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Keidel: Giants And Jets Were Dual-Duds In 2018

Jason Keidel
December 28, 2018 - 12:17 pm
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For a season with such promise in September, our local NFL clubs are about to end December with the dual-duds that have too often defined football at the Meadowlands. After Sunday, the home of Gang Green and Big Blue will assume its annual role as a gridiron graveyard, with both teams entering the final week with a combined 9-21 record.

Many of us urged the Giants to bag Sam Darnold, but they demurred, taking Saquon Barkley, who was even more pyrotechnic than projected, yet as a running back never had the autonomy or authority to lead the Giants to the playoffs. 

Still, many of us thought the Giants have enough pieces to at least contend for a playoff spot, but their 2018 eulogy was written after their 1-7 start. Now, with perhaps their favorite college QB Justin Herbert returning to Oregon for one more year of college football, the GIants aren't likely to find their next franchise quarterback while throwing a retirement party for Eli Manning.

Keidel: Herbert Decision May Leave Eli Manning As Giants' Best Option For 2019

The Jets moved draft day mountains to bag Darnold, and now have perhaps their first all-world QB since Joe Namath. We knew Darnold would take his rookie lumps, looking lost one game, then flashing his endless potential the next game. And that's pretty much how it went for the former USC Trojan.

Add the fact that the NFL is stretching the salary cap from $177 million to about $190 million, and the Jets will have up to $107 million to spend this winter, making life much rosier down the bowels of MetLife Stadium. (Only the Colts have more cap space, at $124 million.) The Giants may have the name, game, and glittering history to be the team of record in the Big Apple, but for the first time in a long time, the Jets are a much better draw for fans, fellow players, and head coaches. 

Some of us were quite underwhelmed by Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who clearly wasn't handed a Super Bowl roster, but also didn't seem to command the respect we expect for an NFL head coach. If we consider the woeful offensive line, poor free agent signings (Nate Solder), trading key veterans (Damon Harrison), and the brittle limbs of their all-world wideout (Odell Beckham Jr), it's likely Shurmur will get mulligan for 2018. 

Things don't seem as sunny for Todd Bowles, who's marching on the solemn path to a pink slip. Even as he plows through another season as head coach, we're all taking bets or making bold predictions on his replacement. Bowles may not have the levity or media savvy to keep us entertained, but he's a good man who doesn't deserve to read about his imminent unemployment. In a profession defined by throaty, red-faced monarchs who blow whistles and blast vulgarities at their players, Bowles conducts himself with class and the low-key regularity of an executive.

All of which we would embrace if the Jets won more football games than they lost. But after that promising first season in which they visited Buffalo with a 10-5 mark and their playoff future in their fists, it's all been downhill since. As such, you wont find one pundit who thinks Bowles will survive Black Monday - the corporate bloodbath after the end of every season, when a gaggle of coaches are canned and the NFL reinforces its haunting acronym, Not For Long.

But no matter who coaches Big Blue or Gang Green next month, there's no doubt the Jets have the more promising future. They have their young QB, two Harbaughs to pursue as the next head coach, a top-ten draft pick next spring, and nine-figures to spend on free agents. Meanwhile, the Giants likely have another year of Eli Manning under center, and another five-or-six-win season.

Even as the frigid wind howls through a hollow MetLife Stadium, the seats silent while 12 other stadiums will buzz with playoff football, the Jets have a rare chance to leapfrog the Giants as the local NFL club of record. We still need to see which teams will sign or franchise tag their best players, but there will be some free agent gold for Gang Green to unearth.

If the Giants want one more chance to prove Pat Shurmur is the right man for the job, they can whip the first-place Cowboys at MetLife this weekend. Likewise, Bowles can make the last case to keep his job by hitting the road and toppling the Patriots, who seem to have their mail forwarded to the playoffs every year since Tom Brady became the quarterback. 

Then both clubs can begin their yearly hibernation, and make the Meadowlands the most expensive football mausoleum in America. When they awaken, we may just see MetLife morph into JetLife Stadium in 2019 and beyond. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel