Liam McKeone: Hi Kimberley, thanks for taking the time to chat today. You’ve spent the last few days at Giants rookie camp. What are your initial impressions of the camp, especially Daniel Jones?
Kimberley A. Martin: You know, as soon as [Jones] gets in front of the microphone… I wrote about how the resemblance is sort of uncanny. Just the physical traits of what you’re looking at. Tall, slender white guy, mop of brown hair, not saying anything controversial, saying all the right things, only focused on winning. It’s like Eli Manning lite, you know? It’s an unfair place for the kid to be in. I think everybody understands that any young quarterback that steps in has to fill the shoes of somebody, right? The way the Giants went about this whole situation, the QB situation from last year to the Eli benching to drafting Saquon, who’s an incredible talent. But ignoring that QB class and then taking Daniel at six kind of makes the stakes even higher for not only Daniel, but Gettleman, Shurmur, everybody involved.
It’s a rookie minicamp, so as far as what you see on the field, they’re tossing to other rookies or other quarterbacks in air. There’s no defenders. What made me laugh is the Giants even tweeted out… I guess you’d call it a hype video for Daniel over the weekend? And it’s just 20 or 30 seconds of just the kid trying to show off his arm strength. They’re doing too much. They’re doing too much on trying to sell the whole Tristate area on “This is the guy.” If you just say, “You know what, we like him. He’s got what it takes, we wanted him at six, and that’s it. You can question the evaluations.” I don’t begrudge any team taking a quarterback at six. The Jets went up to take Sanchez at five, but you knew that’s their guy, right or wrong. I think with Daniel it’s like, “Well, we knew for a fact he wouldn’t be there at 17, so we had to take him at six.” That feels different than just saying, “He’s the guy we wanted from the beginning. I’ll stake my career on that.” Because that’s what the Giants are doing right now.
As for the other guys, it’s still really early. Dexter Lawrence, he’s a big guy. The first-round picks, it’s interesting. There wasn’t one of those picks that all fans could rally around and be like “This is amazing, I love it!” That’s what I find interesting about the Giants’ draft. Yes, they got three first-rounders, but some questions the decision-making behind taking a quarterback at six, bypassing defensive line help at six, then taking a defensive tackle who’s not going to be on the field all the time. Then there’s DeAndre Baker. So suffice to say, it’ll be really interesting to see how things get going with these guys and how early they’ll contribute.
McKeone: Is the class really that bad, or are Giants fans just critical about it because that’s the nature of being a New York sports fan?
Martin: With the draft…. [One] of the things we love during draft time, we always show old clips of fans that boo a pick immediately. The very nature of the draft is that each fan is going want who they want. You have guys that are super stoked that their guy was taken, and other times they’re like, “What the hell is my GM thinking?” The Giants’ rookie class right now, it’s more about Gettleman. Not just Gettleman, but moreso [Giants owner John] Mara and how the organization handled the Eli Manning benching, the McAdoo thing, now they’ve got Shurmur… I mean, the last two years, you have to question what’s the plan, right? The reaction to the picks is more Giants fans not understanding what the plan is, and I don’t think it’s any fault of theirs. If you’re looking at this team with a critical eye, they gave Odell [Beckham Jr.] $90 million, $65 million of which is guaranteed. Then you see them go trade him after the GM said you don’t give somebody that much money to trade them. You have Eli benched for Geno Smith, then you come into the next season and say Eli’s our guy, he’s got more left in the tank. And then they said they know [Jones] is the future of their franchise, and you’re sort of like, “Okay…” I just think it’s how things are done. You can communicate the plan to fans and even media without the arrogance or know-it-all-ness that Gettlman likes to tweak people with. But it’s a combination of all that.
McKeone: From the initial outlook, who out of the Giants’ draft class do you think could surprise some people?
Martin: If you’re a Giants fan, you would hope that the third-round pick Oshane Ximines, just from a pass-rushing standpoint, will give you some juice, and he’s got some local ties. Even with him, when you say “Surprise some people”, because he came from a small program at Old Dominion, it’s almost like the expectations [are], you don’t know what he can do. If he comes out and has a good season in his rookie year, then you think okay, this guy has three sacks, five sacks. As a third-round pick, that feels different than if you took a first-round pass rusher. You would expect ten off the bat. He’s somebody that has the drive, understands the small-school label, and he’s happy to be back in the area. He had 12 sacks last year, obviously going against that level of competition vs. NFL competition, huge jump! But he knows that, and the fans right now are focused on Daniel Jones, they’re focused on Dexter Lawrence. Maybe he’s a kid that can come out and surprise people.
McKeone: Gettleman has been kind of wishy-washy about his plans for the future of the Giants, but recently said he could see Jones sitting up to three years on the bench. How realistic do you think it is that he finishes even next season on the bench?
Martin: At this point, I think he’s just messing with the media, I’ll be honest. I think he enjoys the banter, he enjoys acting like “I know better than you”, he told Peter King, “We’ll see how crazy I am in three years.” I don’t think there’s any way you take this kid at six and sit him three years. One year? I could see that. I could see him sitting this season. But I think Gettleman is looking to give himself as much wiggle room as possible… that way, it’s hard to pin down what the plan is. The way that they’re presenting it, it is clear that this is… I mean, they said full-blown love. They are smitten with this kid. I don’t think that transition from Eli to Daniel Jones would be a three-year kid.
McKeone: Do you get the sense that this might be kind of a “punt year” for the Giants, where they let everything unfold and have a top pick next year?
Martin: Yeah, I think anybody who thinks the Giants expect to have a really good season… I don’t care what the coach or the GM says. When you get through the draft and you get into listening to coach-speak and GM-speak, you kind of have to just watch what they’re doing, as opposed to listening to what they’re saying. If you’re a Giants fan, you can’t go into the season expecting your team to be really successful. After getting rid of a ton of defensive talent, getting rid of Odell, the rebuild is happening. It’s no coincidence Gettleman is saying, “Let’s see if I’m crazy in three years.” This is a three-year project, at least. We can’t determine whether this works for another three years. Is this his attempt to buy himself three years? Does he feel that he’ll be around that long to see the Daniel Jones pick through?… Where’s the defense on this team? They got Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker, but they have so many holes that I think punting on the season and figuring out how to gradually say goodbye to Eli is more of what I expect, as opposed to seeing the Giants in the playoffs.