When Dave Gettleman stood in front of the media for the first time as general manager of the New York Giants slightly more than a year ago he issued a simple, direct proclamation.
“I’ve been hired to win,” Gettleman said at the time. “The only promise I can make is I’m going to do everything in my power to lead this organization back where it belongs.”
Well, the Giants didn’t win in 2018. They started 1-7 and went 5-11. While the decisions to stick with Eli Manning at quarterback and sign several older veteran free agents might have made it seem like the Giants were in a “win-now” mode, Gettleman never promised that returning the Giants to prominence would be quick. Or easy.
“You can’t put a timetable,” Gettleman said. “We’re gonna work our fannies off and we’re gonna get it fixed.”
Some of Gettleman’s decisions, like drafting Saquon Barkley, were prescient. Others, like signing running back Jonathan Stewart and guard Patrick Omameh in free agency, weren’t so good.
Gettleman addresses the media on Wednesday. Let’s assess Gettleman’s first year as general manager by going through many of the questions he will likely have to face from reporters on Wednesday.
What is the plan at quarterback?
We have been over this a multitude of times, and we are probably just getting started. The guess here is Gettleman will get more questions about the team’s plans at quarterback than about anything else.
The Giants punted on the “who is the heir to Eli Manning?” question last season, ignoring a quarterback class that saw five taken in the first round to select Saquon Barkley. Both Manning, who set career bests in completion and interception percentage and saw his stats tick up pretty much across the board, and the Giants’ offense did some good things.
“I think what we want to be offensively was better showcased from the bye week on,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Monday. “Prior to the bye week, we were scoring 17, 18 points a game, and after the bye week we’ve scored 27, almost 28 points a game. That’s what you need to do. Part of that was we solidified the offensive line, which allowed Eli to do more of what Eli can do better, and helped our runner. I think we would all agree in the second half of the year, we played much better offense.”
So, the Giants showed that they can play good offense with Manning behind center.
That, though, doesn’t negate the fact that the Giants still have a decision to make. Even if the Giants decide Manning is their guy for 2019 they have to know he is, at best, a short-term solution.
Gettleman has spoken about not wanting to land the Giants in “quarterback hell” by using an early pick on the wrong guy. Well, the franchise may not be in quarterback hell right now, but it is in quarterback limbo.
How Gettleman solves that situation is likely going to be the defining characteristic of his tenure as Giants’ GM. Every word he says on Wednesday about quarterback will be parsed for meaning, both obvious and hidden.
Did Saquon Barkley’s play vindicate him?
The majority opinion heading into last year’s quarterback-rich draft was that the Giants had to take one. Gettleman termed that “hogwash.” Before the draft he also said that “the devaluing of a running back is really a myth.” He proved he believed that by kicking the quarterback can down the road and selecting Barkley.
A historic season in which Barkley (2,028) became the third rookie in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards from scrimmage, set the record for receptions by a rookie (91) and broke a number of franchise records proved that Gettleman was right when he called Barkley “a tremendous talent.”
The GM won’t gloat about being right about how good Barkley is. What he could, however, crow about is that his first draft for the Giants certainly brought the team a lot of talent.
Second-round pick Will Hernandez should be a long-term fixture at left guard. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill and outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, both third-round picks, are future defensive stalwarts. Maybe fifth-round pick R.J. McIntosh, too? Quarterback Kyle Lauletta? It’s probably too soon to tell.
In the final years of Jerry Reese’s tenure as GM there were too many draft classes that failed to produce long-term core players. Gettleman’s initial draft class, though, looks like it will.
Hits, misses and what’s ahead for the hog mollies?
Gettleman walked in the door professing his love for the hog mollies and being direct about what needed to be done.
“We gotta fix the oline let’s be honest, let’s not kid each other,” Gettleman said in late December 2017. “Big men allow you to compete, and that’s what we’ve gotta fix.”
The line didn’t get fixed in 2018. At least not completely. There were both hits and misses in the rebuild of the hog mollies, and much remains to be done. Manning was sacked a career-worst 47 times, 31 in the first eight games. Despite the presence of Barkley, inadequate run blocking led to the Giants being 31st in the league in marginal rushing efficiency.
Drafting Hernandez was a hit. He did not allow a sack over the final nine games.
The four-year, $62 million contract the Giants gave left tackle Nate Solder was an overpay and a source of consternation for Giants fans. Still, Solder gave the Giants what they expected. After a rough start, his Pro Football Focus grade (74.2) and sacks allowed (7) are right in line with his career numbers. His 33 pressures allowed were the lowest total of his eight-year career. He also provided solid leadership, and should give the Giants a couple more solid seasons.
The rest of the line?
The Giants missed on guard Patrick Omameh. They signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract and jettisoned him after seven games.
The Ereck Flowers reclamation project didn’t work. The Giants moved him to right tackle, he slopped, got benched after two games and was eventually cut. The bigger problem was that the Giants didn’t have a solid Plan B. Chad Wheeler took over and finished ranked 59th by PFF among 62 qualifying tackles. The Giants have to find an upgrade at this spot.
The handling of the center position was curious, choosing Jon Halapio and eventually trading Brett Jones. The Giants were fortunate to land Spencer Pulley on waivers and get adequate play from him the second half of the season. What will the Giants do here? They might be able to get by with Halapio/Pulley, but that’s pretty much what they would be doing.
They were also extremely fortunate to land right guard Jamon Brown via a midseason waiver claim. He helped solidify the line. Can they keep the free agent right guard? Do that want to?
One good thing here is that Gettleman does have a long history of being able to identify offensive linemen. Also, he and Shurmur appear to be on the same page regarding the importance of the hog mollies.
“I think you’ve got to always try to upgrade your offensive line to some degree because when you look around and you start to see teams that are playing bad offense, don’t look at the skill players first,” Shurmur said on Monday. “If you can’t block them, then nothing fancy looks good, nothing normal looks good, nothing that you need to do in football looks good if you can’t block them.”
Expect upgrades to the offensive line to be a focus for Gettleman both in free agency and the draft.
Was he happy with his free agent signings?
Solder, while an overpay, is what the Giants expected. Safety Michael Thomas was an excellent signing.
The rest? Questionable, at best.
Jonathan Stewart gave the Giants nothing for $3.45 million in guaranteed money. Omameh was a flop. Cody Latimer and Russell Shepard are valuable players, but probably not the answer as the No. 3 wide receiver. Kareem Martin, Josh Mauro and Connor Barwin didn’t give the Giants much. Certainly not as much as Devon Kennard and Romeo Okwara gave the Detroit Lions.
Landon Collins? Olivier Vernon? Janoris Jenkins?
Gettleman isn’t going to reveal exactly what the Giants will do with these three players, and with any other highly-paid guys they might choose to move on from or re-structure. He will, however, be asked about these three players and we will see if his answers reveal what the Giants might do.
Collins can be a free agent. Will the Giants let him get there? Will they give him a long-term deal? Will they use the franchise tag? Collins wants to be a Giant, he wants to finish what he started. The Giants have a defense to upgrade. Do they want Collins to be a centerpiece of that? How much are they willing to pay to make that happen?
The Giants can save $15.5 million against the cap by moving on from Vernon as a post-June 1 cut. They could save $7.75 million by cutting Jenkins before June 1 and $11.25 million by making him a post-June 1 cut.
What to do with those two talented but somewhat tough to figure out veterans will be a key part of Gettleman’s decision-making process this offseason.
There are plenty of other questions for Gettleman, who hasn’t spoken to media since late July. Early thoughts on the draft class? What did he think of Shurmur’s first year as head coach? How is his health after his battle with Lymphoma? What did he think of Odell Beckham’s season and his comments to ESPN?
Wednesday promises to be an interesting one. Be sure to check back Wednesday afternoon for takeaways from Gettleman’s remarks.