It was a worst-case scenario for most New York sports fans, a Super Bowl pitting teams from New England and Philadelphia.
An offensive explosion, however, produced a great game to watch for neutral fans.
And, despite the nauseating matchup for New Yorkers, it produced a series of lessons for the New York Giants and the New York Jets as the football world now turns its attention from Minneapolis to free agency and the NFL Draft.
New York’s two football teams, who have combined for just three playoff appearances since 2010, should take note. There is plenty to learn from the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and a New England Patriots dynasty that is perhaps the most storied in NFL history.
THAT EAGLES OFFENSIVE LINE
One of the major flaws of the Giants the past two, if not three seasons, has been the offensive line, a unit that struggled to protect quarterback Eli Manning and is a major reason why the offense struggled as much as it did this season. In their NFC East rivals, the Giants have quite the antipode to how they built their own team.
And, it’s a lesson that the Giants should take note of heading into free agency.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick noted after the Super Bowl that his vaunted defensive front didn’t get to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles very much during the game. The Patriots didn’t sack Foles once as the Eagles were able to systematically move down the field.
The play of the line was a major reason why Foles finished with 373 passing yards and three touchdowns (and one receiving touchdown). Overlooked by the performance of their quarterback, the Eagles had a staggering 164 rushing yards in the game, averaging a downright gaudy 6.1 yards per carry.
With an elite quarterback and some weapons at wide receiver and tight end, an offensive line overhaul could turn the Giants into a playoff contender sooner rather than later.
THE FUTURE QB OF THE JETS WON MVP
With the return of incumbent starter Carson Wentz this offseason, the Eagles just might be in the market to trade Foles. It is unlikely that the Eagles start Foles over Wentz, who they moved up in the draft to take two years earlier. Also keep in mind that Wentz was an MVP candidate until a season-ending injury, so he likely isn’t going anywhere and he isn’t riding the pine. Wentz is here to stay.
So suddenly, the Eagles have possible trade bait in Foles and some team will likely overpay. That team just might be the Jets.
Foles was more than effective in Sunday’s performance and for the entire playoffs. Once he dusted some rust off late in the season, he looked very good. He should start for a team in 2018 and that team should be the Jets.
The Jets have the cap space and draft picks to make a deal with the Eagles to get Foles and then sign him to a long-term deal. At 29-years-old, he’d be in his prime and now has the clout to lead a team like the Jets into the playoffs.
The Jets need a starting quarterback and Foles, despite needing to be obtained in a trade, would be less of a salary cap hit than Kirk Cousins. He also might be just as effective.
ALL ABOUT THE DRAFT
New Giants general manager Dave Gettleman spoke about the importance of the draft and this year’s Super Bowl underscored that point. The Eagles have 21 players on their roster who they drafted, 10 players of which are starters. The remaining 32 players were free agent signings or trades.
The Patriots were built in the same way, with 19 players on their Super Bowl roster from the NFL Draft. From that total, a dozen of those drafted players were starters.
Two teams whose core came through the draft.
Free agency is nice and can help fill holes or elevate a team. But if either New York team is serious about rebuilding – and keep in mind that the Giants hold the No. 2 pick of the draft – then they need to hit a home run this April.
Drafting players are so important to teams in order to build chemistry and a mindset. Also, a younger roster is less likely to get banged-up and is a smarter way to build around the salary cap.
The Giants need to get two if not three starters from this draft, players who can step in immediately and transform this team. The Jets, given how much money they are likely to spend, will need to find a difference-maker or two and add some depth in the draft.
The path to the Super Bowl starts with the NFL Draft.
It certainly did for the Eagles and the Patriots.