John Mara expressed optimism the last two offseasons, and each year the Giants’ win total fell far below his expectations.
Mara is culpable for all that’s gone wrong, of course, from Eli Manning’s ‘benching’ to Ben McAdoo’s and Jerry Reese’s firing, to Dave Gettleman’s hiring, enabling and the ensuing results.
Even so, the Giants’ 3-13 record in 2017 completely blindsided Mara, and then even after he tempered his hope last summer, a 5-11 mark in 2018 was a terrible disappointment, too.
So no one expected Mara to step out at the NFL’s spring league meeting in Florida this week and proclaim the Giants a completely turned-around team.
He told Newsday he believes the Giants are “moving in the right direction” after having a “really good draft.” He added: “I do have confidence that we have the right people in the building.”
He said he is “pleased” so far with Daniel Jones, who has “a nice arm and a great demeanor.” Then he cautioned prudently that “he’s in shorts on the practice field” and it’s only May.
Expressing any less confidence, obviously, would start a five-alarm fire in East Rutherford.
Still, when a team’s coveted future franchise quarterback falls into its lap with the sixth overall pick, that should be cause for celebration.
When an organization gets the player it has targeted as its future leader, you expect to see even a measured owner express pride and excitement about that victory alone.
Mara, however, waited almost a full month to make his first public comments on picking Jones. Then when he did weigh in on Tuesday, his remarks were complimentary but more ‘wait-and-see’ than ‘we got our QB.’
What could explain Mara’s reticence?
Has he decided to avoid any more proclamations that could invite ridicule after having high hopes dashed the last few years and hearing rampant public criticism of the Giants’ Jones pick?
Or is he trying to create a safe enough distance from Gettleman’s decision in case it backfires?
Is there a chance Mara actually isn’t fully convinced yet that his GM made the right call, even as he backs Gettleman as one of the “right people” in the building?
Mara no doubt realizes that no matter what happened in the Giants’ draft room on April 25, he and Steve Tisch as co-owners will own the decision to select Jones.
Tisch told the Daily News that ownership was on board with “the Kansas City model” in February, and Mara said at the NFL owners’ meetings in March that it “would be a great scenario” if the Giants drafted a quarterback to sit behind Eli Manning.
So they’re all-in on Jones. There is no turning back.
However, it is impossible to forget hearing Mara couch his desire for a quarterback in March with the need for maximizing “value” in this draft.
The Giants were not finished with their QB evaluations at the time, but Mara was insistent that value had to be a huge part of the equation.
The primary criticism of the Jones pick is how high the Giants seemed to have reached for him, and Mara was very clear how he felt about doing that.
“I would like to come out of this draft with a quarterback, but here’s the thing: show me what the grades are, what’s the value there,” Mara said in Phoenix. “If the top quarterbacks are graded towards the bottom of the first round or even the second round, I’m not gonna insist that we take one at No. 6 or even at No. 17. Show me what the value is.
“That’s always been our philosophy on that,” Mara added. “So the worst thing you can do is try to force the issue and then you end up with a quarterback that isn’t worth taking at the particular spot. So would we love to have a quarterback coming out of this draft? Yes, but only if we have a conviction about him.”
These were noteworthy comments by Mara because he was under more heat than ever this spring to address the future of his quarterback position after neglecting it one year ago.
Mara knew, even as he and the Giants stayed married to Manning, that it was past time. And still, on March 24, he was couching his need for a quarterback with the understanding of how this class seemed like it could shake out.
Obviously, by the time April 25 rolled around, Gettleman had decided he was taking Jones at sixth overall, and he was enabled to do so.
It’s just strange that we’ve barely heard from Mara about what presumably should be one of the Giants’ great successes, and instead comes off as an enormous and unsettling risk.