I was just thinking about the good ol' days of the '07 offseason, when Jeremy Shockey was shouting at new general manager Jerry Reese and Michael Strahan was threatening to retire to a life of football analysis and sitcom appearances. Three years later, the Giants have become the shrinking violet of the Beast compared to their counterparts.
It's gotten to the point where it's nearly impossible to get co-owner John Mara to say anything to a secretly placed cellphone camera. And while the Eagles and Redskins pulled off the trade of the past two decades (at least), the Giants have signed a couple of safeties and quickly put the kibosh on Osi Umenyiora's brief retirement threats.
"We're flying under the radar," a high-ranking club official told me Thursday afternoon. "And that's exactly how we like it."
Other than a mild coin flip controversy, not even New Meadowlands Stadium is getting any burn. Like it or not, the Jets have surpassed the Giants in terms of compelling storylines -- and for the time being -- in the overall NFL hierarchy. If we conducted a pre-draft power rankings report, which I'm sure will happen any minute now, the Giants would likely be in the middle of the pack. And there are those among us (John Clayton) who think the Redskins leapfrogged both the Giants and Eagles with their bold trade for Donovan McNabb.
So where's the panic? When will Reese pull the trigger on an intra-division trade? At least sign former Cowboys Pro Bowler Flozell Adams to be your left tackle. It would be intriguing to watch Adams and the man he tripped on national television, Justin Tuck, bond as teammates. But apparently the Giants are embracing their relative anonymity in relation to their NFC East foes.
I'm even told that Tom Coughlin has suspended his motivational T-shirt operation. In the past, he's introduced us to XXLs with catchy messages such as "Talk Is Cheap" and "Our QB Is Less Interesting Than Yours." Coughlin is now going with a simple "It's about the team" message during interviews and family meals.
The biggest offseason story outside of Umenyiora's bellyaching is the arrival of new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, formerly of the Bills. No one has been really clear on what changes Fewell will make, but he's apparently much more aggressive than his predecessor, Bill Sheridan. In two separate conversations this offseason, Reese has told me how utterly disappointed he was in the team's safety play. And that's why the Giants aren't waiting around to see if Kenny Phillips makes a full recovery from microfracture surgery. Reese made Antrel Rolle the wealthiest safety in the league early in free agency and he later signed journeyman Deon Grant, whose best trait is that he rarely misses games due to injury.
Now that we're a week away from the draft, everyone pretty much assumes the Giants will select a linebacker No. 15 overall. In a perfect world, Reese would select Rolando McClain and mock drafters across the nation would be very supportive. But I think McClain's way too good of a player to last until No. 15, so the Giants will have to be ready for Plan B. I'm pretty sure they have one.
"I think we could improve our team at every position probably; so not just linebacker, any other position," said Reese, who tried desperately not to say anything Thursday afternoon during a pre-draft news conference -- and succeeded . "We are looking for seven good players who can give us depth or maybe be a starter at any position -- not necessarily linebacker."
In an upcoming mock draft that I was asked to participate in, Idaho guard Mike Iupati will go to the Giants at No. 15. Iupati would immediately replace Rich Seubert at left guard, and David Diehl could stay at left tackle. Of course, everyone thinks the Giants will take a defensive player, so this won't be a popular prediction. If Florida cornerback Joe Haden somehow slips to No. 15, I think Reese would have an interesting decision to make. And I almost think he'd have to take him despite the Giants' depth at that position. Actually, Reese addressed this very topic.
"Back when we drafted [Mathias] Kiwanuka we had [Michael] Strahan, we had [Justin] Tuck, and we had Osi," said Reese. "But he was the best guy on the board right there at that time. There was no way we were going to pass him up. So it doesn’t preclude us from drafting even if we have depth at a position; if he is the best guy up there, it is going to be hard for us to pass him up."
So basically we spend two or three months discussing a certain player such as McClain, and then the Giants don't have an opportunity to draft him. Reese was very up front about the fact that he hates picking this early in the draft. It's a sign of what type season the Giants had.
But don't expect the Giants to miss on the pick. They've connected late in the first round in the past (Hakeem Nicks, Phillips), and now the odds get even better. The Giants continue to fly under the radar. And that may just be a position of strength.