In the wake of the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the Giants can count themselves among the lucky losers whose trajectory is upward. That’s in direct contrast to their NFC East rival Cowboys, who, despite losing by 24 fewer points to the 49ers than the Giants did to the Eagles, are in crisis mode — and with some justification.
Super Bowl contenders, after all, are not supposed to score just 12 points in elimination playoff games. Super Bowl-contending quarterbacks are supposed to do better than 23-of-37, 206 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on such occasions. And the coaches of Super Bowl-contending teams are supposed to have a better plan with the game on the line than Ezekiel Elliott snapping the ball and promptly getting destroyed by an oncoming defensive tackle.
All things the Cowboys did against the 49ers.
Not that the Giants were much better against the Eagles. But anything that happened after making the playoffs was gravy for an organization that had been at Rock Bottom’s long-stay hotel for the last six years.
The Giants held a press conference Monday afternoon, and general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll shared a mostly positive outlook for the future of the franchise. There are lingering questions, mostly regarding the futures of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, both of whom require new contracts, but this season was about creating a foundation to build upon, and in that, the Giants succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams.
Schoen sounded mostly positive about Jones on Monday, telling reporters, “We’re happy Daniel’s gonna be here. Hopefully we’re gonna get something done with his representatives. That would be the goal, to build the team around him where he could lead us to win the Super Bowl.”
The outlook on Barkley, for whom the franchise tag seems an unlikely option, was not quite as sunny. “We’ve got to operate under a salary cap,” Schoen said. “We would like to have Saquon back, if it works out.”
Not to downplay the significance of these decisions — Jones’ contract, in particular, will create the kind of expectations he was free from this season — but compared to their rivals, the Giants have it easy.
As is annual tradition, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones addressed reporters following his team’s soul-crushing playoff loss, including a question on the future of his head coach.
“No, no, no, not at all,” Jones said, asked if the 19-12 loss in which Mike McCarthy looked overmatched by the clock would impact McCarthy’s status.
If that counts as confirmation that McCarthy will be back next season, then look at where the Cowboys are at coach and quarterback — the two spots on the field that matter most — compared to the Giants.
Would you rather have Dak Prescott under contract until at least the end of next season at a $49 million cap hit, with potential to retain him for 2024 at an even larger number, or Jones, whose market is expected to be lower than that even after a great season? Would you rather have McCarthy, no one’s idea of a creative offensive mind, or Daboll, who engineered a culture turnaround in his first year?
Prescott, who threw two back-breaking interceptions against the Niners and led the league with 15 picks this season, seems to be regressing. Jones, who went out and led the Giants to their first playoff win since 2011, is ascending.
Daboll might win the Coach of the Year award. McCarthy might be coaching for his job next season.
The Cowboys are paying Ezekiel Elliott, their second-best running back, an average of $15 million annually with a $16.7 million cap hit in 2023. Barkley won’t be cheap, but he did say Sunday he doesn’t expect to reset the running back market.
The Cowboys finished ahead of the Giants in the standings, as they have every year since 2015, and went 2-0 in the rivalry.
But which team would you rather be in 2023?
Right now, that looks like an easy choice.
Today’s back page
🏈 O’CONNOR: Giants can’t afford to let Saquon Barkley get away now
🏀 Knicks’ struggles could spiral with daunting schedule looming
🏒 Rangers finally muck it up to gut out win over Panthers
Who will get the Hall call?
On Tuesday evening, the next Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced. It is not clear if anyone will get the 75 percent of votes necessary for induction: Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and former Mets closer Billy Wagner are tracking close to the threshold in publicly revealed ballots. Carlos Beltran, a former Met and Yankee whose candidacy is complicated by his involvement in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, and controversial former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez are also up for consideration. Here is how The Post’s baseball writers voted:
Delay of game on NFL’s neutral sites
Regardless of your rooting preference in Sunday’s Bills-Bengals game, the NFL avoiding a neutral-site conference title game that would have doubled as a test run to make such occasions permanent is an unequivocal good. There is a reason that college football slowly is moving away from holding its playoff games at neutral sites: They are worse.
A sterilized, corporate atmosphere that caters to fans who can afford to spend money for flights and hotels, plus potentially time off work, is just not the same as playing on home fields. It might enrich interested parties, but that is about it. Season-ticket holders get relegated to second fiddle. So do families and kids who can make a memorable outing to a playoff game. So do local businesses near stadiums that make money off of playoff games. So do players who have earned a No. 1 seed, but suddenly don’t get the benefit of home field.
Even if the NFL supposedly would make more money off a neutral-site game, would individual teams — particularly those that play in cold-weather areas — get more? Why would the Chiefs, Bengals or Eagles, three of the teams playing on Sunday, vote to neuter their own potential home-field advantages in favor of a system that will never see Kansas City, Cincinnati or Philadelphia host a game?
This is not even a good idea as a cash grab.
At USMNT camp, it’s about who isn’t there
The United States men’s national team is back for the first time since its World Cup exit against the Netherlands with a pair of friendlies this week: against Serbia on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, HBO Max) and against Colombia on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Since the matches are not in a designated international window and professional clubs aren’t obligated to release players for national team matches, the roster is severely watered down.
That makes this US roster a developmental one, though Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Jesus Ferreira, Kellyn Acosta and Sean Johnson will be on it from the World Cup squad. There are some other exciting names, forward Alejandro Zendejas, defender Julian Gressel and forward Matthew Hoppe chief among them, but all of the oxygen is being used up by the fallout from the Gio Reyna-Gregg Berhalter controversy.
Berhalter won’t be coaching at this camp. He is out of a contract, and the US Soccer Federation is investigating a 1991 domestic violence incident in which he allegedly kicked his future wife, Rosalind, outside of a bar. That was brought to light by Reyna’s parents, who were upset over their son’s lack of playing time at the World Cup and Berhalter’s subsequent airing of the team’s internal deliberations over whether to send Reyna home. Assistant coach Anthony Hudson will coach both matches, and Reyna — who scored a stunning winner for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga this weekend — is with his club.
Still, it will be interesting to see what the players — particularly those who were at the World Cup — say about both the controversy and whether they want to see Berhalter back. For Hudson, a chance to run camp and coach two games also could amount to an audition if Berhalter ultimately is not offered a new contract.