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Right or wrong, Dave Gettleman building Giants his way

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And he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants
Dave Gettleman
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman has guts.

Disappointed at not being named Giants’ general manager in 2007 and fearing as he passed the age of 60 that his chance at such a job was slipping away, Gettleman stapped away from full-time pro personnel work with the Giants and into a consulting role in 2012. He did that to better study the various aspects of being a GM.

Given the opportunity in 2013 at a GM job he thought might never come his way, Gettleman did things his way with the Carolina Panthers. He kept coach Ron Rivera when the prevailing wisdom was he would fire him and bring in “his” guy. He drafted his kind of players. He cut popular, expensive veterans he thought weren’t worth it despite angering players, fans and even to an extent his own boss.

Gettleman will plainly tell you that he doesn’t care what the media or the fans think of his decisions. He also will tell you he’s not afraid to make those decisions. He’d probably do it by telling you that he wears big-boy pants.

“It’s my responsibility to protect this franchise. That’s my job. There’s a variety of ways that I have to protect it. I learned that in Carolina. It’s my job. I have no issue doing it,” Gettleman said at his introductory press conference. “I’ll make the tough decisions and I’ll stand by them and we’ll see what happens.”

The selection of Saquon Barkley on Thursday night with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was one of those tough decisions.

Fans who have banging the Barkley drum for months will tell you picking him was a no-brainer. The GM jokingly said last week that Barkley was “one of those guys my mother could have scouted.”

Easy decision? Hardly

Gettleman can tell us that Barkley had only the second perfect scouting grade he has ever given a player — Peyton Manning being the other. He can and did tell us he was choosing Barkley pretty much no matter what anyone else offered. He told media he would have turned the card in within two seconds of being on the clock had the league allowed him to do so. He can and did tell us Eli Manning is the quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Still, this decision wasn’t clear cut. And truthfully, we won’t know for several seasons if it was the right one.

The value argument

Gettleman has made a decision that flies in the face of the current conventional NFL wisdom. Despite his protestations that the devaluation of running backs is a myth, the behavior of most NFL teams tells you otherwise.

Teams don’t build around running backs anymore. It’s a pass-first league. Most teams use a running back by committee approach with as many as three guys sharing the load based on situation. The common wisdom is that you can get good running backs later in the draft, and this draft is expected to have quality options at that position right through Day 3.

Gettleman, in typically blunt style, calls that argument “a crock.”

“You know what I say about that. It is a crock. At the end of the day, a great player is a great player. He is a touchdown maker. He is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets his hands on the ball,” he said Thursday night. “I think a lot of that stuff is nonsense. I think it is someone who had decided to get into the analytics of it and went through whatever. Jonathan Stewart is in his 10th year and he has not lost anything. I don’t believe in that. I don’t care who you take, they can all get hurt.”

What about quarterback hell?

The GM has often talked about needing to stay out of what he called “quarterback hell.” He has said that choosing the wrong quarterback is “a five-year mistake.” Not having a replacement ready when your veteran quarterback loses the ability to make plays can also put a team in quarterback hell. It is easy, obvious even, to make the argument that the general manager has risked allowing the Giants to fall into quarterback hell by passing on the available quarterbacks at No. 2.

DeMarcus Lawrence wants Manning at quarterback for the Giants? He’s going to get him. Gettleman has pushed his chips to the center of the table on Manning, saying Thursday that “we’re going to find out” how long he can play.

“What’s the long-term plan with the quarterback? He’s going to play. What do you want me to tell you? He’s our quarterback, we believe in him, he threw the hell out of the ball for three days, he has not lost one bit of arm strength and I’m coming back five years later, watching a quarterback in his prime, and now he’s 37,” Gettleman said. “You have to stop worrying about age. Oh, by the way, Julius Peppers played last year at 38, Mike Davis played at 37. There are some guys that are just freaks. Brady is 41. I mean c’mon. He is our quarterback.”

What the GM has opted to do, rather than look toward a Manning-less future, is try to give a quarterback who put two Super Bowl rings on Gettleman’s fingers, is give him as much support as possible.

What about the Jets?

This was always going to be a draft, with the Giants at No. 2 and the Jets at No. 3, where whatever the two MetLife Stadium co-owners did would be compared, contrasted ad scrutinized for years to come. Maybe decades.

That is especially true now that the Jets selected Sam Darnold, the quarterback we had been led to believe was the one in this draft class the Giants liked most. The fortunes of Barkley and Darnold, and the teams they play for, will be conversation topics for a long time to come. If Darnold goes on to resuscitate the Jets and — God forbid — wins them a Super Bowl or two, while the Giants land in quarterback hell and the brilliance of Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. can’t lift them out of mediocrity, Gettleman will be crucified by the vulturous New York media.

He ... does ... not ... care.

“We passed on about 230,000 players. You guys have got to understand me, I don’t care. All I care about is the New York Football Giants and every decision we make will be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants,” Gettleman said Thursday night. “I don’t care about that stuff. It doesn’t bother me. I know you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. I don’t care. Every decision that we are going to make is going to be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. It is going to be in the best interest of this iconic franchise.”

Gettleman has conviction. He has guts. He is going to do this job his way and build the team the way he and Pat Shurmur believe it should be built.

Will it work? It sure is going to be interesting finding out.