In New York Football, Unexpected Offseasons Are the Rule

Different approaches share an unexpected quality

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    The future, we believe.

    One team finished the season playing for a spot in the Super Bowl despite having a new coach, a young offense and a rookie quarterback who seemed to blossom in the most intense games of the season. The other went from 5-0 to out of the playoffs over a dispassionate 11-game stretch while featuring a defense that was an affront to the franchise's long history of success on that side of the ball.

    Neither the Jets nor the Giants followed the script that seemed to be laid out for them after those two seasons. The Jets made radical changes to a team that many thought didn't need big changes to remain in the conversation of Super Bowl contenders. The Giants acted like all the pieces were in place and resisted calls to begin overhauling a team that looked old and rundown over the last three-quarters of the 2009 season. 

    Was a curious approach to team building part of the agreement that helped build the new Meadowlands football stadium?

    Those approaches held firm during the final stage of the offseason. The Jets traded Leon Washington and cut Alan Faneca, replacing them with draftees even though every other move in the last three months said they were going all-out to win right now. The Faneca move is the harder one to understand. They'll still have to pay him $5.25 million this season, so while he might have slipped last season it would seem to make sense to make sure that your replacements can handle the job before sending him on his way. It's an uncapped year, after all, so it's not like Faneca is stopping them from making other moves.

    Normally you don't see teams that have been crowing about being on the verge of a huge season making moves that are usually found among the rebuilding set. There are plenty of rational explanations, from Faneca's decline to the need to sign several core players to extensions, but they've upset the chemistry of a team that was peaking the last time they were on the field. Faneca, Washington, Thomas Jones, Jay Feely and Marques Douglas all played big roles for the team last year and all were dumped rather unceremoniously.   

    The Giants, on the other hand, largely ignored their need to upgrade at linebacker and on the offensive line to bring in their third new safety and a fourth defensive end. Jason Pierre-Paul is exactly the kind of pick that a team with no needs makes because they can absorb the risk of striking out instead of hitting a grand slam. The Giants aren't that team, but they've certainly played the role of one since the season ended with a pair of humiliating losses to the Panthers and Vikings.

    As with the Jets situation, there are reasonable explanations for this feeling. Injuries sapped the Giants of several defensive standouts last season and the returns to full strength of Jay Alford, Justin Tuck and, they hope, Kenny Phillips would be a major boon for any team. If that's what you're banking your confidence on, however, why not address the spots where you could use actual upgrades on while leaving the later rounds of the draft for fliers on players with huge upside? 

    Time will tell which approach was correct and both Mike Tannenbaum and Jerry Reese could wind up looking like geniuses come Week 17. If one or both of the teams falls short, however, there will be a far different view about the two architects of New York football.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.