New Yorkers have been lamenting their football teams for the past 10 years. Over the past decade, only once have either the Jets or Giants made the playoffs, that being the Giants in 2016. New York football, not including the Bills, has been dreadful. But 2022 has been an entirely different story. Not only are the two New York teams a combined 11–5, their coaching, especially the Giants, has seen a night-and-day improvement from past years.
Let's dive into what makes these teams much more competitive in 2022.
It Was a Low, Now it’s a High: Giants Coaching
Big Blue has gone through several pitiful coaches throughout nearly a decade of turmoil and disaster. Despite winning two Super Bowls with the team, Tom Coughlin's tenure ended sourly after two consecutive 6–10 seasons in 2014 and ’15. In the 2016 offseason, New York promoted Ben McAdoo, the former offensive coordinator, to the head coach position. The team’s 2016 season was one to remember as the Giants made the playoffs, and coaching also played a part in their success. However, after an 11–5 season in 2016, things went downhill and the team went a woeful 3–13 in ’17.
Amid all the turmoil surrounding former Giants legend Eli Manning, McAdoo was fired. Following that drama, the Giants hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. He was fired after two seasons with the team, as they went 9–23 in his tenure. Enter Joe Judge. From the moment he was hired, many fans were skeptical due to his coaching background, as he was just the special team coordinator in New England. After a promising 2020 in which the Giants nearly won a subpar NFC East, 2021 could not have gone any worse. Not only did the team finish a subpar 4-13, his play-calling and locker-room management were awful.
After Judge was fired, many Giants fans wondered who they would hire. The answer to that question was former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. While still early in his tenure, Daboll has been everything Big Blue could have hoped for. Last year, Judge lost the Giants' locker room and was disrespected by his players. Fast forward a year, and it seems Daboll's squad would die for him. The culture he has implemented in the locker room and throughout the team has been nothing short of amazing. The speeches he has given in the locker room have been very powerful. Though his attitude and energy have fueled the team's turnaround, Mike Kafka's playcalling has also been excellent. Kafka, formerly the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach, has made life much easier for quarterback Daniel Jones. As a result of the improved play-calling, Jones' decision-making has massively improved this year, along with his ability to scan the field and read defenses. Though defensive coaching under Patrick Graham was strong for New York last year, Wink Martindale's unit is playing at a top-10 level in 2022.
Brian Daboll deserves Coach of the Year for implementing an incredible culture that should stay within the organization for years.
Jets Young Defensive Talent
Since cornerback Darrell Revis began regressing, the New York Jets have had one glaring hole to fill. They needed a game-changing defensive player. After drafting busts such as Darron Lee and Jachai Polite, the Jets' defense was very poor. However, after general manager Joe Douglas revamped the unit this past offseason, it is loaded with young talent.
Though many speculated New York would take offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the fourth pick in last year's draft, the Jets took Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner out of Cincinnati. Gardner was highly touted out of college as a cornerback, and his production has translated to the NFL. Through nine weeks, Gardner has emerged as a top-five cornerback in football, constantly shutting down receivers. His ball skills, along with his recovery skills, are excellent. Gardner has been a major reason why the Jets' defense has improved, and he should be a cornerstone of the unit for years to come.
Despite having a horrible drafting reputation, the former Jets general manager found a gem in the 2019 draft with Quinnen Willams. After being drafted third overall in 2019, the Jets' defensive tackle underwhelmed as a rookie. However, he has come into his own over the last three years and has emerged as one of the best defensive linemen in football this year. With Williams in the final year of his rookie contract, Douglas needs to pay him as soon as possible.
In addition to Willams and Gardner, talented young players, including DJ Reed, John Franklin-Myers, and Jermaine Johnson, make up a stout defensive unit for Gang Green.
Robert Saleh's defense has seen a night-and-day improvement from last year going from allowing the most points in the league (29.6 points per game) to 8th (19.6).
The Revival of Saquon Barkley + Breece Hall's Future in Green
In 2018 Saquon Barkley was a joy to watch every week. The rookie was explosive, and he was living up to the standards of being a second-overall pick. Not only did he take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but he also eclipsed 2,000 scrimmage yards.
Despite his tremendous rookie season, things went downhill. In the 2019 season, Barkley was still great but lost a step and was injured for a few weeks. The following season for Barkley was an absolute nightmare. With high expectations, he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, which sidelined him for the rest of the season. After heavily regressing in 2021 with nagging injuries, his career looked like it was near its end.
Many football fans expected little from Barkley in 2022. However, he has played like a top-three running back so far. Even better, his burst has returned, propelling him to be such an explosive runner. With nearly 800 yards on the year thus far, Barkley is a top candidate for Offensive Player of the Year and is a significant part of the Giants' success.
The Jets have also gotten a solid performance from their lead back after a few years without a strong running game. Le'Veon Bell was a huge bust in 2019 and’20, but Breece Hall gave New York the kind of performance they expected from Bell. Unfortunately, Hall’s season was halted in Week 7 after suffering a torn ACL against the Broncos. Before the injury, Hall, the Jets’ second round pick in 2022, was the focal point of the offense and one of the most explosive runners in football. In just six complete games, he totaled 463 rushing yards, averaging nearly six yards per carry. If he can return to form after his injury like Barkley did, Hall will be a significant part of the Jets' offense for years to come. But without Hall, the team has lost a step in the short term.
Hall’s absence will make it tougher for the Jets, who are 6–3, to make the playoffs. The Giants, at 6–2, have a better shot, and while neither is likely to make deep playoff run 2022 has been a significant step in the right direction for these teams so far. MetLife Stadium will finally be rocking again in no time.