Live long enough and experience enough and you will have regret about something that happened along the way. There will be one who got away. For the New York Giants organization, the current one who got away is Dave Gettleman, general manager of Sunday's opponent, the 13-0 Carolina Panthers.
Gettleman could easily be the Giants' general manager today. Read about Gettleman and talk to people who know him, and it's obvious he wanted the job when Ernie Accorsi retired after the 2006 season. Gettleman joined the Giants in 1998 and became pro personnel director in 1999. He interviewed for the GM post. He was stung when the organization selected Jerry Reese.
The Giants are currently 6-7, fighting to avoid a third straight losing season and a fourth straight season without making the playoffs. The Panthers are gunning for history, and for a Super Bowl title. There is really no answer to the question, but it's only natural to wonder how the fortunes of these two franchises would be different if Giants' ownership had chosen Gettleman over Reese.
Would the Giants have those two Super Bowl titles? Would they have more? Less? Would they still have missed the playoffs every years since 2007 in which they have not won the Super Bowl? Would they have been a more consistent team?
There is no way to know. The only thing we can do is look more closely at Gettleman, learn about him, see what he's done in Carolina and try to infer what he might have done differently had he been running the Giants these past nine years.
So, who is this guy?
"He is an absolute trip to work with. He is a personality that guys in and around the space gravitate towards, said Dan Hatman, director of The Scouting Academy.
"He thought he had a real good job at the Giants job that went to Jerry, and was a real good soldier afterwards, did his job and everything," Hatman said. "Clearly he spent the next few years hoping to get his shot."
That shot finally came with Carolina in 2013. With Accorsi acting as a consultant as the Panthers searched for a GM, Gettleman ended up with the job.
"Dave can find players and he’s got a way about him that makes people want to work for him. He’s a much nicer guy than I am," said Accorsi, who retired from the Giants in 2006. "He can lead without making enemies. He was the most loved guy in our building. We used to call him the Mayor. I said, ‘What office are you running for this week?’"
The office he ran for and failed to get with the Giants in 2007 was now his in Carolina six years later. And perhaps unexpectedly, since he was already nearing his 62nd birthday.
What did Gettleman do upon arriving in Carolina? Did he walk in full of big-city bravado, clean house after a lifetime of waiting to be the guy in charge, and put his stamp of the coaching and personnel departments? Nope. He sat back, watched and learned that he had good people he thought he could win with -- including then much-maligned head coach Ron Rivera.
That's "very, very rare for a GM," said Hatman, adding that
"He's not an alarmist. He's not a reactionary. He came in, he said he was going to get the lay of the land, figure out who needed to stay and who needed to go and that's what he did."
Despite 6-10 and 7-9 seasons in his two years as coach before Gettleman arrived, the GM gave the coach a chance. Three straight playoff seasons have been the reward.
"[There's a] very, very small number of people in football that would have given Ron Rivera the time of day to keep going," Hatman said.
One player who appreciates the GM is Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton.
"He's a great human being. A fair human being. I don't think he gets enough credit for that. He's an unbelievable person who searches for talent and not just talent, but good morally talent," Newton told Carolina media this week.
"Guys that uphold their end of the bargain when they come here and guys that hold people to a standard. He know that in this league you have to produce whether you're a player, a coach or even a GM. We know that. It starts with him and Coach Rivera and it just trickles on down."
It is impossible to know what the Giants' drafts would have looked like under Gettleman's direction. His NFL work had been in pro scouting before taking the Carolina job and having to learn the college scouting and draft process.
Gettleman was head of a personnel department with the Giants that brought players like Madison Hedgecock, Domenik Hixon, Shaun O'Hara, Kareem McKenzie, Chris Canty and others to the Giants.
What, if anything, have the Giants missed with Gettleman no longer part of their personnel department? Perhaps, if there is one thing that could be pointed to, it is what others see as Gettleman's focus on and ability to find quality offensive and defensive linemen. Players he apparently calls "hog mollies."
"Dave spent a lot of time working on players in the trenches and then he took that acumen to Carolina," Hatman said.
That, of course, is not to say the Giants can't identify quality linemen. They have drafted Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins on the defensive side, and Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and Ereck Flowers on the offensive side. They have also had draft misses like James Brewer, Brandon Mosley and Damontre Moore, and some free-agent missteps as well. Those missteps are part of the reason the Giants struggle to rush the passer and block for the run.
In Carolina, Gettleman has drafted key defensive linemen Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short and Kony Ealy, along with starting offensive lineman Trai Turner. He is building a team that can now do what the Giants used to do -- dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Could or would Gettleman have been as successful with the Giants as he currently is in Carolina? We will never know.