SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There is a glimmer of light from this lost New York Giants season. It may be difficult to locate through all the embarrassing moments (boy there have been plenty, including Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers), but it is there waiting for them on the horizon where it will manifest itself in April.
The Giants (1-8) will have a really high pick in the 2018 NFL draft, possibly even No. 1. With that comes the dream of Sam Darnold, Saquon Barkley the top offensive lineman or a quarterback of their choice. It’s an enticing consolation prize from one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
The Giants are in a three-team race with the Cleveland Browns (0-9) and 49ers (1-9) for that top pick.
The past five No. 1 overall picks have been Myles Garrett, Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Jadeveon Clowney and Eric Fisher. The No. 3 overall pick has produced Dion Jordan, Blake Bortles, Dante Fowler Jr., Joey Bosa and Solomon Thomas. So it can make a difference.
The Giants were in position to own the third overall pick right now, but they inched closer to the top two spots Sunday. They officially entered the competition.
The Browns might never win, so it will be hard to wrestle that top pick — which seems a birthright — from their perpetually awful grasp. But the Giants will have opportunities. Cleveland has the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams in the running for the No. 1 overall pick. They play the Bengals, Bears and Chargers — all 3-6 teams they can conceivably beat.
The 49ers have the toughest schedule, but their next two are against the Bears and Texans. Both are 3-6 teams the 49ers can conceivably beat. San Francisco could also get a boost if it starts recently acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Giants’ remaining schedule is difficult. They don’t face an opponent with less than four wins and might be playing worse than any team right now. Coach Ben McAdoo has watched his team lose each of its past three games by double digits. They’ve lost those three games by a combined 61 points.
The fact that the top pick is possible for the Giants is staggering. They haven’t traditionally been in the Browns’ class. It’s reality though, after another defensive embarrassment in which they allowed the 49ers to score 31 points after San Francisco had totaled 30 over its three previous contests. Heck, the Giants needed a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minutes to make it as close as it was.
“Embarrassing,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said after the Giants laid their latest egg.
Very few are going to disagree with that assessment, aside from their coach who, according to his news conferences the past two weeks doesn’t get embarrassed very easily or, really, by anything. Otherwise how else can you explain not being embarrassed by their defensive efforts? The Giants have allowed 82 points in the two games following their bye week.
“I’m not embarrassed by this team,” McAdoo said.
Cheer up, Giants fans. The answer to at least one serious problem could be right there after seven more games of watching opposing tight ends reach the end zone (they’ve done it in an NFL record 10 straight games) or Eli Manning bowl the ball to defenders like he did on his first-quarter fumble Sunday. Just get through these seven weeks and it might be all right.
“We’re not a good team right now,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “Hopefully, we can turn this around to be competitive. It’s sad that I’m sitting here talking about us not competing in games instead of winning, but that’s the truth. We have to be able to compete, hang around to the end and pull out a victory.”
At this point if they don’t, it’s not so bad. Draft positioning matters, especially if the Giants are going to be in the market for a quarterback. The loss to the 49ers helped in that regard. It assured that the remainder of this Giants season will be about where they pick in the top three spots of the draft.
Now, who is going to the the general manager to make that pick? Jerry Reese’s seat might be just as hot as McAdoo’s.