majority of Giants fans probably agreed because fans want to win. Now. Everywhere.

Yet isn’t it an odd coincidence that since Coughlin ‘resigned,’ the Giants have spiraled into embarrassment? The team he joined as executive vice president, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have assembled one of the league’s most talented rosters.

Do you know how desperately the Jaguars, Buffalo Bills or Minnesota Vikings or any other NFL franchise that has never experienced the euphoria of getting fitted for Super Bowl rings desires just one title? Just one!

The Giants seem further away from a title than they have since the cloud of the 70’s. Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Browns, which will be remembered as one of the worst deals in sports history if Daniel Jones doesn’t emerge as an elite quarterback.

 Sterling Shepard broke his thumb on the first day of camp. Corey Coleman tore is ACL. Rookie Darius Slayton tweaked his hamstring on Day 2. Brittan Golden suffered a groin injury. And Golden Tate, the big offseason acquisition signed to compensate for the loss of Beckham, was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug rules.

“It feels like there is a dark cloud over our room right now,” Slayton told reporters.

Wonder why.

Summer of Stun: Where do Giants and Jets Stand?

#10 Eli Manning Neil Miller /nysportsextra copyright 2019

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The only thing more unpredictable and featured more bloodletting than the final season of Game of Thrones was the New York Giants offseason.

Three-time Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins was allowed to walk in free agency.

Odell Beckham Jr., king of fire-breathing wide receivers, was traded to Cleveland. That netted the Giants the No. 17 pick in the first round, the 95th pick in the third round and defender Jabrill Peppers. They also acquired the 30th pick from Seahawks.

Odell Beckham Neil Miller /nysportsexta copyright 2019

New York thus had the Nos. 6, 17 and 30 picks and the potential to jump start the roster. They needed immediate help on the offensive and defensive lines, a porous secondary and a potential replacement for quarterback Eli Manning.

Eli Manning Neil Miller nysportsextra Neil Miller copyright 2019

What came next might be remembered as Big Blue’s version of the night of the White Walkers. They took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, who was expected to be available later in the first round, with the No 6 pick. Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, taken at 17, gives the Giants formidable run stopper. And Georgia’s Deondre Baker is an athletic corner.

Not exactly time to pop that vintage bottle of bubbly. So, what are three keys for the 2019 Giants?

1. Who’s the quarterback? It’s only the most important position in the football. Eli Manning is nearing the end of a terrific career. But teams usually don’t use the 6th pick on a quarterback and sit him an entire season.

2. Lawrence, at 6-4, 342 pounds, can be a beast in the middle but he’s not going to be much of a pass-rusher. Who brings the heat for Big Blue, especially when they face Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott? Lorenzo Carter anyone? Candidates welcome.

3. Manning should get a courage award when inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s been sacked 406 times, including a personal season-high 47 times last year.

The Giants addressed the left side of the line last season, signing New England free agent Nate Solder and drafting guard Will Hernandez. They acquired standout right guard Kevin Zeitler in a trade for Olivier Vernon (there goes the pass rush) and signed tackle Mike Remmers.

Will Hernadez Neil Miller nysportsextra copyright 2019

With an aging QB in Manning and a rookie in Jones, the line will have to give the QB an extra second. The good news? If this line comes together, Saquon Barkley could solidify his place as the best all-around back in the NFL. Or is that Le’Veon Bell with the Jets?

Memo to Giants fans: If Jones develops into a star franchise quarterback, GM Dave Gettelman is the smartest guy in the room. If not…

Speaking of the Jets, they must be gluttons for punishment, these Jets fans. It’s tough enough to make it in this city without your favorite football team’s front office make the White House seem like a finely tuned machine.

Just when it seemed as if the Jets were at least formulating a plan, they suffered another dysfunctional meltdown. The new coach conspired to have the general manager, who hired him, fired. Then he basically hand-picked his own GM.

J-E-T-S; Mess, Mess, Mess.

But Jets fans have a way of finding something to be hopeful about. What choice do they have? They have a star running back in Bell. They have the makings of a great defensive front with Leonard Williams, first-round draft choice Quinnen Williams and high-motor man, Henry Anderson.

They have a franchise quarterback – maybe.

#14 Sam Darnold David Pokress /nysportsextra copyright 2019

Here are the three make or break issues facing the Jets going into 2019.

1. Let’s start with that franchise quarterback. The unflappable Sam Darnold survived his rookie season without his confidence (and body) shattered.

Darnold had a predictably inconsistent rookie season throwing 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and completing 57.7 percent of his throws. For comparison, Hall of Famer Troy Aikman threw nine touchdowns and 18 interceptions and completed 55.7-percent of his passes as a rookie.

Darnold, who just turned 22, seemingly has all the tools. But if he doesn’t take the next step in his second season, the New York pressure cooker will make life very uncomfortable.

above images #14 Sam Darnold David Pokress nysportsextra copyright 2019

2. Mike Mccagnan hired coach Adam Gase, handed out $121 million in guaranteed free agent money, oversaw the draft, and THEN was fired. Gase, who often has insects thinking, “Man, that guy is bugged eyed!” lobbied for Joe Douglas as GM.

Douglas comes from Philadelphia, where he was the vice president of player personnel. He’s part of a team that did a great job of roster building. The Eagles have the most complete roster in the NFL East. The question is: Is he in charge? Is Gase in charge? The Jets need a front-office leader and stability more than anything.

3. Coaches and GMs love to stress that special teams are just as important as the offense and defense. So why did the Jets let two All-Pro special teamers leave? Kicker Jason Myers signed with the Seahawks. Returner Andre Roberts left for AFC East rival Buffalo.

The Jets brought back kicker Chandler Catanzaro who missed five PATs (30-of-35) and was 16-of-20 on field goal attempts last season. At least he’s familiar with MetLife’s vortex winds.
Roberts averaged 29.4 yards per kickoff return (one touchdown) and 14.1 on punt returns (one touchdown). They signed Jamison Crowder but do you want to risk playing their $28.5 million slot receiver on special teams?

Memo to Jets fans: There will likely be more head scratching before there’s a playoff berth.