Kenny Golladay brushed off questions about his disappointing first season with the Giants like it almost never happened.
There’s little statistical evidence to show that it actually did.
Golladay unfathomably was not one of the 274 players across the NFL who scored a receiving touchdown last season — despite playing in 14 games and collecting the first $18.4 million on his four-year, $72 million contract.
“It was disappointing, but a lot played a role in that,” Golladay said Monday as he tried to turn the page to the coming season. “Every offense wants to get off to a fast start, but to be honest we haven’t even been talking about last year.”
One veteran executive added to the Giants front office this offseason has told others around the league that the size and structure of Golladay’s contract for the return on investment makes it the “worst” he has encountered in his career from a team perspective, multiple sources told The Post.
In a push to add playmakers at then-head coach Joe Judge’s urging and with then-general manager Dave Gettleman thinking in the short-term, the Giants backloaded Golladay’s deal to fit under the 2021 salary cap, meaning he has the highest charge among their offensive players in 2022 ($21.1 million) and 2023 ($21.4 million). The Giants have the most 2022 cap-dollars invested at receiver among any NFL team, according to spotrac.com.
Just like that, Golladay went from being hailed as a third-round NFL draft steal who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns during his third season with the Lions to being painted as a free-agent bust. Did the expectations created by the contract put too much pressure on his shoulders?
“No, not at all,” Golladay said. “It was just a lot of different moving parts last year. That was last year.”
Golladay, 28, missed most of last training camp with a hamstring pull that set the tone for an injury-plagued season. He never saw eye-to-eye with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett before an in-season change was made. The passing attack was non-functional in six games played with backup quarterbacks.
All those factors have changed in the first year under head coach Brian Daboll’s “very receiver friendly” scheme.
“First off, the offense is totally different,” Golladay said. “Coach is putting people in different positions at all times, keeping the defense guessing. It just gives you a lot of freedom. You don’t have to be so cookie-cutter or do what’s on the paper. You can go out there and kind of make the route your own.”
In a rare highlight for the offense during Monday’s practice, Golladay made a catch in traffic during 11-on-11. But the most encouraging sign is that Golladay is part of the first-team offense’s chemistry building after he was in red jersey to signal limitations during spring workouts. He declined to reveal if that was because of a nagging or new injury.
“I think this year is a little bit better as far as just the training staff, strength staff and then coaching staff taking care of our bodies — and then us as players doing the right things on and off the field,” Golladay said. “I feel good. I’m in a good spot right now.”
To make up for lost time, Golladay spent most of his offseason around New York so he could get in sync with quarterback Daniel Jones.
“The receivers in our system have a lot to learn, a lot of different positions to play,” Daboll said. “And I just think that early on in camp when you’re thinking a little bit, there’s a lot of things going through your head. And maybe you don’t play as fast. That’s why we’ll give it another week or two, and things will settle down a little bit.”
While Daboll’s offense has speedy receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney, running back Saquon Barkley and even Jones running in pre-snap motion, the 6-foot-4 Golladay isn’t fooling anyone. His job is to win contested jump balls on the perimeter.
“I’m just my own player,” Golladay said. “I’ve got all the faith that Dabes is going to put me in the right position. I’ve just got to make plays. I’m pretty sure the defenses in the league know I’m not going to get an end-around or a reverse or anything like that.”
Don’t entirely rule it out if it could get Golladay back in the end zone and give the Giants more bang for their buck.