Meet the Giants’ intriguing new QB, and the coach he tortured

Apr 30, 2018 | by Paul Schwartz, New York Post

Lightning does not strike twice in the same place, but Kyle Lauletta does.

“He did it twice in two years,” Greg Gattuso, the head football coach at the University at Albany, told The Post on Monday.

The Lauletta strikes happened 364 days apart and Gattuso cannot get them out of his head. This is not the exact reason the Giants used their fourth-round pick in the NFL draft to take Lauletta, a quarterback out of Richmond, but in some ways, the double-whammy he put on Albany is precisely why they made this pick.

“He’s got all the stuff,’’ Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said.

Pardon Gattuso for being sick of that “stuff.”

The past two years, Richmond and Albany played two games totaling five overtimes. In 2016, Richmond won a 36-30, three-overtime thriller in the rugged Colonial Athletic Association. The next year, it was Richmond winning 41-38 in two overtimes. On both occasions, it was too much Kyle Lauletta for the Great Danes to handle.

“Almost identical situations, with a middle linebacker one-on-one on a pass rush and Lauletta was able to sidestep him,’’ Gattuso said. “Mike Nicastro, first-team all-conference, probably one of the best players in Albany history. Last year Nate Hatalsky, who led the CAA in tackles. Two of our best players missed him on sacks, and he came out of the pressure and completed the ball and converted. Then they go down and score and tie the game.

“Sometimes I can’t tell you what ‘it’ is, but I know it when I see it. He kinda has that ‘it’ thing. He makes plays. I’ve just seen this kid over the years, I really think Kyle Lauletta is a good quarterback. I don’t think he’s going to embarrass himself by any means by going to the Giants.’’

Lauletta, 22, is only 10 months younger than Davis Webb, 23, and by adding another young, developmental quarterback, the Giants bought another lottery ticket, doubling their chances of winning. The odds are against either one taking the ball from Eli Manning as the next franchise quarterback, but not overwhelmingly so, especially given head coach Pat Shurmur’s résumé when it comes to fine-tuning players at the position.

Lauletta comes from one of those athletic families renowned in their home community (Exton, Pa., in Chester County) and not very well known outside the circle. His father, Joe, and an uncle played football at Navy. Another uncle played lacrosse at Bucknell. A grandfather played football and basketball at Delaware.

The Naval Academy connection helped link Lauletta to Bill Belichick and the Patriots, even more so because Lauletta’s uncle, Lex, not only played at Navy, he was coached by Steve Belichick, Bill’s father, who was the special teams coach at Annapolis when Lex Lauletta switched from receiver and defensive back to become a punter. The Patriots, though, passed on Lauletta, and Belichick did not go for a quarterback until the seventh round, when he took LSU’s Danny Etling.

Lauletta did not receive any major FBS attention — he was offered by Old Dominion and Toledo — and went on to star at Richmond. Gattuso says, “I think he’s phenomenal,’’ but was not surprised Lauletta was not a hot commodity entering college.

“He’s the kind of guy that usually doesn’t get a chance at a higher level because he’s not super tall,’’ Gattuso said of Lauletta, who is listed at 6-foot-3, although Gattuso thinks that’s a stretch. “He’s not super anything, except productive. He’s not the tallest or the fastest or the strongest arm, he’s not probably anything in the top three in any of these categories, but he kinda does all of those things effectively.’’

The big break came when Tom Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, extended an invitation to Lauletta to participate in the event. After an impressive week practicing in front of scouts, coaches and general managers from every team assembled in Mobile, Ala., Lauletta went 8-of-12 for 198 yards and three touchdowns to earn the Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player award.

“Very smart, very attentive,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, the coach of Lauletta’s Senior Bowl South squad. “I thought that he picked up on the things that we were trying to do. He improved from Day 1 to the game. I thought he played real well in the game.’’

Brian Billick, the former Ravens head coach, told NFL Network, “This may be the best quarterback pick of the draft.’’

No one has to convince Gattuso of that possibility.

“The only time I’ve really spoken to him was after our game last year,’’ Gattuso said. “I shook his hand and congratulated him and said, ‘Just make sure you graduate and move on,’ because I have had enough of Kyle Lauletta.’’