A couple of weeks ago, retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning appeared on the Locked On Giants podcast as part of a Quaker Oats promotional campaign for their "Pre-grain" tour, and I asked him if the Giants' good fortunes in 2022 were a blessing or a curse.
Here's what he told me.
It's always good to have success. I don't think you ever have success as a curse. I think they had a good squad and put together a good team. They learned how to play together, they learned how to win together, and that's important. That's important for this squad to have.
They signed a bunch of the key players back this year, and so they're creating a great nucleus of players, of leaders on this team, and guys that believe in each other and what they're doing. They believe in the coaching staff, and the coaching staff believes in the players.
And when you have all that coming together, it gives you a greater chance for success. It doesn't make it automatically--you deal with injuries and losing close games, and that's just part of football, unfortunately.
But I still think they have a great crew, a great staff, great players that will bounce back from this, and if they can stay together, can put some winning teams and playoff teams, and once you make playoffs, who knows what can happen.
I mention this because, despite a 31-19 win against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, several fans are unhappy that the Giants, by winning, fell from the No. 2 spot in the draft to No. 5.
I understand the argument. While still mathematically alive, the Giants season has about as much chance of reaching the postseason as I have of being invited on stage by KISS to play a tune. And if there's no chance for a playoff spot, then why not tank, these fans insist?
For several reasons, not just the one Manning, one of the greatest Giants in franchise history, offered.
For starters, no coach and player worth his weight in salt will embrace tanking. There's a thing known as competitive pride, and most players understand that they're playing for the name on the front of the jersey and on the back.
That's why, although the playoffs are the longest of long shots, this Giants team continues to put in the long hours each day, and many even go beyond what's required of them. Why do they keep up with their training and conditioning? And why they continue to hustle out there on the field.
And for those who start making business decisions as these final six games wind down? They won't be a part of the team moving forward.
Those who embrace remaining competitive are also setting examples for the rookies, many of whom by now would have had their college seasons wrapped up and many of whom are still getting used to the daily grind that is the NFL season. We often hear of rookies who learn over their first year how to better care for themselves, better prepare, and better study the game to raise their game.
Do you think that's possible if a team is embracing the tank? It's not.
But here's the other reason why those longing for the Giants to tank so they can pick in the top three in next year's draft is the wrong approach. Having a Top-10 draft pick guarantees nothing, as there are as many busts as success stories.
For every Ereck Flowers (No. 9), there is a John Michael Schmitz (No. 57). For every Eli Apple (No. 10), there is a Deonte Banks (No. 24). And for every Kadarius Toney (No. 20), there is a Jalin Hyatt (No. 73).
The point is that draft position doesn't guarantee a team a roster full of studs. It comes down to the player's fit both in terms of his demeanor and skillset and how receptive he is to coaching. And it comes down to how well a front office and scouting staff do their homework in vetting these prospects.
"But wait!" you say. "We're talking about potentially adding a stud quarterback here, so draft position, in this case, does matter."
Jalen Hurts of the Eagles? He was drafted No. 53 overall, making him a second-round pick. He's already been to a Super Bowl and boasts a 31-12 career record as a starter.
Dak Prescott of the Cowboys? A fourth-round pick (No. 135 overall) who has a 68-39 record and has been to the playoffs in four seasons.
When it comes to the quarterback position, picking high up in the draft helps, and yes, in most cases, a team can find its next Eli Manning or Patrick Mahomes. But it can also find a Ryan Leaf, a Jamarcus Russell, a Johnny Manziel, or a Zach Wilson.
The draft has always been a crap shoot for teams given the unpredictability of how a pick might fare--did anyone think, for example, that running back David Wilson would see his promising career end prematurely due to spinal stenosis?
But at the end of the day, in weighing the pros of winning, even in a lost season, against the cons, it's pretty clear that winning is the preferred way to go, even if it costs a team a few draft slots.
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