EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay didn’t exactly like coach Brian Daboll’s decision to play him for just two snaps in Sunday’s 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers.
“Of course I don’t really agree with it. Or like it,” Golladay, who was talking to the media for the first time since the game, said Wednesday. “But I can only control what I can control, which is to come to work every day.”
Golladay, the Giants’ prized free agent acquisition in 2021, did not see this coming. He said everyone in the organization has been telling him that he’s been a pro and doing things the right way.
It makes this all quite confusing to Golladay.
“I should be playing regardless,” he said. “That’s a fact.”
Golladay, 28, was supposed to be the Giants’ No. 1 receiver when he was signed by the previous regime last offseason. He inked a four-year, $72 million deal and is getting paid $18 million this season.
But Golladay had a rough first year with the team in which he was hampered by injury and didn’t score a touchdown. He had a procedure that kept him out this spring.
The signs were actually on the wall this summer when — despite consistently being on the field — Golladay looked compromised by the string of injuries. He surprisingly was one of the few veterans to play in the preseason finale, and he caught two passes for 22 yards in 42 snaps (most among Giants wide receivers) in the season-opening win over the Tennessee Titans.
Daboll said he told Golladay midway through last week that he was going with David Sills V over him against the Panthers. Sills went into the contest with two career catches for 17 yards. He is making $825,000 this season.
Golladay has 222 receptions for 3,611 yards and 21 career touchdowns. He led all receivers in 2019 with 11 receiving scores. But it’s not beyond reason to think he’s lost a step. Golladay has two touchdown receptions and less than 900 yards receiving in the two-plus seasons since.
The veteran receiver was asked about requesting a change of scenery after being benched for most of Sunday’s game.
“We’re going to see how it goes. Yeah, we’re going to see how it goes,” Golladay said. “I came here to play. I’m pretty sure they’re also paying me to play. I guess they want to see more or get whatever situated on their end. I just keep doing what I got to do as far as coming in each day.”
It seems unlikely that Golladay can be moved at this point, in part because of the lack of production and his contract. He is still owed $11.6 million in base salary for the remainder of this season and another $4.5 million next year.
It’s not a problem to keep him around for now. Daboll and several Giants players told ESPN he has handled it like a pro.
“It is what it is. It’s a business,” Golladay said. “I’m not here to be friends with coaches. They’re just co-workers to me.”
Daboll has been consistent about saying the wide receiver position is an open competition, and he means business. Richie James leads the Giants with 10 catches and 110 yards receiving.
James was an offseason acquisition who many believed was on the roster bubble. Sills earned his way onto the team.
Daboll has used the same line about competition from the start. He took a similar stance back when Golladay was one of the few veterans to play in the third and final preseason game. It was also his reasoning behind last year’s first-round pick, Kadarius Toney, playing only seven snaps in the opener and Golladay barely getting on the field against the Panthers.
“It’s a continual competition at receiver. I’ve said it since when? I’m not being a jerk, I’ve said it since the middle of camp, right?” Daboll said on Sunday. “It hasn’t changed. It’s going to be a continual competition.”
He added on Monday: “Again, whether it’s the highest-paid player, the lowest-paid player, the highest draft pick, an undrafted free agent — we’re going to go out there and let the guys compete it out. One week doesn’t necessarily mean this is what’s going to happen the next week. I think everybody understands what we are trying to do as an organization in terms of continuing to get better, competing for spots, working as hard as you can work.”
Daboll isn’t playing favorites based on salary or draft status, and it has caught the attention of his team.
“It’s rare, but Coach has always told us he doesn’t care where you got drafted first round, second round, undrafted. He’s about what he talks about,” veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard said.
Shepard has played the most snaps (102) of any Giants wide receiver so far this season. He’s coming off a torn Achilles suffered last season. Sills is second with 91.
If Golladay has a role this season, it’s going to have to be earned, not given based on his past accomplishments. This new regime isn’t tied to Golladay, who was the Lions’ third-round pick in 2017.
Golladay was optimistic about how Wednesday’s practice went. He said he believes his role this week is probably going to be a little different.
The Giants (2-0) could need him more on Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys. Toney did not participate in Wednesday’s practice because of a hamstring injury that continues to linger.