The 2-8 New York Giants don't want to talk about tanking

The New York Giants signed quarterback Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million deal in March following the best season of his career. Jones tore the ACL in his right knee on Nov. 5, ending his 2023 season. Rich Storry/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 2-8 Giants are down to an undrafted third-string quarterback in Tommy DeVito and face an uphill battle to salvage the season.

With the news that DeVito is starting for the second straight week on Sunday against the Washington Commanders, the term "tank" is being thrown around these days to suggest the Giants should try to land in the top two slots of the 2024 NFL draft where two standout quarterbacks -- USC's Caleb Williams or North Carolina's Drake Maye -- are expected to be available.

"Compete," Giants coach Brian Daboll said of what he thinks when he hears calls for his team to tank. "We're in a competitive business. Try to compete in everything you do."

Daboll says the Giants are going to maximize their chances to win, no matter the record. They'll do it this week against the Commanders, next week against the New England Patriots and all the way through Week 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Whether it means bringing backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injured reserve or to keep feeding Saquon Barkley despite his struggles with a high ankle sprain, this is the expectation in the locker room.

"I think it's natural for fans and people to say [tank] because the draft and everything has so much hype these days," wide receiver Darius Slayton said. "For fans and people that are casual watchers it's easy to say this season is not going the way we want, just tank; Jesus [is] coming in the draft next year, we'll get him and he'll change our hopes and dreams.

"That is kind of just the fun thing to do I guess for fans."

That is not how the Giants organization thinks.

They entered Week 16 in 2019 against Washington at 3-11. The Giants went all-out in that matchup, dubbed the "Chase Young Bowl" after the then-Ohio State edge rusher, and won 41-35. Much to the chagrin of some fans.

The Commanders got the No. 2 pick and eventually drafted Young (who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers ahead of this year's deadline). The Giants ended at No. 4 overall and selected left tackle Andrew Thomas. He was named an All-Pro last season.

It's indicative of the expectations of ownership, whose reaction to back-to-back blowout losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be ignored.

"Kind of like everybody's," Daboll said. "Nobody's happy."

It would also be hypocritical for the Giants' organization to put anything less than the best possible product on the field down the stretch given their complaints in the final week of the 2020 season. In that game, the Eagles inserted third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld for Jalen Hurts in the fourth quarter to essentially hand Washington the NFC East title. It cost New York a chance to win the division, and it wasn't well received at 1925 Giants Drive.

Which leads to the imminent handling of Taylor. He's currently on injured reserve with a rib cage injury but is "making progress," according to Daboll. Taylor has been throwing and working with trainers to remain in shape, and he seems to be trending for a post-bye return.

Taylor said last week the injury was "not season-ending in my mind." He is eligible to return for the Dec. 11 "Monday Night Football" game against the Green Bay Packers.

It seems likely Taylor would return some time in the final five weeks of the season.

Whether the veteran backup plays or not isn't going to drastically alter the fate of the franchise. The Giants were losing games with Daniel Jones and Taylor starting. Taylor is 1-2 as the starter this season, with the win coming in the previous matchup with the Commanders.

But Taylor's return and the defense getting healthier and back playing closer to its early-season level should at least make the Giants more competitive. Daboll also insisted they're not worrying about Barkley's usage during games while looking toward the future.

"I know [tanking is] not the right thing to do, and I don't know if that's a real thing," Barkley said. "I can't speak for every other place. Here I don't get that feel at all, especially with [Daboll]. You can see how fiery and how competitive he is. That is not the type of team or the type of people we have in this locker room."