The Cleveland Browns kicked the GM carousel into high gear on Thursday, firing Sashi Brown in the morning and hiring John Dorsey before your head hit the pillow. That’s one potential candidate off our list for the opening with the New York Giants.
There are, however, plenty of other fish — or, in this case GM candidates — in the sea. Let’s begin profiling some of them. We will start in an obvious place with a candidate who’s name is at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to the Giants’ GM job. That would be Dave Gettleman, former long-time Giants personnel man and GM with the Carolina Panthers.
Why it would work
There is no candidate for the job who knows the Giants better than Gettleman. He was in the organization from 1998-2012, serving as pro personnel director from 1999-2011. There will also be no other candidate for the job that the Giants are as familiar with. Ownership knows Gettleman well. He worked alongside Ernie Accorsi, consulting in the current GM search, during all of Accorsi’s Giants tenure as GM, has worked alongside many of the team’s veteran scouts, as well as coaches like Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Sullivan and Dave Merritt.
If anyone is qualified to come in and assess what the organization does well/doesn’t do well and which current members of the scouting department and coaching staff can be part of the solution going forward it would be Gettleman.
His stint in Carolina showed that Gettleman can build a team. The Panthers went 40-23-1 in Gettleman’s four seasons, with three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl berth in 2015. Even this year’s 8-4 Carolina team is one that Gettelman’s imprint, since he ran the free agency and draft periods before being let go by the Panthers. Yes, you can argue that Cam Newton (2011) and Luke Kuechly (2012) were drafted prior to Gettleman’s tenure. The Panthers, though, had suffered three straight losing seasons before he arrived.
When he was let go by Carolina, he folks at SB Nation’s Cat Scratch Reader seemed to think he had gotten a quick hook. From CSR’s Bradley Smith:
“As a fan of the Panthers I’ve seen the product on the field for the last four years of Gettleman’s tenure, and while there were some disappointments (like last season’s 6-10 disaster), the fact that Gettleman took a perennial losing team and turned them into a three-time division champion and Super Bowl participant with barely enough salary cap space to cover a parking ticket should give him a little bit of breathing room when recovering from a bad season.”
Gettleman is also considered a top-notch talent evaluator. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the organization’s talent evaluation hasn’t been the same since Gettleman stepped away from his full-time role after the 2011 season.
A pro personnel director is primarily responsible for scouting the talent on other teams and knowing whether a player can/can’t help a team when he becomes available. Among free agents signed during Gettleman’s time with the Giants were Kerry Collins, Jeff Feagles, Plaxico Burress, Shaun O’Hara, Kareem McKenzie, Fred Robbins and Antonio Pierce.
Gettleman, by all accounts, is obsessed with film study. There are also some who believe the Giants’ struggles in recent years to find linemen — misses on Owa Odighizuwa, Damontre Moore, Jay Bromley, James Brewer, Ereck Flowers — or their ignorance at times of the offensive line are related to Gettleman’s departure.
More from CSR’s Smith:
“Dave Gettleman is a classic 'film junkie' who spends a ton of his time scouting players. He's a little too obsessed with measurables for my liking, as he's been known to make statements like 'You can't teach 6'5", 240' when talking about players. His infatuation with measurables led to the Panthers making questionable decisions, like drafting Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess in back-to-back years. This caused the Panthers' offense to be redundant and made their wide receiver group too one-dimensional. (As a side note: trading Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo this year seems to have helped with that problem.)
“Gettleman is not afraid to take the player he wants, regardless of need or draft position. He drafts based on his board and ignores everything else. For example, he picked Vernon Butler in the 1st round of the 2016 draft when the Panthers already had Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short on the roster. He wasn't afraid to pick multiple players from the same position in consecutive rounds, as he picked three cornerbacks with consecutive picks in the 2016 draft to rebuild the position after Josh Norman left via free agency. He did this again in 2017 by taking Christian McCaffrey in the first round and Curtis Samuel in the 2nd round.
“It's too early to tell if he was a great drafter or not as most of his draft picks are still on their rookie deals, but for the most part Panthers fans don't complain about his drafting because he gave us players like Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, James Bradberry, Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey. He's had some busts like all GMs, but if I had to give him a letter grade for his drafts it would be a B or a B+.
“His approach to free agency when he was in Carolina was comparable to shopping the clearance rack at Walmart. He loved to shop in the bargain bin for free agents, and he had a strange ability to find good players for cheap. (Example - Kurt Coleman. A good player that he got for two years, $2.8 million in 2015.)”
Why it wouldn’t work
Gettleman’s long tenure and familiarity with the Giants can be viewed as a negative as well as a positive. Maybe co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, looking for “wholesale changes” after the departures of Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese, won’t see Gettleman as something new.
When he was hired in Carolina, Gettleman said he’s “not a slash-and-burn guy.” He proved it by keeping Ron Rivera as head coach and by not gutting the scouting department.
Mara said this week that he was not anticipating major changes to the scouting staff, so that might work in Gettleman’s favor.
Gettleman is 66, and if age is a factor that could work against him. His success in Carolina, though, might mitigate any concerns about that.
There is also how Gettleman’s tenure in Carolina ended. A reportedly gruff demeanor that rubbed some people the wrong way, as did a willingness to put loyalty aside and do what he thought was right regardless of the name on the back of a player’s jersey.
“The biggest complaint I can make about Gettleman is he takes his 'no nonsense, all business' approach too seriously. He ran several Panthers legends out of town, and that didn't sit well with ownership,” CSR’s Smith said. “To be fair to him, he did inherit a huge salary cap mess and he had to find a way to clear space to keep the team competitive, but his poor bedside manner in dealing with expensive free agents left a bad taste in a lot of mouths. Several former Panthers celebrated on social media when he was fired.”
After he was fired in Carolina, The Charlotte Observer did an outstanding analysis of everything Gettleman did right, and the things that led to his downfall. HIs “brusque management style” was at the heart of it.
There are two other things we don’t know about Gettleman.
Who would he hire as head coach. He didn’t have to do that in Carolina — he simply chose to keep Rivera in place. Would he go with an experienced hand like current interim boss Steve Spagnuolo or, say, former Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith? Or do something out of the box like hire highly-regarded Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks?
How would Gettleman handle the quarterback situation? Newton was already in place in Carolina, so Gettleman never had to draft one. Would he ride with Manning and try to build around him? Would he send Manning packing and start over? If so, what kind of QB would he draft?
The only thing I’m sure of is that Gettleman deserves, and almost certainly will get, serious consideration for the job. I have often wondered how the last 10 or 11 years would have panned out for the Giants if they had chosen Gettleman rather than Reese when Accorsi stepped aside.
Gettleman may be an acquired taste. His style, his age, his familiarity with and to the Giants, can all be viewed more than one way.
“I think he would be a good candidate for the Giants. I think his history with the organization works in his favor, and I do think he would build a roster that could win the NFC East,” said CSR’s Smith. “He built a Panthers team that has won the NFC South three times since 2013, so he does know what he's doing. Assuming the Giants part ways with Eli Manning this offseason, I don't know what kind of quarterback he would draft because he didn't have to do that in Carolina, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him go after a Cam Newton-type player. He likes size and speed, so he would probably focus his search on players who have both of those qualities.
“In short, if the Giants do hire him, be prepared to see draft picks that may not make sense when they're made, and get ready to see a lot of aging vets shown the door when they get too expensive to keep on the roster.”
We will find out in the next few weeks how Giants’ ownership sees all of that.