EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman needed a reminder of his past indiscretions, Friday’s action around the NFL should have done the trick.
Let’s begin with this disclaimer (one that I’ve repeated countless times over the past three years): This has almost nothing to do with running back Saquon Barkley, a fabulous performer who plays a grueling position that has already taken its toll on his pro career. He just so happens to be the face behind a string of mistakes that have led us to this point, where the Giants have 15 wins and zero winning seasons over the past three years.
It’s relevant right now because the Miami Dolphins showed everyone Friday what a top-five pick can be worth in what is perceived as a strong NFL draft for quarterbacks. The Dolphins traded the No. 3 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 12 selection this year, a first- and third-round pick in 2022 and a first-round pick in 2023. That’s quite the haul, one that gives Miami flexibility to make all kinds of corresponding moves. For instance, this one: The Dolphins then traded back up to No. 6 overall using some of the assets they had just obtained.
Now the Dolphins can get their playmaker (or whichever non-quarterback they are targeting) this year after having collected more valuable draft resources. Good chance they get their target playmaker considering it would be an upset if three of the first five picks are not quarterbacks.
A move like this would have made a ton of sense if the Giants had gone this route during the 2018 NFL draft — when they held the No. 2 overall pick — assuming they weren’t going to take a quarterback. Which they weren’t, because of their love for Barkley and their emotional attachment to former QB Eli Manning. They could have traded down for offensive lineman Quenton Nelson — which the Indianapolis Colts did when they swapped pick No. 3 for No. 6 with the New York Jets — or perhaps to another spot inside the top five where they might have still had a chance to land Barkley. The Jets were undoubtedly taking a quarterback; they eventually drafted Sam Darnold.
So many viable options for the Giants. None taken.
The decision to not take a quarterback was debatable on its own, especially considering the organization decided to roll it back another season with a 37-year-old Manning. The Giants put off their franchise quarterback decision for another year before settling on Daniel Jones, selecting him with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019.
But in 2018, Gettleman was in love with Barkley and haughtily admitted afterward in a team website report that “once Cleveland took [QB] Baker [Mayfield at No. 1 overall], I told our guys don’t even waste your time [picking up the phone]. We’re taking Saquon.”
Reminder: Quarterbacks Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Darnold were on the board. All were highly regarded at the time. Darnold, Rosen and Allen were selected in the top 10 along with Mayfield, and Jackson joined them in the first round. It’s revisionist history at this point, but in their first three years in the NFL, Allen was an MVP candidate for the Buffalo Bills this past season and the Baltimore Ravens‘ Jackson already has one of those trophies on his mantel.
Those decisions in that 2018 draft are major factors in why the Giants are where they are, spending big in NFL free agency this offseason to try to get back to respectability. The Giants have gone 5-11, 4-12 and 6-10 since that draft.
The misappropriation of assets in the 2018 draft hasn’t been their only misstep, it’s just the highest-profile gaffe. Even the Giants realize it and have readily admitted to some of the mistakes — draft and free agency included.
“There’s no defending the record. There’s no defending that at all,” Giants owner John Mara said recently. “We haven’t won enough games. But listen, we made some miscalculations in 2018 with some of our personnel decisions.”
It hurts to be reminded of past mistakes, but it is also important to learn from them. This way history doesn’t repeat itself.
In Gettleman’s defense (and perhaps with a major assist from coach Joe Judge), the Giants do seem headed in the right direction. The signings this offseason of wide receiver Kenny Golladay, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and defensive lineman Leonard Williams assure that their talent level continues to get better. This is by far the best roster the Giants will put on the field since Gettleman took over three years ago.
If Jones makes the jump this season (which is a huge “if”), and Barkley returns to his rookie form after tearing his ACL this past season, Gettleman will have the last laugh about the 2018 draft, and seeing the type of moves being made by the Dolphins won’t elicit any bad memories about mistakes of the past.
In the meantime, it’s hard not to think about the possibilities when other NFL teams are stockpiling gobs of first-round selections from quarterback-desperate teams in exchange for top picks while the Giants, not so long ago, drafted a running back at No. 2 overall.
Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott leaving Adidas for Jordan Brand, source says
Prescott will be the only Jordan Brand quarterback, the only Cowboys player and the highest-paid NFL player on the Jordan Brand roster, Schefter reports.
Prescott’s deal was negotiated by his marketing agent Peter Miller of JABEZ Marketing Group and the Jordan Brand team, according to Schefter.
The Cowboys and Prescott agreed to a four-year, $160 million contract, including $126 million guaranteed, in March.
Prescott had been with Adidas since his Pro Bowl rookie season with the Cowboys in 2016. Mississippi State, where Prescott played in college, was an Adidas school when he was there.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) June 10, 2021
Prescott won’t be the first notable Cowboys player to be linked to the Jordan Brand. Former Dallas star Dez Bryant was associated with the company when he was with the Cowboys at the end of his career.
The news comes after Prescott pronounced himself back from a dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle that forced him to miss 11 games in 2020.
“I’ve buried the injury,” Prescott said on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Todd Archer contributed to this report.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins spending offseason rewatching whole career
EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins added a new element to his offseason enrichment program.
Instead of doing the usual unpacking at the end of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 7-9 finish in 2020 by watching all 16 games to evaluate his individual performance, the 32-year-old quarterback did something he had never done before.
“This year, I decided to go back and really watch my whole career, watch a couple other offenses to see what they have been doing, or what they did the year they had a lot of success,” Cousins said. “I do think that time looking at tape through the winter and spring, and even now as I go home through the summer after next week, I do think that it’s helpful now to see what has worked in the past, what I want to make as a staple for myself as I move forward, but then also, where I have improved and where I need to improve.
“That evaluation certainly comes from your coaches, day in and day out, but there’s also got to be an ability to self-evaluate and say, ‘I like what I’m doing there; keep doing that,’ or, ‘That’s not good enough — I want to improve that.'”
Cousins has appeared in 109 games since being drafted by Washington in the fourth round in 2012 and has started 104, including 47 games since signing with the Vikings in 2018. The sheer volume of game film is something he hadn’t had access to until recently, which allowed him to up the ante with his self-scouting.
“I wanted to go back and really just study, create cutups and really build up some volume that I can pull from as we go forward,” he said. “I regret I hadn’t done it earlier in my career but I did get the film set up in my house to basically have access to all of that so that all offseason, even if I’m not in the facility, I’d have access to tape. I do think it’s been a very valuable resource to have and I’m kicking myself I didn’t do it sooner in my career. It was just a piece that hopefully can help me improve this coming year.”
In spite of Minnesota’s 1-5 start, the Vikings boasted a top-10 offense throughout the second half of the 2020 season before missing the playoffs. Cousins’ bounce-back following a Week 7 bye resulted in the QB throwing for 4,265 yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 67.6% of his passes. Minnesota’s offense featured a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher (Dalvin Cook) and 1,000-yard receiver (Justin Jefferson) for just the eighth time in franchise history and second season in a row.
Asked about what he has gleaned from his expanded film-watching sessions, Cousins cited a line from ESPN’s 2011 documentary the “Brady 6,” which recapped Tom Brady‘s college career at Michigan and the careers and lives of the six quarterbacks taken before the future Hall of Famer was selected with pick No. 199 in 2000.
“[Brady] was quoted as saying, ‘I watch myself on film, and to this day, I still don’t feel like I’m that good,'” Cousins recalled. “And I really felt that sentiment. When he said it, I was in college, but I understood what he meant. And now going back and watching my career, I would echo that sentiment. I’ve watched myself in ’12 and ’13-14 and think, ‘Man, I’m such a better quarterback now. I can’t believe that the coaches didn’t just cut me when I did that and made that mistake. I can’t believe they were patient with me.’ Because nowadays looking back, it would just be unacceptable to myself, allowing myself to play that way or make that read or make that throw or that decision.”
Among Cousins’ biggest takeaways from watching the entire catalog of his NFL playing career came from rewatching his years in Washington, where he supplanted Robert Griffin III for the starting job at the end of the 2014 season through 2017.
Being able to revisit the tendencies of his playmakers in Washington and how it affected the way Cousins transitioned to playing with new receivers in Minnesota was an eye-opening moment for the quarterback.
“What just jumps out as the players you play with,” Cousins said. “You realize that the way Pierre Garcon ran a route or Desean Jackson ran a route, that affects you in the way you play and the way you think, and then you come to a new team and you’re trying to tell Adam Thielen to run a route that way, and he’s saying, ‘No, I don’t do it that way.’ So just the process of then learning those players and saying, ‘OK’ and understanding that you always have to be aware of what your teammates do well and try to put them in those positions to be successful.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady knew early in 2020 that he’d need knee surgery
“It was an injury I dealt with since last April-May,” said Brady, who had the procedure after leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in February. “I knew I would have to have something done at the end of the year. Happy I did it.
“It was probably something that was needed — it certainly needed to be done and there was a great outcome. I feel I’ll be able to do some different things this year that I wasn’t able to do last year.”
Brady declined to give specifics on the injury, saying he’s “a little bit old school” in that regard.
“You deal with [injuries] and make the most of them,” Brady said after his second minicamp practice. “The good part is I’ll be able to commit a lot of time to other parts. I’m sure I’ll be faced with different adversities this year, but I had to spend a lot of time tending to that particular injury, which happens when you have something that you need to ultimately have surgery on to get fixed.”
Brady, who was not on the injury report during the 2020 season, said he had the procedure 15 weeks ago Wednesday. He was cleared to resume throwing three weeks ago, with his only limitation being coach Bruce Arians holding him out of blitz periods in the event an outside linebacker turned the corner too quickly and bumped into him.
Brady has looked strong in minicamp practices. On Wednesday, during a red zone drill, he connected with tight end Cameron Brate on two leaping grabs in the end zone and on a back-shoulder fade, and then on a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who made the catch with a defender draped on him. He also pump-faked a defender to hook up with wide receiver Cyril Grayson — his third read — on a touchdown, and found running back Leonard Fournette in the end zone on a short pass.
But the highlight of Brady’s day was the two-minute drill. After converting a fourth-down pass to Chris Godwin, Brady found receiver Scotty Miller on a 40-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown that was reminiscent of last season’s NFC Championship Game.
“Yeah, that was a little déjà vu,” Arians said.
“I feel like I’m there,” Brady said. “From this point to the beginning of training camp, I feel like I can work hard on football improvement as opposed to getting back to a rehab place where you’re more baseline.”
Brady’s only struggles of the day came in red zone 7-on-7s, in which he was intercepted by safety Curtis Riley. Another pass sailed too high and bounced out of receiver Mike Evans‘ hands, while another intended for Godwin was deflected by cornerback Carlton Davis. Brady also was forced to throw the ball away.
“Just continue to see different coverages, different situations,” Arians said when asked what more he wanted to see from his 43-year-old quarterback to close out the Bucs’ three-day minicamp. “That wasn’t his best red zone period. He was pretty solid. But our defense is doing some things that I don’t think anyone else in the league is doing right now, so it’s gonna be good training for us.
“I can hardly get out of bed myself. … I ain’t that much older,” the 68-year-old Arians said jokingly. “But yeah, he’s an amazing guy, the way he takes care of himself and trains and makes sure. He has so much fun out of there. You can trick your brain into feeling good.”
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