Major decisions about the future direction of the New York Giants are coming soon. Will Dave Gettleman stay on as general manager? Will Pat Shurmur be out as head coach? If either or both are gone, who’s next?
Despite all of the reports, all of the speculation, all of the guessing we still don’t have a clear idea of exactly what Giants’ co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch will decide to do. There are, basically, three options. Blow everything up and start over, opt for stability and patience by keeping your current decision-makers, take the compromise route by keeping the front office in place while sweeping out Shurmur and the coaching staff.
Let’s examine each option.
The nuclear option
Judging from everything we’ve read and learned thus far, we might consider this dropping a Tisch Bomb on the entire organization.
It’s been reported that co-owner Steve Tisch is pushing for, to paraphrase Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman,’ taking a flamethrower to the organization. In that scenario, Shurmur and the coaching staff would be out. Gettleman and many of the long-time front office executives who have survived several regimes would be out. That might include people like Assistant GM Kevin Abrams (21 years with the Giants), Pro Personnel Director Ken Sternfeld (hired by the Giants in 2002), Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (hired by the Giants in 2005) and others.
One who might favor that approach is former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, now a columnist for The Athletic. Lombardi has been a critic of the Giants’ organizational structure for many years. In a Friday column about what may happen on Black Monday, here is what Lombardi said about the Giants:
The Giants have been through two head coaches and two general managers over the last six years, yet have only 35 wins over that span. For Mara, he must ask the simple question: is this a people problem or an organizational one? When you have a 36% winning percentage for the last six years, the problems cannot be just people, they run much deeper. Mara cares deeply, but does he care enough to answer the hard questions about himself?
Supporters of this position will point to the way the Giants have made incremental changes in recent years. They forced Tom Coughlin to replace coordinators and change offensive systems in his final years, things that if we gave Coughlin a dose of truth serum we know he would say he didn’t want to do. The other choice was to push Coughlin out even earlier than they did.
The Giants kept Jerry Reese longer than they should have. They probably kept Eli Manning at quarterback too long, as well. They had an opening for a full reboot after the 2015 season when they pushed Coughlin out, and passed.
Even when they made a change at GM, they turned to a trusted old friend in Gettleman. Now, Gettleman quite obviously thinks for himself and brought some new ideas from his time with the Carolina Panthers. Still, there were minimal front office changes under Gettleman and many of the people he worked with during his first tenure as Giants’ pro personnel director are still employed by the team.
So, there is absolutely a “fresh blood” argument that can be made if you favor the nuclear option.
There is also this.
The idea that working with Gettleman would shrink the pool of potential coaching candidates the Giants could choose from if they replace Shurmur.
A source told me recently that Baylor coach Matt Rhule is the top choice of both Tisch and John Mara should they decide to move on. That same source, though, also told me that “Rhule wants no part of DG.”
Now, maybe money, being allowed to hire his own coaches and the fact that Rhule is a New York City guy with ties to the Giants would win the day. If Rhule wants the Giants, the Giants want Rhule and Gettleman is the stumbling block then you either a) remove the stumbling block or b) move on.
Maybe the ‘cut the cord with the old ways and loyal, long-time employees’ idea will be the route the Giants choose. Maybe it won’t. There are other possibilities.
The patience plan
Every organization craves stability. Without it, only fleeting success — like 2016 — is possible. Sustained success is not. Without stability, you become the Cleveland Browns. Or, closer to home, the New York Knicks.
The Giants know this better than most. The team’s first two Super Bowl titles came during Bill Parcells’ eight-year run as head coach, with George Young as GM. The second two came during the 12-year run of Tom Coughlin, where executive power was passed in-house from Ernie Accorsi to Reese. Though it was a losing effort, the Giants’ fifth Super Bowl appearance came during a seven-year run as head coach by Jim Fassel.
Having and keeping the right head coach, with the right assistants and a front office that is in tune with what that coaching staff wants and needs matters. Allowing that coaching staff to develop a core of players who are talented, who believe in the message being preached and who can lead the locker room matters.
Mara knows this.
Loyalty was something Mara’s father, the late Wellington Mara, was well-known for. It was both a strength that has become a hallmark of the Giants’ organization and a fatal flaw that contributed to the dark years of the late 1960s and 1970s.
Mara, moreso than Tisch, who was named Executive Vice President of the Giants in 2005 upon the passing of his father, Bob, has this ingrained in him.
Mara knows from personal experience that the beginnings of the Parcells and Coughlin eras were not good. He knows that believing that they had the right people in charge and giving them a chance to work through their initial failings proved to be the right choice the last two times the Giants had sustained runs of excellence.
Question is, does he believe after two seasons of decidedly mixed results that Gettleman and Shurmur are deserving of that kind of patience? If we believe that Tisch is holding the flamethrower in his hand, the question we must ask is whether Mara is willing to stand in the line of fire and prevent him from throwing it.
Stability for the sake of stability isn’t a good plan, either. If you don’t believe you have a coach who can win or a GM who can deliver the right players, keeping them just because you don’t like constant change isn’t a winning approach.
If Mara believes strongly enough that the Giants already have the right people, that they just need more time to finish what they have started, they will stay.
In that scenario, there would likely be changes to Shurmur’s coaching staff. It’s not hard to envision an entirely new defensive coaching staff in 2020. A new offensive line coach. Maybe an offensive coordinator with closer ties to Shurmur. If Gettleman stays, it’s not hard to see Tisch insisting that some of his veteran underlings get put out to pasture and that some younger executives — maybe even someone who could be considered a GM in waiting — are put in place.
Many of you are married, have been married or have at least been in some type of serious long-term relationship. You know that those relationships don’t work without compromise. They don’t work if one side simply wants to dictate to the other side. Or, really, if one partner simply always acquiesces to the other partner whether they agree or not simply to avoid the confrontation.
For the Giants, compromise might be the answer. If we believe Tisch wants to sweep everything out and Mara wants to emphasize patience, perhaps the answer to what will happen lies somewhere in the middle.
In that case, perhaps Shurmur is out while Gettleman stays with a somewhat re-shuffled front office.
The only thing we know for certain as the clock ticks toward the end of the season is that it won’t be long before we know how this all goes down.