Grantland’s Bill Barnwell runs through Giants’ draft classes since 2008. He finds what appears to be a quite extraordinary prevalence of injury, the accumulation of which has left the Giants with a severely depleted roster.
It seems pretty clear that something is rotten here. No team should have this many players taken in the top half of drafts either out of the league or playing at far less than their level of ability because of injuries. It’s just difficult to parse out what that problem is, exactly. Is it that Reese is somehow identifying and selecting players who are particularly prone to injuries? Is Coughlin overworking his players in a way that’s more likely to put young players on the shelf? Can it be just randomness, that a sample size of about 30 players who might have had meaningful careers with the team just happens to have more injuries than anybody would have expected? I honestly don’t know the answer.
And because of that, I’m not really sure what to suggest the Giants should do. It seems unfairly aggressive to fire Coughlin and/or Reese after the season this soon after winning a Super Bowl, although I suspect that Coughlin might retire (or be asked to retire) if the team continues to play this poorly. If you ignore the injuries, I think Reese is a pretty good general manager; I’m not crazy about some of his contracts, but he’s doing something right if he’s won two Super Bowl rings. It’s clear the Giants need to reevaluate things in light of this rash of injuries, because there is a missing half-decade of players that is holding them down at the bottom of the NFC East right now.
As one of his commenters noted, we’d really need to see how the Giants’ rate of injury compares to the league norm. Others pointed out that some of the injuries, including to the once very productive wide receiver Steve Smith, happened after the player was no longer on the Giants. Still, it would surprise me to learn that what the Giants have experienced is typical.
It’s not just injuries, though. The Giants’ 2010 draft class included first rounder Jason Pierre-Paul, a budding superstar whose career might be in the process of being derailed by injury and second rounder Linval Joseph, who has been a serviceable interior lineman. The other five picks are already out of football and only one of those was injury related. That’s just three years ago – not a good record.
I have always been a Reese fan and, as noted, we’d need systematic comparisons to other teams’ recent draft classes to better assess how he stacks up. But with some high profile draft successes aside – like JPP and Nicks in 2009, as well as the signing of undrafted free agent Victor Cruz – the player development record hasn’t looked especially good. How much the injuries are a preventable part of that record is hard to say.