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Judgment day isn’t here for Giants GM Dave Gettleman, but without progress it’s probably coming

Gettleman under fire after Giants’ awful effort vs. 49ers

NFL: New York Giants-Blue & White Scrimmage
Dave Gettleman
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“I want to feel like when we walk off the field after the last game that we play, whenever that is, that we’re moving in the right direction. That we have the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl, and that the combination of people that we have here is going to work going forward. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I need to feel like ... you just want to feel like this group that we have together right now is building something that’s going to compete for a championship.”

That was New York Giants co-owner John Mara before the 2020 NFL season began on what his hopes were for this version of the Giants.

Obviously, after the debacle that was the Giants’ non-competitive 36-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, progress is nowhere to be found. Unless you are talking about being one game closer to the end of what is shaping up to potentially be another miserable season for the team that has the worst record in football since the beginning of the 2017 season.

Are the Giants really as bad, really as devoid of talent, really as pitiful and hopeless as they looked on Sunday? Or, was Sunday just an example of what a championship-caliber team does to a young team when it makes young-team mistakes?

I asked former Minnesota Vikings GM Jeff Diamond that question on Monday morning.

“I’d say the loss of [Saquon] Barkley is a huge factor, as with little run threat it makes it tough on [Daniel] Jones to run play action,” Diamond said via text. “[The] 49ers were a Super Bowl team so plenty of talent despite their injuries, so game should have been more competitive against a 49ers team missing starting QB and best defensive player in [Nick] Bosa.

“Also no home fans negated home field advantage. Also, advantage this season with no on-field offseason goes to teams with returning coaching staffs, QBs and offensive-defensive systems, so that favors teams such as SF, KC and Baltimore.”

Valid points, though we can quibble about whether or not you need to run the ball well to use play action well. Ex-BBV contributor Dan Pizzuta would be proud of me for questioning that. You also might believe it’s just as well that no fans were in MetLife Stadium Sunday. Odds are the reaction would have been ugly, and fans would have left early, anyway.

Can the Giants still get to a point 14 weeks from now where they feel good about the direction in which they are heading?

Diamond said that it is “too soon to tell, especially missing such a key guy in Saquon.”

When I ponder that question I always think about the 2019 Miami Dolphins, who went 0-7 last season with rookie head coach Brian Flores before finishing 5-11. I look at the Dolphins now as a team has hope for a brighter future.

My age also shows when I think about this, because I harken back to the 1981 Washington Redskins. In Joe Gibbs’ first season as head coach, Washington started 0-5. They finished 8-8. Washington was in the Super Bowl each of the next two seasons, winning in 1982 and losing the game in 1983.

So, the beginning of the Joe Judge era has not gone well. That doesn’t mean it can’t get better.

Judge said Sunday the Giants will just “go back to work.”

Sometimes that’s what it takes. As Brian Baldinger shows here, simply executing assignments properly leads to good results. Executing them badly does not.

Do the Giants have enough talent on their roster to execute plays more consistently and to make the kind of progress ownership is hoping to see over the final 13 games? The kind of progress that will show that Judge might just be the right head coach? Maybe more importantly to the direction of the franchise beyond this season, to show that Dave Gettleman is the right GM to help Judge build the Giants’ program the way he wants it built?

I asked Diamond about Gettleman’s future. Here’s what he said:

“That’s a December call. Have to see how young guys like Jones, [Andrew] Thomas, [Matt] Peart and [Darnay] Holmes come on and if trades for [Leonard] Williams and [Jabrill] Peppers look good in December, and factor in the loss of Barkley and [Xavier] McKinney.”

Gettleman, who has had three offseasons now to re-stock the bare cupboard he was left with, is getting crushed in the wake of the 0-3 start and Sunday’s pitiful performance. In the media. In the fan base.

I get it. I absolutely do. Everyone who has read this site for any length of time knows my take on former GM Jerry Reese. The time for looking back at the mistakes of the Reese era, though, is gone. This is Gettleman’s roster.

The young quarterback is the one he chose. The roster is built around the now-injured star running back he chose with the second overall pick in his first draft as GM. It’s built with the offensive line he has struggled to get right for three seasons. The play-makers he acquired. The defensive players he drafted and signed.

It’s not good enough. Yet. I get that and agree with that.

I am not yet, though, going to join the chorus of those calling for Gettleman’s head. I think we have to wait and ride this season out before we know.

I’m worried about Will Hernandez and it’s clear to see the Nick Gates move to center hasn’t gone well to date. I’m not writing off Andrew Thomas, though, despite his having the second-worst pass-blocking efficiency score among 47 qualifying tackles, per Pro Football Focus. I think it’s too soon to say the offensive line won’t end up being improved.

It’s too soon to say Jones can’t be the quarterback of the future. It’s frustrating to watch him turn the ball over, but he has still made only 15 NFL starts. There is time for him to make progress. But, he needs to make progress.

There is time for the defense to get better. Still, three years into Gettleman’s tenure there isn’t a single dominant player, a single guy opposing offenses fear or game plan around.

There is still time. There is still reason to believe that better days might be ahead sooner rather than later. As Yogi Berra would say, though, “it’s gettin’ late early out there.” At least it might be for Gettleman.

As Diamond pointed out, much of the rest of the season — at least offensively — is going to have to be viewed through a Barkley-less prism.

I’m not willing, yet, to say it’s time for the Giants to send Gettleman to the Cape Cod retirement he has sometimes talked about. There is still a chance for the kind of progress the Giants hope to see.

Still, if the Giants are having the “should we draft Trevor Lawrence or trade the pick, get a draft haul and have faith in Jones?” discussion a few months from now it seems pretty apparent Gettleman can’t be part of that decision.