We have looked at his trades, free-agent acquisitions and draft decisions. Now, it is time to put a bow on all of that and draw a conclusion — should Dave Gettleman remain general manager of the New York Giants or should ownership take his key card and send him into retirement?
Many of you long ago decided that Gettleman needed to go. Some of you thought he never should have arrived in the first place. Gettleman has, though, been the Giants’ general manager for nearly three full seasons now.
There have been good decisions. There have been bad decisions. There have been moves that seemed right, but have worked out wrong. There have been moves that seemed wrong, but have worked out OK. There have been two head coaches.
Most of all, there has not been enough winning. The Giants are 12-30 over Gettleman’s three seasons.
Stay or go? I do not believe there is a clear-cut, obvious answer. I think you can make a solid case for either decision. So, let’s try to make both cases and see where it goes.
Why Gettleman should go
Gettleman’s task, fixing the broken Giants, was never going to be easy. Years of poor personnel decisions and coaching hires culminated in 2017 with the franchise sinking to a 3-13 record in an embarrassing, controversy-filled season that saw neither coach Ben McAdoo nor GM Jerry Reese make it to the finish line.
Still, won-loss records of 5-11, 4-12 and now 3-7 don’t — on paper — look like progress.
Gettleman hates the word “rebuild.” He has always said the Giants were “building,” and that he thought they could win games while doing so.
The Giants kept stubbornly trying to make it work with Eli Manning, trying desperately to send the best quarterback in franchise history off with one more winning run. What they probably should have been doing was embracing that they had to let go of the past and fully move toward the future. Gettleman’s fault? John Mara’s fault? Don’t know, but the refusal to fully acknowledge where the Giants were falls — at least partially — at Gettleman’s feet.
It’s easy to point to bad free agent contracts Gettleman gave out. Nate Solder, Jonathan Stewart, Patrick Omameh, Golden Tate. Even giving No. 3 tight end Levine Toilolo more than $3 million in guaranteed money.
Gettleman has shown an inability at times to master the concept of maximizing his assets. Drafting a running back second overall flew in the face of the positional value argument and of the logical argument that drafting a quarterback or trading down for additional picks would have been more valuable. The resources used on Leonard Williams. The unnecessary DeAndre Baker trade.
Gettleman walked in the Giants’ door with a reputation for being able to find offensive line talent. Three years in, the jury is still out on version 3.0 of his offensive line rebuild. So, you can say he hasn’t accomplished the one thing he was supposed to be best at — fixing offensive lines.
You can say he is a dinosaur. That his admiration for “Hog Mollies” and his constant “big men allow you to compete” refrain come from a bygone NFL era.
You can say that at 69 he isn’t the right match for 38-year-old head coach Joe Judge, and that the Giants should go out and find a younger GM more in tune to modern analytics and thought processes.
if you want Gettleman out, you can point to all those things as reasons why.
Why Gettleman should stay
Gettleman said at the beginning of the season that the Giants were “getting there” and would be competitive. While it has taken 2½ years and two head coaches, you could argue that he’s right. Midway through Judge’s first season as head coach, it does look like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
You can argue that Gettleman’s work, imperfect though it may have been, is part of what has gotten the Giants to that point. The Giants’ roster is far from complete, but it’s better than it has been for a while.
If you are a Daniel Jones believer, you can argue that Gettleman’s much-debated choice to take him sixth overall was the right one. if Gettleman got the quarterback decision right, or there is still a reasonable chance to get it right, you can argue that strengthens his case for staying.
Despite the rocky start by Andrew Thomas, his recent play combined with that of Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux and Matt Peart brings optimism that the offensive line is finally on better footing.
The 2020 free agent class — James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Logan Ryan, Graham Gano, Kyler Fackrell — was clearly the best in Gettleman’s three seasons.
You can argue that the Saquon Barkley injury and all of the roadblocks dropped in the way by COVID-19 have made it impossible to judge what the Giants really have, and that under that circumstance it wouldn’t be fair to push the GM out the door.
The pairing of the old GM and the young, first-time head coach seems odd at first glance. Judge, though, is a hard-nosed, throwback kind of coach who sees the game in an old-fashioned way that aligns surprisingly well with Gettleman’s own views.
Co-owner John Mara said before the season started that he liked the way the GM and head coach were working together. Whenever he’s been asked, Judge has said there is “great synergy” between himself and the front office.
You can argue that if ownership still sees the GM-coach relationship that way, and the feeling is that the Giants are finally emerging from the darkness they have been enveloped in, that they shouldn’t mess with that.
What do I think is going to happen?
This is really difficult because the ultimate decision is based on a lot of things we don’t really have insight to. How do Mara and Steve Tisch really view the Gettleman-Judge relationship at present?
How much of the Giants’ free agency haul was Gettleman responsible for, and how much of it was the result of players Judge and his staff pushed for? Same with the draft. Ultimately, who pushed for Andrew Thomas?
Judge is going to be around for a while. That much is clear. He has a vision for where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. That much is also clear. The other thing that is clear is that it will be Judge’s vision that guides the franchise for the next few years.
Is Gettleman, who has always said work between the GM and coach is “collaborative” and that the front office is “support staff” for the head coach, the right GM to help implement that vision? Would someone like Tennessee Titans Director of Player Personnel Monti Ossenfort, who worked with Judge during their days with the New England Patriots, or current Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, be a better fit with the head coach?
How does the front office view the Barkley injury and the impact of COVID-19 on the team’s 2020 season? Do they believe it’s fair to push the GM after such a weird and unprecedented season?
Does Gettleman, who has talked at times about retiring to Cape Cod and watching the proceedings if he believed he had gotten the right long-term quarterback, want to stay?
I chatted with former Minnesota Vikings GM Jeff Diamond about Gettleman’s future recently. Here is what he said:
“He may buy another year because of COVID, because of all the difficulties navigating that with no offseason and still with a young quarterback, without your top running back, missing your second-round pick who’s been out basically for the year so far and a rookie left tackle who certainly is undergoing some growing pains to say the least,” Diamond said.
“I could understand if John Mara made the move and just said we haven’t made enough progress and we’re going to make a change at the GM spot. But I could also easily see John sticking with Dave for at least another year and saying it’s been a COVID year, it’s been a weird year, we’ve had major injuries and let’s see how this plays out and let’s see how the draft class develops.
What is Diamond’s gut feeling right now?
“It’s kind of a 50-50 proposition in my mind at this point. It could definitely go either way ... If I was going to guess because of COVID, because of everything that’s happened I think he stays one more year,” he said.
Whatever happens, I do not believe Giants ownership will fire Gettleman. If he leaves, with a shove or of his own volition, I think it would be via retirement.
In the end, though, it really comes down to the nitty-gritty of the working relationship between Gettleman and Judge. If that relationship is solid, if ownership believes they are an effective team and Gettleman wants to continue, I think Diamond will be right that the GM gets to stay a little bit longer.
I would be OK with that.
Moving on from Gettleman is probably not the choice I would make, but I would understand that, too.