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Defense, hog mollies, Pat Shurmur: More takeaways from Dave Gettleman’s press conference

Giants’ GM taught everyone some Yiddish, and much more

NFL: DEC 30 Cowboys at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman spoke to the media on Wednesday the major focus was, of course, on the team’s plan at quarterback. We have been over that. And over it. And over it some more. And we most certainly are not done going over it.

There was also some clarity about Odell Beckham Jr.

What else, though, did the general manager discuss in his first public media availability since the beginning of training camp? Here are some takeaways.

He knows the defense was bad

Gettleman said he “almost fell down” when he found out that the Giants had scored more points (369) than any other team in the NFC East. He didn’t, however, need anyone to tell him that the Giants had also surrendered the most points (412).

“Well, that’s why you’re 5-11,” said Gettleman.

The Giants were 23rd in the league in points allowed, 24th in yards allowed, tied for 30th in quarterback sacks and 22nd in yards allowed per play. They had late leads in a number of games that the defense could not hold, including one-point losses the last two weeks of the season.

“We’ve got to continue to improve. It’s not easy to win games when you don’t have playmakers,” Gettleman said. “We need to improve the defense, guys. Just like I looked you right in the eye last year and told you we’ve got to fix this O-line, we’ve got to get better on the defensive side.”

“Headed in the right direction”

The Giants didn’t win enough games, but the general manager does like where the team is headed. The Giants went 4-4 over the last half of the season after their 1-7 start.

“We’re headed in the right direction, I really believe that. We’ve had a year, we’ve done a lot of different types of things. Obviously we’ve done a pretty extensive overhaul with the roster. We consistently talked about culture and building a winning culture,” Gettleman said. “Again, it’s a team that had to learn how to win again. So I feel really good about the foundation that we’ve started to lay. I’m not happy with 5-11, nobody is, but I feel good about where we’re headed.”

Gettleman said the second half of the season, both the improved performance and the way the team practiced on a daily basis, was telling.

“Winning in the NFL is not easy. It’s hard. Winning a game in the NFL is hard. If anybody tells you any different, they’ve never played, they don’t know the game. It’s very difficult. To go 1-7 for the first half of the year and to lose a number of close games, I think we tied for the league lead with 12 games decided by a touchdown or less, and it would’ve been 13 if the Saints didn’t score that late touchdown,” Gettleman said. “To lose games like that, be 1-7 and to have the types of practices we were having where there was focus, there was energy, things were getting accomplished and the proof was in the pudding by what we did in the last eight games.

“That’s what encourages me, that’s why I think the foundation is right. You didn’t have any of the crap going on in the locker room that happened last year. There is nobody in this room that can argue with me on one point: this team did not quit. It was competitive as hell. That’s the start.”

Did he misjudge the 2018 team?

Gettleman bristled at the notion that he misjudged how competitive the Giants could or would be in 2018.

“I didn’t misjudge it at all. That’s been asked before and I’ve thought about that. I had no illusions of what we were. None,” Gettleman said. “You tell me why you think I misjudged it.”

That part is easy. Staying with Eli Manning and not drafting a quarterback at No. 2. Trading for Alec Ogletree. Signing 30-somethings like Connor Barwin and Jonathan Stewart. It was easy to get the idea that the Giants thought they could engineer a quick turnaround. The GM said that wasn’t the case.

“You’ve got to start somewhere. But by the end of the year, we had one of the youngest teams in the league. Listen, nobody likes losing. Nobody. Anybody in here like losing, you want to raise your hands? Nobody likes to lose,” Gettleman said. “So what you have to do when you come in is you evaluate what you have and you say to yourself, remember, I’ve told you guys – I’m on that tight rope, and me in a tutu on a tightrope ain’t pretty. It’s the tight rope of you want to win now, you want to get those wins now because you’ve got a coaching staff whose fannies are on the line every Sunday, and you want to set the team up, the franchise up, for sustained success.

“We sat back, we made the decisions we made last year, and here we are. There’s some good stuff and there’s some stuff we’ve got to fix.”

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New York Giants
Jonathan Stewart
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On some free agent misses

Most notably, running back Jonathan Stewart (six carries, 17 yards) and guard Patrick Omameh (cut midseason) were signings that didn’t work out.

“Not every move’s going to work out, oh by the way, as we’ve seen,” Gettleman said. “The other part of it is, I believe in that definition of insanity – keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It’s true, so you’ve also seen that we make a decision and if it’s not working, we will make a change.”

Gettleman said many of the veteran players were brought in not only to try and help on the field but to help cleanse the locker room.

“We’ll go into this season because we have different issues. One of the biggest issues we had last year that we had to fix was what? The locker room. And both Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh are true professionals, and they were brought here for a specific purpose, they were brought here for other reasons than their play. Just understand that,” Gettleman said. “We feel like we’ve turned that corner, especially with this rookie class.”

Offensive line remains a big emphasis

NFL: New York Giants at Denver Broncos
Jon Halapio
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants have Nate Solder locked in at left tackle and Will Hernandez at left guard. After that, questions.

“Here’s what I would say – first of all, don’t forget (C Jon Halapio) Pio, don’t forget Jon. He went down, unfortunately, in the second game. He was playing the best of anybody. So, don’t forget about Pio,” Gettleman said. “I am always going to keep working on those lines, on those groups. You cannot have enough hog mollies, you can’t, because people get hurt. You can’t have enough.”

Translation: Expect some new hog mollies in 2019, but figure on Halapio as the team’s starting center.

No doubts about Pat Shurmur

Prior to the Giants hiring Shurmur as head coach, Gettleman had never worked with him. After doing so for a year, Gettleman has no doubts he is the right man for the job.

“Not at all. If anything, it reinforced my feeling about him a year ago when we went through the interview process. It was the steadiness, it was the message. We’re 1-7 and we have two practices during the bye week, I just was kind of amazed,” Gettleman said.

“I wish you could’ve seen it. Just the way Pat and the coaches kept everyone on task, going in the right direction, understanding that, to a certain degree, maybe we were the little engine that could. We kept pushing that thing up the hill. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the right guy.”

In defense of the ‘Snacks’ trade

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp

Many fans remain upset that the Giants traded run-stuffing defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions for the apparent bargain price of a fifth-round pick. Gettleman, though, is happy with the result.

“When we traded Snacks, part of the issue when Snacks was here was he played the one, we had Dalvin (Tomlinson) playing the three, and B.J. (Hill) playing the five techniques. Well, Dalvin’s a one technique and B.J.’s a three, so I’m very pleased with the change, to answer your question,” Gettleman said. “B.J. came a long way. Pass rush is critical, as I’ve stated it a million times as we all know. B.J. had, I think, five and a half sacks, so he made some progress inside. Dalvin did what he does at the one, so for us, it worked out and those young guys are getting snaps. That’s the only way they’re going to get better.”

The Giants need a Yiddish translator

Gettleman press conferences are always entertaining as you’re never quite sure what he will say, or what unique method he will use to say it. Wednesday, Gettleman leaned hard into Yiddish.

He called Eli Manning a “mensch.”

“The way he carries himself, who he is as a person, the way he respects the game. You know men in your life who are not mensches. You know what a mensch is. There’s no deviousness, there’s no duplicitousness, none of that stuff. He’s a mensch,” Gettleman said. “Someday, I hope to be a mensch.”

‘Mensch” definition — a decent, upright, mature, and responsible person.

Gettleman greeted reporters by saying he hoped they had “had some good potato latkes” over the holiday.

Latke — a pancake, especially one made of grated potato.

Gettleman said some people think he is an “alte kaker.”

Alte kaker can be loosely translated as an “old geezer.”

To be honest, the 67-year-old sort of qualifies.

Gettleman said it was “fakakta” that media only got to watch the first 15 minutes of practice during the regular season.

Fakakta means silly or ridiculous in Yiddish.

Media members would agree when it comes to practice limitations.