By Ralph Vacchiano
FOX Sports NFC East Writer
And Giants coach Brian Daboll had better figure out a way to deal with it before it gets any worse.
There’s no doubt now that it is a problem, after the 28-year-old Golladay went public with his unhappiness over a reduced role on Wednesday, three days after he was barely on the field during the Giants’ win over the Carolina Panthers. He played just two snaps in that game despite being healthy. And that came one week after only two passes were thrown his way on Opening Day.
Golladay, as everyone should have expected, wasn’t happy — nor was he willing to hide it.
“I should be playing, regardless,” Golladay told the media. “That’s a fact.”
He also added: “I came here to play. I’m pretty sure they’re also paying me to play.”
He’s certainly right about that last part. Golladay will be paid $17.5 million this season and carries a cap number of $21.15 million, which is an enormous waste of resources for a player getting just two snaps in any game. Clearly, the Giants would prefer he wasn’t on the roster. But it would cost them even more to cut him. And given his lack of production last season when he had battled injuries and had just 37 catches for 521 yards and no touchdowns in 14 games, no one is going to trade for him and take on what’s left of his $13 million salary, plus another $4.5 million next year.
So he’s stuck. And the Giants are stuck. Daboll and Giants GM Joe Schoen clearly want to invest their time and efforts in players who are going to be part of the Giants’ future, and Golladay isn’t part of that plan. He’s not their guy and never will be. That was clear this summer when Golladay was battling back from an undisclosed offseason surgery and several players passed him on the depth chart, leaving him as one of the few veterans to play in the team’s third preseason game.
But here’s where the problem comes in: Daboll, despite trying to explain Golladay’s inaction as simply part of his wide receiver rotation based on game plans each week, is clearly trying to build a culture where players must earn their playing time. And he obviously saw more of what he liked this summer from ex-49er Richie James and the very inexperienced David Sills.
That’s fine. But neither of them have the talent that the 6-4, 213-pound Golladay has. Neither of them seems capable of a season like Golladay had three years ago, when he put up 65 catches for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns for Detroit. Maybe he’s not that player anymore, but surely he’s still good enough to do something on the field. It would be one thing if he was out there and just wasn’t producing.
But all of Daboll’s talk about giving players a “clean slate” really hasn’t provided Golladay with much of a chance.
And Golladay said his teammates have noticed.
“Even people on the team were like, ‘What’s going on?'” Golladay said.
Of course they were. Players want to win and they know which players can help them do that. They know Golladay is too good to just stand on the sidelines and watch. In some ways it was more understandable and tolerable when Daboll froze out second-year pro Kadarius Toney, giving him just seven snaps in Week 1. Players get it when a decision is about getting a young player to buy into the program and do the right things.
They’re less understanding when it happens to a six-year-veteran and former Pro Bowler who they think can help them win.
Making it even harder to fathom, by all accounts — including Daboll’s — Golladay has handled his omission like a pro, doing what’s necessary behind the scenes and not speaking out, at least until Wednesday afternoon.
“That’s why it’s a little bit confusing,” Golladay said. “Because everybody in this building tells me I do everything the right way and be a pro at whatever I do. So it’s a little bit confusing.”
At the moment, Golladay’s confusion is just a minor inconvenience. The Giants are 2-0, so it’s hard to be critical of Daboll’s choices. Then again, the passing offense isn’t exactly lighting things up without him. They rank 31st in passing yards. Quarterback Daniel Jones has thrown for just 364. And James and Sills have combined for just 147 yards on 13 catches.
How long does anyone think Jones and the Giants can survive, let alone thrive, if two of their top receivers continue to be Sills and James.
It’s hard to argue that the Giants’ two most talented receivers aren’t Golladay and Toney. Whether Daboll likes what he sees and hears from them in practice or behind the scenes, surely he has to know that two talents like that can help.
And if he doesn’t, his players surely do.
No one’s going to revolt on the first-year coach over Golladay or Toney. They’ll accept the implied message that culture and chemistry are more important than immediate wins. Daboll and Schoen have made it clear they’re building for the long term. They’ll never admit it, but they know deep down that this team is unlikely to be a playoff contender this year.
Jay Glazer answers questions about Justin Herbert, the New York Giants and more
What’s the latest with Justin Herbert’s injury? How is Jameis playing with his injury? Are the Giants dark-horse contenders?
But that doesn’t erase the problem. Golladay just announced loudly and clearly that he won’t be quietly forced into obscurity. If he remains buried on the depth chart, you can bet he’ll speak out again. At some point, other players might even take his side. So yes, this could get much worse.
That leaves Daboll with only one solution. Golladay isn’t going anywhere. They’re all stuck in this unhappy marriage. So he may as well use him, put him on the field, have Jones throw in his direction and see if Golladay can turn it into something good.
If Golladay remains buried, it’ll only compound the problem, which will become a full-blown controversy when they inevitably start to lose. Maybe Daboll doesn’t care. Maybe this is all about doing what’s best for the future.
But it’s still a problem. And if Daboll didn’t know it before, he surely knows it now: The problem isn’t going away.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. He spent 22 years covering the Giants, Jets and NFL at large for SNY and the New York Daily News. He can be found on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
Get more from New York Giants Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.