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The Resurrection: ‘I want to bring championships to New York’
Meet the man who plans to bring the New York Giants back to glory. GM Joe Schoen chats with Go Long, and it's clear: He was born for this.
This is the fourth installment of our 2023 NFL Kickoff features.
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Sacrifices were made. As in weeks, months, years away from family. Nine to be exact.
Mid-conversation, Joe Schoen taps open an app on his phone to see how many nights he has stayed at Marriott properties. He doesn’t travel nearly as much anymore but the number is surreal: 3,360. Do the math and, yes, that’s 9.2 years. Unlike most bosses in this sport, Schoen is not numb to the absurdity of his profession.
“I tell my wife, we’ve only been married about nine years,” Schoen says, “because the other nine years I was in a Marriott.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?”
This number doesn’t even account for the first three years of his scouting life inside Hilton properties. Schoen has quite literally spent more than half his marriage on the road. All while having children at his three NFL stops: Carolina, Miami and Buffalo.
Now, he’s the general manager of the New York Giants.
You bet it was all worth it.
Feels like yesterday that the Giants’ future was painfully bleak. The autopsy — as examined — was grisly. John Mara did the right thing in hiring an independent football mind and, now, the kid from Elkhart, Ind., is one of the most powerful figures in New York sports. Perhaps the most powerful with the Yankees and Mets melting into manure, the Knicks forever strangulated by James Dolan and the Jets a lock to jets away their hype. The hopes and dreams of millions are in Schoen’s hands.
This isn’t L.A., where a contrived fan base can resemble more of a high school pep rally on gameday. Nor even Chicago, where diehards would probably be pleased with signs of progress from its quarterback alone in 2023. This is New York.
Throughout his hourlong conversation with Go Long, the GM doesn’t waver. He grasps the magnitude of his job title. As he relives his wild path here, it’s abundantly clear: Joe Schoen was born to resurrect this franchise. After going an inexplicable 9-7-1 in Year 1 and upsetting the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, Schoen was faced with a string of franchise-defining decisions: Is Daniel Jones the franchise quarterback? How much is Saquon Barkley worth? Where could the Giants mine for dire receiving help? Schoen’s life prepared him for these questions and anything else that’ll stand in his way.
Ego is the enemy in pro sports. Always. Many execs entrusted with autonomy over a roster treat their office chair as more of an iron throne. They get drunk off power, wobble around for a couple seasons, stumble into a quarterback and are eventually fired. Conversely, Schoen did not use that number on the Marriott app — 3,360 — as justification for a total teardown. He never viewed himself as The Chosen One to cure all that ails Giants fans, by hanging an “Everything Must Go!” sign above his roster and revving up the tanks in pursuit of the No. 1 pick.
He is following his own unique playbook.
One he started scripting himself in Indiana as the son of a truck-driving father working the third shift and as a fundamentally sound basketball player who absorbed and inflicted more bruises than he could ever count. He might’ve grown up a Chicago Bulls fan in MJ’s heyday, but the players he idolized? Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Charles Oakley, those willing to dive headfirst through the scorer’s table. (Says Schoen: “I took a lot of pride in getting under the skin of the opponent.”) His philosophy on life began to take shape as college graduation neared. Behind Door No. 1 was a career at Stryker. A salary north of $200K after a couple years. Behind Door No. 2? A life in football. Shameless hours, shameless pay.
He chose football, and those scouting trips were never an excuse to abuse the company credit card.
The New York Giants are in the midst of becoming a reflection of everything Schoen learned those nine full years on the road.
Film may scream, “That dude’s a baller!” he explains. But investigating what truly drives a player through research, 1-on-1 conversations and a sharp judge of character is most crucial. When life-changing money fills the wallet of a 22- or 23-year-old… will he be more apt to hit snooze on that 5 a.m. alarm? When it’s fourth and 3, Brian Daboll goes for it, and the ball is in your hands, will your palms drown in sweat? Schoen seeks the elusive union of talent and character. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t need a hypocritical “Assholes need not apply” sign on his desk, either. Schoen practices what he preaches.
Build a team full of players in possession of both qualities and — he’s certain — wins are inevitable.
“More times than not, the fabric of who the player is,” Schoen says, “is eventually going to come out in the end.”
There are days it feels like he was just running a three-man weave in an Indiana high school basketball practice. Or bleary-eyed on the scouting trail. Schoen has to pinch himself. He promises no day at East Rutherford is ever taken for granted.
“I still love my job. I’m passionate about it. I want to bring championships to New York.”
Here is why this goal is destined to become a reality.
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Long before he took over the New York Giants, before he was making those cross-country sacrifices on the scouting trail, Joe Schoen witnessed the sacrifice of someone else firsthand: His father.
Dick Schoen became semi-nocturnal for one reason. He wanted to coach his son and be at all of his games.
Dad would drive a truck from midnight to 8 or 9 a.m., grab a few hours of sleep and make sure he was at Joe’s baseball game at 3:30 p.m. Most of his routes were local, the equivalent of FedEx or Amazon runs. He’d complain about the job but Joe knows his father loved the relationships built at small and large companies alike. The motivation was twofold. Seeing Dad clock-in and clock-out at such bizarre hours was powerful, and so was seeing his friends living a more luxurious life. They owned bigger houses. Cars right when they turned 16. Even boats. Whereas Joe went on one vacation with his family, his friends were always jet-setting.
He vividly remembers telling himself that he’d bust ass to live like this one day.
Says Schoen: “That started the burning desire to succeed.”
In all three of his sports, he felt a natural urge to “elevate the room” as a leader.
No, Stephen A. Smith wasn’t yet pontificating on his performance to millions. But Schoen did learn how to deal with pressure early — very early — because basketball in the state of Indiana, he assures, “was king.” When North Side was founded in 1954, it was billed as the largest high school gymnasium in the world with a capacity of 8,248. At one point, 12 of the country’s 13 largest high school gyms were in Indiana. Games were always held on Friday or Saturday nights, central to everyone’s life. There’s something different about basketball, about that many screaming fans hovering over you. Football, however, still won his heart. Schoen attended Notre Dame’s annual spring game for at least a decade and his GM work really began his senior year at Elkhart Memorial when Schoen, the quarterback, convinced “three or four” players who hadn’t played football since middle school to come out for the team.
All contributed. Elkhart had one of its best seasons in 15 years.
One other element to his childhood stands out this day. His parents were divorced and Dad often needed to steal a little sleep before waking up at 10:30 p.m. From 8th grade on, it was Joe and Joe alone to get his homework done, study for tests and drag his butt out of bed to head back to school.
“At a very young age, I was forced to be independent and figure things out on my own,” Schoen says. “Reflecting on it, my Dad’s sacrifices, it’s not easy to work that third shift. Or live on four hours of sleep a day. But those were the sacrifices he made, so he could be a big part of my sports career, my upbringing and take care of me the way he did. I may not have noticed it much at the time. But as soon as I got out of college, just out of college, you look back and say, ‘Oh my gosh. I don’t know if I could do that!’”
Son made a point to surprise his father on his last day of work this past June and couldn’t help but notice all of the retired employees who came back to congratulate him.
Then, it was back to his GM chair.
Back to making the choices that’d set a new course for a storied pro football franchise.
He always trusts his gut thanks to the one decision that set the course of his life.
On to Division-III DePauw in Greencastle, Ind., Schoen played wide receiver and former teammates recall a scout in pads. A future GM who’d spend hours meeting with coaches and watching film, to the point where Schoen could call out every single blitz from the slot receiver position. Truthfully? Schoen had no clue what to do with his life after ball. Through a neighbor of a neighbor, his Mom was connected to a Carolina Panthers ticket manager. In January 2000, the club let the college junior Schoen intern for three weeks. That’s where Schoen met Brandon Beane — the football operations assistant to head coach George Seifert — and Beane hired him as one of his three interns for the ensuing training camp. Schoen’s tasks were predictably menial. But he attacked something as simple as setting up dorm rooms for players and staff with relentlessness.
He hit it off with Beane, too. Especially on the basketball court. (More on that later.)
Schoen finished his playing career with a bang that ensuing senior year, hauling in a school-record 80 receptions. After catching 14 balls for 121 yards in his final game, a 27-17 DePauw win, Schoen faced the brutal reality that his life in football may be over. The finality wallops us all. It was time to find a job.
That November, Schoen interviewed at Stryker and the medical technologies company offered a salary of $45K per year with a $5K bonus. Enticing money for any 21-year-old then. Better yet, a few of Schoen’s fraternity brothers worked for the company and said his salary would soar to $200K-$250K in a couple years. The only reason it wouldn’t is if you weren’t performing and you’d be fired anyway. Which would not happen. Schoen knew he’d stick. The goal is to become specialized in something — mesh for hernia surgeries, for example — and then sell your product all over the country. He could finally travel.
The timing was… tricky. Schoen still needed to plow through winter break and a winter term. So, he asked for more time. Delayed. Tried out for the Indiana Firebirds, an Arena Football League team, and Stryker’s impatience grew. The company caught wind of the tryout and wasn’t pleased. Did the kid want this job or not?
He can still picture the proverbial “fork in the road.” Take this job and he’d make the kind of money that was inconceivable to him. Picket fence. Stability. Vacations.
Or, he could keep that NFL door open a sliver. He could keep talking to Beane and pray a job with the Panthers opened up.
“I remember talking to my Mom about it: ‘I go this way and I go to Kalamazoo, Mich., for two years and I work, I’ll probably have a different life,’” Schoen says. “And, ‘If I go this way, it’ll be an NFL career path.’ You can go one way or the other. I didn’t have anything in Charlotte. There was nothing there for me at the time.”
He signed the Stryker contract — even sealed the envelope — yet waffled. And waffled. Stryker asked him to FedEx the contract back by Monday, Feb. 26, and Schoen was set to see Beane at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, about 50 miles from DePauw, the Friday before.
Everything that happened next is why there’s hope for the New York Giants in 2023, and beyond.
‘Find something you love’
At 4 p.m., that Friday, Stryker called to pull their offer. Flat-out told Joe Schoen that they didn’t believe he was all in. He was pissed.
At 7 p.m., as planned, he connected with Beane for dinner in Indy to see if the Panthers had any openings. Beane was optimistic and, two months later, a scouting assistant job opened up. Schoen scored an interview with Jack Bushofsky, the team’s 64-year-old director of player personnel.
Stryker made the final decision for him but he also knows that… something… was subconsciously preventing him from mailing in that signed contract. A passion for football, deep within, was instructing Schoen to ignore the money and bet on himself. When he imagined this perfectly fine life in sales, he asked himself: Is this really what I want to do the rest of my life? and couldn’t walk away from a sport he started playing at 7 years old with a chance to make it his life’s work.
This choice could’ve been perceived as insanity. His friends at Stryker had massive houses. More boats. Instead of working toward that $200K salary, which equates to roughly $345K today, he was now interviewing for a job that demanded 80 hours of work a week at $10/hour. Adds Schoen: “It’s the old adage: If you find something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” So, this was the critical next step: Zeroing in on that passion, his personal why behind being a scout.
Like most young adults barely old enough to drink a beer, he had a passion but no clue how to harness it. That’s where the old-school, Pittsburgh-native Bushofsky stepped in with a few words that changed his life during the Panthers interview. Schoen can picture their interview like it was yesterday. He chuckles. It went something like this.
Bushofsky: “What do you want to do?”
Schoen: “I just want to get my foot in the door. … I’ll bust my butt.”
Bushofsky: “I don’t f--king want somebody who wants to get their foot in the door. I want someone who wants to f--king scout.”
For a split-second, Schoen thought he was toast. He clearly made a huge mistake in turning down Stryker.
Instead, he was hired, and he needed that harsh rhetoric. Nobody can enter the scouting profession half-assed. It’s too demanding. Eats up too much of your life to be a mere job. The quest to discover NFL talent must become an obsession. Bushofsky continued to chew Schoen out over minor issues, and he needed it. Schoen credits Ryan Cowden, the assistant bumped up to southeast scout for helping him adjust to the gig and manage Bushofsky. (Cowden is his executive advisor with the Giants today.) Scouting felt like learning a foreign language. The first time Schoen needed to do a cut-up on a left tackle, he was stumped. He called Jeff Morrow and the fellow scout broke down specific positions. Corners. Centers. Linebackers. D-Tackles. Everything. Schoen eventually figured out the specific physical and athletic traits that separate a first-round talent from a fifth-rounder. A third from six.
The Panthers’ offices were right inside the stadium and he never became desensitized. When Schoen drove through the guard gate, not one day passed where he didn’t tell himself: “Oh my God. This is my office.” Inside, he was admittedly starstruck. After attending all of two NFL games as a kid, here he was sharing an elevator with Seifert, one of the winningest coaches in league history.
“I had to pinch myself,” Schoen says. “Because of where I came from, I was a D-III athlete. I didn’t play on a big stage or get all the free gear. It was definitely eye-opening for me. The more I was around it and started scouting players and watching film and learning what I was looking for and understanding the impact you could have on a franchise — whether it was through the draft or free agency or even workout guys — I caught the bug. It became a passion of mine.
“It wasn’t work to me. I enjoyed getting their early. I enjoyed staying late. If you don’t love it, there’s no way you can work the hours that you have to work here.”
So, the hotel nights started adding up. Promotion to promotion. Schoen spent seven total years in Carolina as the scouting assistant, combine scout (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina) and southwest/plains area scout (Texas to North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming). Off to the Miami Dolphins in 2008 as a national scout and assistant director of college scouting, he traveled the entire country.
Little did Schoen know in that interview with Bushofsky that he’d soon meet his wife and spend half of their marriage on the road. The good thing, he admits, is that it’s all Marie has known. Joe’s still getting in early and leaving late, setting the alarm for 4 a.m. to sneak in a workout at the team facility. The only way to survive such a manic work-life balance is with a “phenomenal” wife, he says. The Schoens have three kids: Sydney (17), Carson (14), Harper (five). When they lived in Dallas, his wife was a star saleswoman for Northwestern Mutual, which meant relying on in-laws for help.
Schoen tries to be consciously “present” as much as possible whenever he is home.
Life as an NFL scout can feel like the movie Click. Moments pass you by.
“I’ve got a daughter who’s 17 now and she’s getting ready to go to college in a year,” Schoen says. “One day it just smacks you in the face. Like, ‘Oh my God. She’s about to be gone gone. You realize how fast it goes.”
Unlike his father, he has missed many epic youth games. Like his father driving that truck, Joe enjoyed building relationships at his job. All of this travel had a purpose. Campus… to campus… to campus. Each day felt like “a fresh start.” This never felt monotonous. One day, he was in Oklahoma. The next, Oklahoma State. The next, Arkansas. New hotels, new schools, new coaches, new prospects. Schoen meticulously built his own belief system.
When the Buffalo Bills hired Brandon Beane to be their general manager in 2017, Beane’s choice for an assistant was easy. The Schoen family packed up and headed to Orchard Park.
Believe it or not, husband was the one who needed to talk wife into Baby No. 3. Harper was born on a Tuesday in the spring of 2018. A wildly chaotic time.
Dad likes to joke that Harper is their “Josh Allen Baby.”
Five days earlier, in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, he learned one more valuable lesson.
The unpopular decision
Cruise through Buffalo today and it’s impossible to remember how wildly unpopular the selection of Josh Allen was the night of April 26, 2018.
The smell of Cheerios is soon accompanied by a West Herr billboard featuring Allen. The “Allentown” district of downtown naturally became a homage to the quarterback. At one intersection, Hertel Avenue was changed to “Hurdle” with a cutout of a leaping Allen. You’ll find a signed jersey inside the Starbucks off Southwestern Boulevard and, all along, those calling into WGR 550 fawn over their savior. No one is more important at One Bills Drive than the quarterback stiff-arming linebackers, gunning spirals 60+ yards with a flick of the wrist, earning every dime of his $43 million per year.
Allen changed the trajectory of a franchise stranded in the quarterback wilderness.
Yet, many locals were mortified that night because UCLA’s Josh Rosen was the polished savior most desired.
“Didn’t a guy quit his job? He said, ‘If they take Josh Allen, I’m quitting my job.’”
That’d be Ryan Gates, a radio producer at WGR and, yes, he did. He’s now a recruiter for Tesla. All Gates did was speak for the majority. Fans packed the team’s fieldhouse for an official draft party that fateful night — one rocked a makeshift Lamar Jackson jersey — and the Bills selected… Josh Allen. Boo’s and confusion filled the room. Here’s one clip from a Go Long subscriber on-site:
The morning after, WGR host Jeremy White fielded calls. He describes the mood of the city in one simple word then: “Scared.” Those today who claim to know Allen was going to be special, he says, is this generation’s equivalent to the gazillion folks in the early 90s who said they attended the ‘92 Bills-Oilers “Comeback” classic that didn’t even sell out. It’s true that Allen was a bad quarterback for stretches in college and tortured fans were sick of projecting. Rosen was proven.
Replies to the team’s tweet announcing the pick were a wild ride. And Schoen is quick to note a column that ran in The Buffalo News the day after. The story opened with the line, “Well, I would have preferred Josh Rosen.” Schoen still has a copy of that newspaper, and archives every local paper the day after drafts. What’s usually a festive affair for an NFL team — Selecting a Quarterback in the First Round! — was anything but here in Buffalo. Right down to Allen’s offensive tweets as a 16-year-old getting dug up.
After his press conference with reporters, Beane returned to the draft room. “Goddangit,” he told Schoen and co. “You would’ve thought somebody’s dog died down there.”
A lot of work went into differentiating the raw talents of those quarterbacks atop the 2018 class. Yet, the role of GM is so much more than getting bloodshot eyes from watching tape. Once you’ve got conviction on a prospect, it takes a willingness to make the unpopular decision. Or, in technical terms, balls. Drafting Josh Allen was the ballsy pick.
He’ll never forget this lesson from Beane, whose basketball game matched such conviction.
The two were “brothers,” he says, more than GM and Assistant GM. In Buffalo, the two quickly picked up their old basketball rivalry from the Carolina days. Once during training camp at St. John Fisher College, Schoen went full Hoosiers by taking a charge. To him, it was a no-brainer. Beane lowered his head and plowed right through him. (“I’m fundamentally sound in terms of my basketball prowess,” Schoen recalls. “I was standing there firm. I was set. It was the right call.”) Nonetheless, it sparked quite a ruckus.
How someone plays basketball, Schoen agrees, says everything about who they are as a person.
Both are ultra-, ultra-, ultra-competitive, and assertive.
Like Beane, Schoen vowed to never be persuaded by public pressure.
The Bills believed Allen’s size, athleticism and ability to play in the elements were the difference. They didn’t know or care how much fans were scarred by this reasoning five years earlier when GM Buddy Nix selected Florida State’s E.J. Manuel 16th overall. This staff envisioned Allen as the quarterback best-equipped to knife completions through 30 MPH winds in September and blinding lake-effect snow in December. Most importantly, they believed his erratic accuracy was fixable because of the QB’s genuine desire to work.
Those months leading up to the pick were nerve-racking. Schoen was snapping the ball to Allen during the QB’s Laramie workout when one transaction flashed across his Apple Watch. The wristband might as well of been a blaring smoke detector: The New York Jets were trading up to No. 3 overall.
“I remember feeling defeated,” he recalls. “It was a kick to the gut when you knew the Jets needed a quarterback. You knew Cleveland was going to take one. Who’s going to be there when we pick?”
The Bills had dinner with Allen the night before. Allen then “crushed” this workout… “crushed” his board work… “crushed” every personality question the Bills could have to set the bar very high as the first QB Buffalo worked out that spring.
Cleveland took Baker Mayfield. New York took Sam Darnold.
Buffalo chose Allen.
Instantly, the trajectory of the organization completely changed with Beane’s wildest dreams coming true in the 2021 postseason. Allen took a blow torch to New England and Kansas City, completing 48 of 62 passes for 637 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bills were a breath away from hosting the AFC Championship. Then, 13 seconds happened.
Meanwhile, to the east, one of the NFL’s flagship franchises was in ruins. Fans showed up to MetLife Stadium with brown paper bags over their heads. One bag had the words “FIRE EVERYONE!” written on it with a symbolic cup of Pepsi glued to one side, referencing the organization’s botched Fan Appreciation Day. One fan screamed down at Mara, “Football people, not family!” Tickets fell to $6 a pop. Parking lots were deserted. There was a clown costume.
Mara listened, firing both GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge.
Two decades after mulling that offer from Stryker, Joe Schoen had another job offer to consider. He didn’t sit on this one for three months.
New Yorkers, for ages, have survived on a reckless diet of contrived hope. Instant gratification. The most extreme fans are no different than 3-year-olds at a restaurant. Many need to be entertained — ASAP — or are liable to throw a tantrum. So, parents give in. Mom sets an iPhone up against a glass of water and plays Cocomelon to keep the peace.
Hypnotizing a child will assure silence. You’ll enjoy dinner stress-free.
Of course, this only creates long-term problems.
Instilling the virtue of delayed gratification — however painful in the moment — is far more responsible.
The execs of New York pro sports teams too often tap open YouTube at the dinner table. To keep their poll numbers up, appease ownership and reach temporary peace with fans, they write bloated checks out to free agents. Followed by the fancy press conference. Followed by, voila, a surge in ticket sales to wrestle attention away from the other New York teams. It’s a sick cycle. Where to begin? Pick your famous flop. Bobby Bonilla, Eddy Curry, Joakim Noah, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kenny Golladay, Le’Veon Bell… (shuffles notes)… Aaron Rodgers. The pressure to win — ASAP — compels decision-makers to act irrationally.
That’s why Joe Schoen was always what the New York sports fan needed.
He isn’t trying to win the press conference.
The urge to sever ties with Gettleman Guys could’ve been overwhelming. Not only did Schoen sacrifice so much of his life for this opportunity, but such sweeping change is what his constituents demand. Instead, Schoen applied all lessons learned. He’s still waking up absurdly early because if Dad worked the third shift, well, he’s got no excuse. He’s operating with no ego at the most important position in sports. He’s forever hunting for the right character.
The Giants were in cap hell when Schoen took over, rolling over an NFL-low $13,986, but Schoen didn’t see virtual scarlet letters on everyone’s chest. The cupboard didn’t seem bare to him. He and head coach Brian Daboll viewed Andrew Thomas, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams as potential building blocks.
Most importantly, this new GM had a compass.
“They’re not going to fold under pressure,” Schoen says. “They’ve run the route before. They’re not going to jump offsides. It’s about those little competitive advantages you can get by having the right type of guys. We were like that last year with the Giants. We may not have been the most talented but we came together as a team because a lot of those players were wired the same way. They held each other accountable. They practiced right. They’re crisp. People knew their assignments. And they knew they could rely on the player next to them to do their job.”
The Giants didn’t pick up Jones’ fifth-year option, surely lighting a fire. Further, as we detailed, Daboll strategically stacked the deck against his quarterback in training camp to put his character to the test. DC Wink Martindale was given the plays New York would run — Daboll needed to see how Jones would respond mentally to media criticism up close.
Jones passed. The Giants started 7-2.
Down to nickels, Schoen’s staff scoured the waiver wire to claim players such as wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (from Buffalo) and safety Jason Pinnock (from the Jets). What newcomers lacked in talent, they possessed in that specific character trait. Hodgins also brought an intimate knowledge of Daboll’s high-tech offense, immediately meshing with Jones. His wiring is everything Schoen and Daboll seek. The Giants made the playoffs. Daboll won Coach of the Year. Dead money finally came off the books and Schoen was able to attack the 2023 offseason without a straightjacket on.
Year 1 in New York appeared similar to Year 1 in Buffalo, in 2017… on the surface. Like those Tyrod Taylor-quarterbacked Bills ending a 17-year playoff drought, these Giants overachieved. In this case, however, Schoen didn’t operate like Beane. He didn’t see the need to send vets packing. Philosophically, it’s not too complicated. Schoen says bluntly that he and Daboll will both be judged on wins and losses. Period. At his introductory press conference, Schoen declared the Giants would “compete today and build for tomorrow” and that wasn’t merely a slogan to slap on a bumper sticker. He wasn’t going to let players walk just because another GM drafted them.
“If they’re going to help us win games and fit our DNA,” Schoen says, “we’re going to try to keep them here the best we can.
“Sometimes, you go in and it’s a total teardown. I think the way Daniel was able to play last year and some of these other young players, it’s obvious there were some core pieces in place. It wasn’t going to be a teardown.”
Starting at quarterback. It was on Schoen and Daboll to decide whether Jones was a bridge to their own Josh Allen from the college ranks or a quarterback worthy of a major financial investment.
Five minutes before the franchise-tag deadline, the Giants re-signed Jones to a four-year, $160 million deal. Numbers that popped eyeballs out of sockets. Social media mocked the contract immediately. Your group chats detonated. One NFL exec told The Athletic that the Giants should’ve tagged Jones and paid up for Barkley, calling the deal “wild.” Even NFL players chimed in. Bears safety Jaquan Brisker called Jones “trash.” And when Giants receiver Darius Slayton quote-tweeted the final score of his team’s win over Chicago, Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill jumped in. “Yeah the slant route gone be crazy next year,” he wrote with laughing emojis.
Not that Schoen gave a damn about any of it. He’ll always think back to the Bills’ 2018 decision.
“Josh Allen, hey, that wasn’t the popular pick,” Schoen says. “But it was the best for the franchise. And I think a lot of times, we have more information and details and knowledge of the decisions we’re making than most fans.”
Because, in truth, the contract wasn’t as lavish as initially reported.
This is essentially a three-year, $112.5M contract for an average of $37.5M, PFT first reported, that ranks 11th in the NFL. The Giants could theoretically bail after two years and $82M paid. Negotiations were intense. At one point, Jones even changed his agent. Schoen wanted Jones as his starting quarterback. But now if the quarterback turns into a pumpkin, there’s an escape hatch. Nothing stops the Giants from QB hunting. If Jones’ ascension continues, hey, $37.5M will look like a bargain by 2025. The top end of the market rises, only rises, as Jalen Hurts ($51M per year), Lamar Jackson ($52M), Justin Herbert ($52.5M) and, soon, Joe Burrow continue to prove.
Schoen genuinely took every practice, every game into account. Especially the fact that there was not much around the quarterback in 2022. He politely calls last year’s receiving corps a “revolving door” and repeats a handful of (surreal) fast facts for anyone who forgot. The team’s leading receiver, Slayton, was a healthy scratch in Week 1. A player by the name of Marcus Johnson started at one point. From ’16 to ’22, the undrafted Johnson played for five different teams and never caught 20 balls in a season. David Sills, another undrafted castoff, spent time on the roster. A couple of the team’s tight ends weren’t even on NFL rosters by the end of the season.
The 31-24 playoff win in Minnesota — “in a hostile environment,” the GM adds — was a pivotal moment. That night, Jones went 24 of 35 for 301 yards with two touchdowns and another 78 yards rushing.
All while Jones was grasping Daboll’s offense.
“He was still able to go out and perform at a high level,” Schoen says. “Despite the lack of consistency and continuity, which I thought spoke volumes for him. ‘Dabes’ and the staff did a great job with him. Nobody’s going to work harder than the kid. He’s big. He’s athletic. He can make all the throws. He’s accurate. Upgrading some of the talent around him, I think that’ll show.”
He doesn’t get rattled. That’s always important at quarterback, but especially in New York.
Adds Schoen: “He doesn’t let the media get in his head. He’s very even-keeled.”
Most talking heads forget one tiny detail, too. Quarterbacks can… improve. Allen was once the source of universal mockery. Jalen Hurts was a 53rd overall pick benched in college. It may sound quaint. It doesn’t fit neatly into a First Take package. But good old fashioned drive matters most at quarterback. Schoen still gets to the facility extremely early and Jones almost always strolls in shortly after him. There’s also precedent. We’ve seen alleged journeymen — Alex Smith, Rich Gannon — discover a new gear with better coaching.
This is what skeptics of the contract missed. The Giants are not only investing in Jones. They’re investing in the union of Jones and Daboll and further mastery of an offense that always has the answers.
If one of the top three offensive minds in the NFL wants Jones around, that should open and shut the case.
Daboll was the Mike Holmgren to Allen’s Brett Favre.
He’s both compassionate and a hard ass. A coach players sincerely love.
In Buffalo, Daboll was never afraid to grill Allen. In New York, in Week One, the cameras caught him ripping Jones for an end-zone interception against the Titans. Jones responded with a 12-play, 73-yard TD drive capped by a game-winning underhand flip to Barkley on the 2-point try. Schoen saw how Daboll operated those years in Buffalo and knows one of his greatest strengths is connecting to all 53 players with different coaching styles. Daboll doesn’t put everybody under the same umbrella.
As the 2023 season trudged on — as Jones led five game-winning drives — Daboll learned which buttons to push.
“When to pull back. When to be tough on him,” Schoen says. “We saw that with Josh and some of the guys in Buffalo as well. You’ve got to coach everybody different. Not everybody responds the same. It took ‘Dabes’ a little bit of time to figure out how to get the best out of Daniel. That’s part of what makes him a really good coach, his ability to connect with all types of players. Once he did that with Daniel, he started to take off. He executed the offense the way we needed him to.”
Schoen points out that you never truly know how it’ll pan out for coordinators, that many smart coaches fizzle out. Beyond the X’s and O’s, he believes Daboll “has the right touch.” A firm grasp of his team’s “temperature.” When the Giants faced Philly in Week 18, a playoff spot locked up, he rested starters and it panned out. They beat Minnesota.
A lack of talent, of course, caught up with New York in the divisional round against those Eagles.
Weaponry was a must. Those fans clamoring for Schoen to sign a receiver at the deadline weren’t necessarily wrong. Yes, he heard you all. Loudly. Supply, however, did not match demand. Only two or three receivers were even being dangled by teams. So, he didn’t force the issue. Into free agency, he also refused to give B+ money to C- receivers, allowing clubs such as the Jets (Allen Lazard) and Raiders (Jakobi Meyers) to foolishly spend $11 million per year on receivers.
Instead, Schoen got creative. He dealt the 100th overall pick acquired in the Kadarius Toney trade to the Raiders for tight end Darren Waller.
Injuries have plagued Waller the last two seasons, but the last time he was healthy, the 6-foot-6 tight end was a monster. In 2019 and 2020, he caught 197 passes for 2,341 yards with 12 touchdowns. All summer, he’s been Jones’ go-to target and it’s no accident. Waller told the local media that he got in a ton of reps with Jones all offseason that nobody saw.
Adds Schoen: “Getting somebody like Waller can really be a difference-maker in my mind.”
Then, there’s Saquon Barkley. The weapon this offense revolved around last season. Months of negotiations were on the verge of turning ugly. Really ugly. It was stunning to hear Barkley threaten a season-long holdout on The Money Matters Podcast. “My leverage is I could say, ‘F--k you’ to the Giants,” he said. “I could say, ‘F--k you to my teammates.’” Three days later, Barkely was on a Zoom call with running backs around the NFL to discuss their depressed market. The next week, there he was at Giants HQ for Day 1 of training camp before 8 a.m. The 26-year-old agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $11 million in incentives, rather than play on the $10.091M franchise tag. There’s no guarantees the Giants wouldn’t use the tag again next year.
The football world was stunned.
Schoen obviously wants Barkley around. Yet, he couldn’t let sentiment choke logic. Smart teams know to be fiscally conservative with backs who’ve touched the ball 1,200+ times. Schoen calls Barkley “a professional” who has looked great in camp. Their relationship is solid, too. What could’ve been a massive distraction plastered across the tabloids all training camp disappeared with the snap of a finger. Elsewhere, Jonathan Taylor is seeking a trade out of Indy and Josh Jacobs still hasn’t shown up to practice in Las Vegas.
Chalk it up as another landslide win for the GM.
Newfound cap space was used at premium positions. Tackle Andrew Thomas (five years, $117.5M) and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (four years, $87.5M) were locked up. The pro personnel department never stopped scouring the market for receivers with New York hoarding slot receivers. The Giants will also be counting on their two draft classes to deliver. By all accounts, edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has been wrecking his share of training camp drills.
Where the Bills were willing to take one step back to take three forward, these Giants are choosing to press on. To compete. Now.
Nobody should be surprised if they take the NFC East this season. The Eagles waxed the Giants in the playoffs and, if Hurts stayed healthy in 2022, he might’ve won MVP. Yet losing both coordinators could knock Philly down a peg. The Cowboys (again) have star power, but it’s hard to imagine Mike McCarthy outfoxing Daboll if the Giants’ talent level is in the same zip code.
Expectations in New York are clear. All of these contracts — starting with Daniel Jones — will ramp up the pressure to win. A teardown would’ve provided Schoen the luxury of excuses. Instead, he studied all core players on an individual basis and decided to push his chips in.
This isn’t Buffalo. His pal, Beane, is mostly lionized as a rock star. Fans and media members alike are often quick to tweet photos of the general manager in sunglasses with the words “Big Baller Beane” after innocuous transactions. Schoen should not hold his breath for such perpetual worship. And if his Giants start 1-5, it’ll feel like he’s taking a charge from Peak Shaq.
Yet when Schoen accepted this job, such pressure was on the back burner. The first thought that popped to mind was the strong history of the organization and the reputation of ownership. He harkened back to ex-Panthers coach John Fox raving about the owners from his time with the team. Once Schoen realized he’d be given all possible resources to win, hell, he didn’t care about getting skewered by anyone publicly. Unlike Gettleman, he has maintained a very public presence. He doesn’t hide from that pressure.
Now that Schoen has been running the show for a year, he feels it every day.
“Everybody would always say, ‘New York. The pressure. The media. Are you going to be able to deal with it?’” Schoen says. “People can tell you that, but until you actually live it, you really don’t understand what that means. That all stems from the passionate fan base. They’re going to scrutinize every decision you make, whether it’s signing the 90th man on the roster — they’re going to scrutinize that pick and ‘there’s another slot receiver you’re signing!’ But I love it.
“That’s why you’re in this position: to make those difficult decisions.”
That’s exactly what he’ll do every day. And, after this chat, Schoen dove right into Jets-Browns preseason film.
Two years ago, we questioned whether John Mara would do the right thing. He did.
Another championship will follow soon enough.
On this week’s episode of the Go Long Podcast, we discuss Joe Schoen and the Giants’ prospects in 2023 with co-host Jim Monos.
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