Giants GM deserves credit for landing right players in offseason

Like with Terry Collins and the Mets or Jack Capuano and the Islanders or (OK, you can insert your own example here), there is a large portion of the Giants’ fan base that only begrudgingly will give GM Jerry Reese credit for anything.

Deservedly so in many regards, as Big Blue would have been completely justified in cleaning house from the top down – not just pushing out Tom Coughlin — after missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season since Super Bowl XLVI at this time last year.

Reese’s managerial record still has its glaring holes, of that there is no doubt, but he certainly deserves some plaudits now for clearly identifying and landing the right players during his $200 million free-agent spending splurge in the 2016 offseason.

Big-ticket signings Janoris Jenkins, Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon have helped transform Steve Spagnuolo’s rising defense from among the worst in the NFL last year into what Odell Beckham Jr. may have rightly assessed a “championship” caliber unit following Sunday night’s old-school 10-7 win over league-leading Dallas.

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Dez Bryant fumbles the ball with as Giants' Janoris Jenkins (r.) and Keenan Robinson (l.) defending on Sunday.

Dez Bryant fumbles the ball with as Giants’ Janoris Jenkins (r.) and Keenan Robinson (l.) defending on Sunday.

(Seth Wenig/AP)

As spotty as Reese’s draft record has been for much of his tenure — and matador LT Ereck Flowers most certainly leads the way on that until proven otherwise — he also did pull off what turned out to be an astute trade-up at the 2015 draft for undeniable impact safety Landon Collins, who has combined with Jenkins and DRC and first-rounder Eli Apple and a few lesser-knowns to make the Giants’ secondary anything but secondary to the team’s 9-4 revival.

Jenkins, by the way, is playing like nothing less than one of the best lockdown cover corners in the game, and as such, he might just be underpaid at $62.5 million over five years.

And maybe, just maybe, Harrison (five years, $46.25 million) was the true glue to the now-fractured defensive line of the Jets, a unit whose falloff this year has been as puzzling as the Giants’ improvement has been revelatory.

Snacks certainly has been every bit the glue in Blue in the middle of the D-line through 13 games, while Vernon has provided a solid initial return on his $85 million (five years) outlay by combining with explosive-again but now-sidelined Jason Pierre-Paul for the team’s best bookend DE play since the Super Bowl years.

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It also should be noted that undrafted free-agent signing Romeo Okwara stepped in more than ably for JPP against the Cowboys.

Now, Reese still has some self-imposed holes to fill on the offensive line, and at running back and tight end, and at linebacker, and maybe even at receiver behind the wondrous, if at times infuriating, Beckham and second-round pick Sterling Shepard, especially if Victor Cruz is going to continue to be marginalized in Ben McAdoo’s and Eli Manning’s offense.

And the handling of the Josh Brown situation remains a black mark, even if the Giants eventually (read: too late) arrived at the right decision there.

Like Terry Collins or Capuano or whomever you want to name as your example, however, the Giants aren’t doing all of this despite Reese, as some fans still would have you believe.

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He rightly should get some credit, too, when it is warranted. And it is.

OUTTA BOTTE EXPERIENCE

Antti Raanta

Antti Raanta

(Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Coaches say all the time in every sport that playing time will be dictated by the player who has earned the job. That the one playing the best will play.

That doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons, of course, and no one is suggesting or expecting a long-term coup here against King Henrik.

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But Alain Vigneault and the Rangers very definitely need to ride backup Antti Raanta while he remains hot.

It’s not like 1.65 goals-against averages and .943 save percentages (good for an 8-1-0 record) come along very often.

As an aside, a Finnish friend of mine had an Auntie Raanta once. She made the best Kaalikääryleet (cabbage rolls), Hernekeitto (pea soup) and Perunamuusi (a potato dish).

OK, Googled those, but I bet they’re all delicious.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

— Not to be overly Petty about the Jets, and I fully support the time-tested Herm soundbite about playing “to win the game,” but it would be just like them to win a couple of meaningless games now and drop a few pegs out of the top-5 in the 2017 draft, wouldn’t it?

Good for Bryce Petty, though. He should have been starting sooner.

— Bears repeating regularly, Derrick Rose is the MVP of the Knicks. Brandon Jennings has been a strong addition, as well.

Point guards who can get to the rim and distribute the ball. Who knew?

Rams coach Jeff Fisher signs two-year contract extension

— That said, Metta World Peace-Artest breaking down the Phil-Carmelo relationship was my favorite NBA thing of the weekend.

— Lamar Jackson getting chatted up by Johnny Manziel after winning the Heisman?

Immediately thought of the old cartoon bit with Manziel over one shoulder, and let’s say, Tim Tebow, pleading with him as the angel in the other ear.

— Jeff Fisher was curiously fired on Monday by the Rams a few days after signing a contract extension through 2018. He leaves tied with Dan Reeves for the most losses by any coach in NFL history.

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Of course, Cy Young has the most losses all-time in baseball, so what award is getting named after Fisher?

— Finally, esteemed Mets beatwriter Kristie Ackert and I visited Saturday with our friend and longtime AP hockey writer Ira Podell. Ira had a brain tumor and a stroke in the spring of 2015, and 20 months later, still has a ways to go in his recovery.

But even the writers in hockey are tough, and it was nice to see the strides our friend has made since we last saw him, talking and laughing about sports and the business with him again. Please keep him in your thoughts.

PETE’S PICKS

In Ira’s honor, here are my Top-5 favorite hockey movies. (Sorry, the Mighty Ducks trilogy flicks are in the second-5).

5. Goon

Call it Stifler meets the Hanson Brothers.

4. Mystery, Alaska

Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds and cameos by Mike Myers and the New York Rangers.

3. Youngblood

Lowe, Swayze, French-speaking Keanu Reeves in goal and “Tea with Ms. McGill.”

2. Slap Shot

“They brought their (effing) toys with them!”

1. Miracle

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game, If we played ’em 10 times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ’em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

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jerry reese
landon collins
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henrik lundqvist
antti raanta
new york jets
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