When the New York Giants announced on Monday that Pat Shurmur was out as coach but Dave Gettleman was staying they threw their full support beyond the sometimes perplexing general manager.
“We believe he is the right person to lead us going forward,” Mara said in a prepared statement.
Mara, though, seems to understand — to borrow a Gettleman word — there are many who think that is hogwash.
It was Mara in particular who seemed most sensitive. He seemed from the outset of his press conference to be in full spin mode.
The idea that Gettleman is a dinosaur? An old, crotchety guy stuck in a pre-historic method of evaluating and acquiring talent? That he hasn’t embraced newer methods and, gasp!. analytics to a degree?
“Steve and I decided to retain Dave and give him a chance to finish what he has started, which includes so many changes in this organization that people really don’t know about,” Mara said. “We’ve made a lot of turnover in our scouting area, we’ve completely changed our grading system in how we grade college players, we’re deeper into analytics and technology than we’ve ever been before, and that process is ongoing. We’ve completely re-organized areas in our football operations, we’ve added a staff psychologist on a full-time basis, and we believe it would be a mistake to pull the plug on that after two years, particularly when you consider that Dave spent a good part of the first year fighting for his life. ...
“The point I’m trying to make is it’s not business as usual here at the Giants. We’ve made a lot of changes, changes that you don’t necessarily know about, and we felt like we needed to give it a chance to see if it’s going to succeed or not.”
Gettleman did indeed show admirable strength that first year, working as much and as hard as possible while undergoing treatment for lymphoma. No one should question his commitment or courage.
There weren’t full-scale front office personnel changes under Gettleman, but he has talked about changing the team’s grading system after learning some things during his time with the Carolina Panthers.
“Deeper into analytics and technology,” though? That one is tougher to handle.
Remember Gettleman famously calling the positional value argument about running backs “a crock” after selecting Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall?
“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.”
In the past, I have lauded Gettleman for being an independent thinker. I still feel that way. I would rather have a decision-maker who makes up his own mind rather than simply does what the media or the Twitter-verse thinks he should do.
That said, everyone knows not every move the Giants made the past two seasons has been the right one. I’m not fully in agreement with Chris’s assessment of Gettleman’s first two seasons, but with cap space to to maneuver with this offseason we know that’s an area where the Giants need to do better than they have the past two years.
“Personnel-wise, we’ve had some hits, we’ve had some misses, and we have a lot of young players who have shown some promise, but it remains to be seen whether they’re going to develop into quality NFL players or not,” Mara said. “He [Gettleman] does know that the batting average has got to increase going forward, though.”
Gettleman and the coaching search
As Mara said, the Giants know they have “failed twice in a row now” to find the right coach.
Ownership seems aware of the risk that Gettleman’s presence could limit the candidate pool. Much of what Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch did on Monday seemed designed to convince potential head coaches — especially perhaps one certain Baylor coach who is thought by some to have reservations about the team’s front office — that they aren’t some sort of backward-thinking organization with an inflexible GM they should be afraid to work with.
“I’m aware that that’s a perception that’s out there, but I don’t have that concern because I think once they meet him (Gettleman) and get to know him, that won’t be an issue,” Mara said. “That’s certainly something we are aware of, but I happen to believe in Dave. I happen to believe in the changes that he’s making here, and I think those are going to pay off.”
Tisch added that “I think the search is going to be fruitful and I think we’re going to find a terrific number of candidates and the right decision will be made.”
Gettleman meets the media today
That is something he has not done since July. It should certainly be interesting. He will certainly be asked about Shurmur. About the perception some coaching candidates might not wan to work with him. About how much analytics he has embraced, or is willing to embrace. About the Leonard Williams trade. The lack of growth from the 2018 draft class. His plans for the draft and free agency. The continuing work to find the right hog mollies.
The Giants obviously know the risk they run here. They don’t, however, seem to want to blow everything up and start another tear down. They made a similar decision with Jerry Reese in 2015, and that backfired.
Will this one work? Mara and Tisch believe, as I do, that enough good things have been done over the last couple of years that better coaching and a good offseason in the draft and free agency can push the Giants closer to where they want to be.
Can they get that coach, and coaching staff? Can they have the excellent offseason they need?
We’re about to find out. And like it or not, Gettleman is going to be in the middle of it.