Colin McGee ‘22
2020 was a year of change for many. This holds true especially for the New York Giants. Beloved franchise quarterback Eli Manning headed into retirement after a memorable 16 seasons. Head coach Pat Shurmur was fired after a disappointing 4-12 campaign. The Giants for this season committed to second year quarterback Daniel Jones and rookie head coach Joe Judge to bring them success for years to come. Jones, who started in 12 contests in 2019, showed flashes of being the long term solution at quarterback. Judge was an unknown coaching commodity who served as an assistant for both the New England Patriots and Alabama Crimson Tide.
The beginning of the Giants 2020 campaign was to put it lightly rough. The year began with a Monday Night Football showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers where New York would lose at home 26-16. Week 2 would prove to be especially decimating as Saquon Barkley, the unquestioned best player and leader of the Giants, would tear his ACL in the second quarter and be done for the year. Big Blue would lose this game in Chicago 17-13.
This was followed by a skid where the Giants would drop 5 of their next 6 leaving them with a dismal 1-7 start to the season. These early season losses were characterized by losing close games. They lost a game to the Eagles 22-21, most remembered by a critical Evan Engram drop as well as a zany Daniel Jones 80 yard run where he eventually tripped. They also dropped heartbreaking 37-34 and 25-23 losses to the division rival Cowboys and eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, respectively.
Just when every Giants fan was ready to count this team out they went on a 4 game win streak to improve to 5-7. The defense played extremely well during this period. However during this streak Jones suffered a hamstring injury. It didn’t seem to matter as Colt McCoy led the Giants to a 17-12 against the Seahawks in Seattle in what was regarded as one of the most surprising outcomes of the season.
Any other team with the Giants record would be unable to make the playoffs. Yet, the Giants were lucky in the sense that the 2020 NFC East was one of the worst divisions in NFL history. All 4 teams in the division, the Giants, Cowboys, Philadelphia and Washington, would finish the year with a losing record.
One team had to get in, so why not the Giants? A 3 game losing streak following the 4 game winning streak was not promising. Still, the 5-10 Giants remarkably had a scenario to get into the playoffs at the end of the season: A win over Dallas and a Philadelphia win over Washington.
The Giants held their end of the bargain winning 23-19 against the Cowboys. All eyes turned to Philadelphia where Eagles coach Doug Pederson controversially benched starter Jalen Hurts in a close 4th quarter game which was viewed as a move to tank for a higher draft pick. Washington won 20-14 making them division champs and eliminating the Giants in the last game of the season. This outcome left many Giants fans and players disgusted.
This Giants team has shown tremendous growth on the defensive side of the ball. Players such as James Bradberry, Leonard Williams and Logan Ryan should prove to be part of a foundation for years to come on defense. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham did an outstanding job in his first year as defensive coordinator and even garnered head coaching consideration as a result.
The offense was where the Giants had true issues. Daniel Jones had a statistical down year however his turnover problem improved to his benefit. The offense ranked 31st in the NFL behind only the Jets. This side of the ball needs to get better if the Giants want to have any success. The huge loss of Saquon Barkley played an obvious role in this. Despite his return next season, I still expect the Giants to improve this side of the ball more in the offseason.
Joe Judge did a good job in his first year considering the challenges and difficulties COVID-19 presented for a rookie head coach. I can already see him developing a culture for this Giants’ team which is one of the most important things for a head coach to do. I see him as a guy who can be the head coach for a long time to come.
In Judge’s introductory press conference back in January of last year he expressed a desire for the Giants to get back to the way they used to be. He said he wants to build a team that represents the identity of New York and have that team be something that fans are proud of. I strongly believe that in his first year he is on track to do just that. The 2020 season for the New York Giants laid out the first building blocks for something that can be very promising in the future.