It's time for the New York Giants to come to grips with the fact that this is not their season.
The longer the losing goes, the more they look like a team in transition needing a rebuild along both sides of the line. As you ponder that, it's impossible not to consider that Tom Coughlin might just be ready to enjoy his post-football life come this winter, as well.
So, what do I suggest they do?
Well, they can't rebuild on the fly because the kind of talent available in free agency and trades won't help much (Jon Beason of 2010 ... OK, I would sign on for that.) It's time to embrace the future and see just how the rest of the league values your roster. The sooner the better, before the market becomes even more saturated as the trade deadline approaches. Sunday's latest lopsided defeat, against the previously reeling Eagles, confirms this 0-5 start is no fluke. Even in the NFC Least, the Giants will not be contenders.
If it's me, I'm calling Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks into my office, thanking them for their years of service and efforts to win championships. I'm sincerely telling both that we will make an effort to re-sign them in free agency, but with their contracts expiring and this team rebuilding and so many contending teams in need of precisely what they do -- rushing the passer (Tuck) and catching pretty much whatever is thrown near them (Nicks) -- I need to stockpile picks for the 2014 draft.
Rather than risk losing them in March anyway, and only then getting compensatory picks in 2015 that I can't trade, I need to jumpstart the retooling of this roster. In a perfect world I load up on mid-round picks (if the Browns would have dealt a third for Eugene Monroe, I can get a strong Day 2 draft return for these two guys) and then bring one -- if not two -- of these guys back as a free agent.
The Giants have pretty much shunned using the franchise tag for non-kickers in the past, so that's probably not a tool that would apply here. All the more reason to begin some calculated trade discussions that could be a boon in both the short and long term.
It's a new world approach, and not the kind of thing you think of when you consider the pragmatic way the Giants operate, but I wouldn't want to wait any longer or risk trade-able assets getting hurt or anything like that. I'm acting now. You don't think the Ravens or 49ers would have to explore a guy like Nicks? That wouldn't be right up New England's alley? Nicks would immediately leap past Kenny Britt as the best receiving option available.
The Falcons, in Super Bowl or bust mode and lacking any sort of pass rush after signing ex-Giant Osi Umenyiora in free agency this offseason, wouldn't want to take a crack at Tuck, who has been a postseason pass-rushing demon? New Orleans wouldn't want to add another pass rusher to the mix? Chicago couldn't use him?
I could go on and on.
And this isn't unique to the Giants.
The Jaguars love Maurice Jones-Drew and his leadership and would consider re-signing him. All of that is great, but in the meantime get a pick for him and you can always go back to him in March when he is a free agent. Especially having dealt Monroe and losing No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel for the season, the running game isn't going to work. MJD's numbers aren't going to improve. Get a pick if you can.
The Vikings salvaged their season with a victory over winless Pittsburgh in Week 4 and they have added Josh Freeman, but I don't see them reaching the playoffs this season with or without Freeman. If they are sitting at 1-6 or 2-5 at the end of the month, I would be checking if anyone wants to take half of Jared Allen's $14 million salary off my hands and give me a high pick or picks for him. Imagine what he might fetch, even if a contender is just renting him for the stretch run?
Allen is a face-of-the-franchise guy, the Vikings love him and he loves the Vikings, but, again, I can always fight like hell to re-sign him. I can give him a chance to win this season if my team is out of the race, and I can try to get two or three playoff-bound teams in a bidding war for him. I'll also try like heck to convince my owner to eat a chunk of the salary in the trade to lessen the salary-cap hit for the other team like the Ravens and Steelers benefitted from in their deals for left tackles last week.
It might sound drastic to some, but the sooner I can come to grips with the reality of what my team is the sooner I can get a jump on the competition and begin assessing how much value there is on my roster and how I can be best positioned to make things happen this spring.
There are no guarantees I'm going to be able to re-sign these kinds of players anyway, and there just might be no better time than the present to begin repositioning the franchise for the future.
Dolphins, Bears can't protect QBs
I had a hard time buying into the rush to crown the Bears and Dolphins after their fast starts because I had major reservations about their ability to protect their quarterbacks. Well, it's hard to see those offensive lines being anything close to viable as we creep closer to the midpoint of the season.
Ryan Tannehill was absolutely submerged by the Ravens on Sunday, six days after he was enveloped by the Saints. The Dolphins do not have a capable left tackle on the field. The ease with which the Ravens were pushing both tackles into Tannehill's face was startling, and when you compound that with Miami's inability to even look remotely capable of running the ball, that's a nasty combination.
You can already sense Tannehill feeling like he has to press things at times, and the sheer amount of physical abuse alone will slow him down. It has to. The reality is, yes they are still above .500 (3-2) but that win over Atlanta seems a long time ago (the Falcons have their own flaws) and Miami suddenly has a negative scoring differential (minus-3). After their Week 6 bye, the Dolphins have crucial games against the Bills (Mario Williams, anyone?) and Patriots. Mike Wallace is still dropping key passes, and while this team is clearly improved in certain areas, the playoff talk will be on hold for a while, I suspect.
As for the Bears, Jay Cutler didn't stand a chance against Rob Ryan's pass rush Sunday and he couldn't seem to figure out when the Saints were blitzing. He didn't come close to finding his hot reads very often and his offensive line was physically whipped for four quarters again. Even with receiver Alshon Jeffery having a monster day, taking some pressure off Brandon Marshall, the Bears were chasing this game from the onset. It wasn't as close as the score indicated and their big plays came when it was already more or less decided.
Cutler's inability to hold on to the ball early, and the pressure he was put under, pretty much doomed Chicago. I doubt it's the last time that happens. Winning the turnover margin and scoring defensive touchdowns isn't so easy to maintain over 16 games.
The Saints were blowing up former teammate Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and I can't help but think the Cutler/Marc Trestman honeymoon might end up as more of a late-summer fling.
• Hamstring injury or not, Blaine Gabbert's last pass as a Jaguar should have been the interception he forced into the middle of the field amid three Rams on fourth-and-goal with his team still only down two scores. The season is going to be very, very ugly. Play Ricky Stanzi or whatever, but I'm looking at another quarterback from here on out.
• Carson Palmer continues to be less than impressive for the Cardinals. His interception in the end zone in a 3-3 game at the end of the first half Sunday was another indication that this rebuilding team will be in the quarterback market in 2014. My early over/under for quarterbacks taken in the first round is six.
• Not sure the loss of any one player made more of a difference in terms of mental outlook and overall performance than Calvin Johnson's absence seemed to do to the Lions. Wow.
• Kudos to the Colts, who showed great gumption again in coming back on the Seahawks. They have already beaten both of the NFC West powers, and played more physically while doing it. Most of their key ground gains came from Donald Brown, who gained 6 yards per carry in a limited role and scored a touchdown while Trent Richardson kept plowing along at his 3-yards-per-carry pace.
• The Patriots got a dose of what life without Vince Wilfork will be like when the Bengals opened up a 13-3 lead by plowing ahead behind the fullback (in this case, defensive lineman Domata Peko in that role) into the heart of their defense on fourth-and-goal. Expect to see more of that.
• The Ravens' run game finally showed a pulse in the second half and they began to exert their will on the Dolphins. That approach won't change and should improve more next week when Eugene Monroe takes over for Bryant McKinnie at left tackle.