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Keeping Dave Gettleman, and more ‘things I think’ about the Giants

Joe Judge’s vision, Leonard Williams vs. Dalvin Tomlinson, more thoughts as the Giants begin the offseason

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not surprised at all by the report that the New York Giants will continue to go forward with Dave Gettleman as their general manager. Nor am I at all upset by this.

I pretty much expected Gettleman to stay on, provided that is what he wants to do with his 70th birthday slightly more than a month away.

Go back to what co-owner John Mara said in early September, before a game had been played.

“I want to feel when we walk off the field after we play the last game, 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.”

Mara also said this back in September:

“I can’t sit here and say we have to win a certain number of games otherwise I’m going to blow the whole thing up. Steve [Tisch] and I agree, we need to feel like we’re building something that’s going to compete for a championship,” he said.

“We made some big changes over the past few years. I think we’re starting to build a foundation that can last over the long haul.”

It’s hard to argue that there aren’t signs the Giants are moving in the right direction. They have a head coach in Joe Judge who appears as if he is going to be in that job for a while. The coaching staff, despite the offensive struggles overall, appears to believe in the future of the quarterback Gettleman selected before they got to New York. There are still holes on the roster, but it does seem like there are more players on the current roster worth going forward with than has been the case for some time.

Judge, as I said, looks like the right head coach. He’s going to be around a while. Thus, the GM has to be a person who sees personnel and roster building the way the head coach does. He has to be someone who can forge a working relationship with the head coach that will help push the Giants forward to a time when double-digit loss seasons are the exception rather than the rule.

Remember that part of what Mara said back in September was that he and co-owner Steve Tisch needed to see “that the combination of people that we have here is going to work going forward.”

Judge has often spoken glowingly about the “synergy” between the front office and the coaching staff.

“I’d say the entire building since I’ve been here has really had one vision going forward. I’ve enjoyed working with Dave the entire year. We’ve done a lot of good things together,” Judge said. “There’s been a lot of really good communication with Dave, Kevin (Abrams), Mark (Koncz), Tim (McDonnell), all the guys working in personnel in terms of the kinds of players that we’re really looking for that fit into our systems, and looking around the league and who’s available on the street as well as building in the draft with Chris (Pettit) and his staff in terms of who’s going to fit what we’re looking for ... the building has been working as one and that’s been a very positive thing.”

One thing I have learned about Judge over the past several months is that he doesn’t do the lip service thing. What he says always has meaning and purpose.

Yes, Gettleman made some head-scratching decisions in his first two offseasons. Some worked, some didn’t.

When the Giants chose to keep him and then paired him with Judge, that was really a re-start. Mara made it clear that “the batting average has got to improve” in terms of personnel decisions.

The stellar free agent class and the number of rookies who made positive contributions and should be part of the team going forward make it obvious that the “batting average” certainly went up.

The Giants have chosen not to mess with a pairing that appears to be working. I don’t blame them.

The foundation has been set

In the comments of a recent post, someone asked if I felt better about the Giants’ future after the year of Judge’s tenure than I did after the first seasons of Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur.

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

Looking back, it’s apparent that neither McAdoo nor Shurmur had a real plan. Neither really had a vision for how to get from Point A to Point B, neither had a clear idea how to build something that had a chance at sustained success.

McAdoo, in my view, was a glorified offensive coordinator who lacked the ability to relate or contribute to an entire roster or organization. He talked about toughness and discipline and physicality and all of those things coaches talk about, but watch his practices and see what happened in his locker room and you know he didn’t have any idea how to implement them.

Shurmur is a really good football man. In my view, he’s not really a leader of men. He’s not a visionary. He came to work every day and did his best, but he didn’t really seem to have a long-term plan. Too often, Shurmur would answer questions by saying something like, and I’m paraphrasing, “that’s what NFL teams do.” You want your coach to say “because i thought it was the right thing.” Or, “because that’s my philosophy,” or “that’s how the New York Giants do things.”

Judge has a vision. He has a plan. He knew exactly what kind of coaches he wanted on his staff. He knows what kind of players he wants. He knows where the Giants are. He knows where he wants them to go. He knows how he wants to get there and he knew what he wanted or needed to accomplish during the 2020 season to begin the process of getting there.

“I’m not a grades guy. I’m a process guy. I’m a steps along the ladder guy of what you have to accomplish. My number one goal as a coach this year was the foundation and the culture. The reality in this league is, every team, all 32 teams, have to start over to start the next season. You can’t carry anything over. However, you can build a foundation to build on the next season. You can build a culture in the locker room with the players and coaches that you’re working with,” Judge said on Monday. “I can absolutely say with certainty we accomplished that. We accomplished that with how we worked on a daily basis, we accomplished that with how we held each other accountable as players and coaches, and we accomplished that with how we came to work every day with team-first in everything we did.”

Leonard Williams vs. Dalvin Tomlinson

Both Williams and Tomlinson are now headed to free agency. I’m sure the Giants would love to keep both players. We live in a salary cap world, though, and the reality is that with the cap expected to go down that may not be possible.

I am asked all the time which player I would prefer to see the Giants keep if they are forced to choose. My answer has consistently been Williams, and I think Sunday’s virtuoso performance by the former New York Jets’ first-round pick made it obvious why.

Tomlinson is a nice player. He is an excellent run defender. He has 3.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons, and does have the ability to push the pocket from inside. He is a well-respected leader in the Giants’ locker room.

I want the Giants to keep him — if they can. Thing is, Tomlinson can’t dominate a game the way Williams did on Sunday (3 sacks, 6 stops, 5 pressures, 1 pass defensed). He can’t move up and down the line the way Williams can, or do the athletic things Williams can.

If i’m the GM, I want to find a way to keep both. If I have to choose, though, I’m clearly taking Williams. He simply impacts the game in more ways, and on more plays.

Coaching carousel

The NFL coaching carousel is in full swing, and we know that Giants’ coordinators Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham are drawing interest. The fact that both are already drawing interest should be no surprise.

Garrett, with 10 years of experience as a head coach, always figured to generate some interest. Why the Giants performed so poorly as an offense in 2020 is something he is likely to have to explain in interviews, but it was never something that was going to preclude teams from wanting to talk to him.

I doubt Garrett gets a head-coaching job in this hiring cycle. It just feels too soon. The question beyond that is, if he doesn’t get a head-coaching job or otherwise leave the Giants on his own, will he remain as offensive coordinator next season?

Judge was clear that he wasn’t going to address speculation about Garrett, or any member of his coaching staff.

“I’m not now nor will I ever comment on any coach’s job, job prospects or any hypothetical reports about jobs until something is finalized and official,” Judge said on Monday. “I appreciate the question; I respect the question. I think it’s easy to acknowledge we’ve had a number of coaches do a good job. I probably expect a number of requests for several of our coaches throughout this offseason. We’ll deal with that internally as they come up.”

We know the statistics the Giants generated on offense. We know we saw an approach that was, at times, more conservative than might be ideal. What we don’t know is how much of that was Garrett and how much was Judge. We don’t know if the coordinator and the head coach see where this offense is and where it needs to go the same way, or if Judge thinks Garrett is the right guy to get them there. We will find out soon enough.

As for Graham, I’m glad to see that he will get at least one interview this cycle. I hope he gets more. He is a rising coach, a good, smart man and he has done an excellent job with the Giants. He deserves the chance to convince someone he can lead an organization.

Is it possible he gets a head-coaching job in the next couple of weeks? Sure. Judge wowed the Giants and got the job in his first and only NFL head-coaching interview. Graham could do the same. Generally, it doesn’t work like that. Generally, coaches have to get into the interview cycle and go through it at least a couple of times before they end up getting the top job.

I think odds are that Graham is back with the Giants for at least one more season.

Washington Football Team

Sure, it would have been nice if the Philadelphia Eagles had beaten the Washington Football Team on Sunday night — or at least tried. Or, if the Giants had beaten the Eagles the first time. Or, won any of the close games they lost early in the season.

Any of those roads would have propelled the Giants to the playoffs.

Still, step back for a minute and think about the Washington Football Team. I think it’s hard not to feel good for Ron Rivera after the toughness he showed this season in coaching through a cancer battle. It’s hard not to feel good for quarterback Alex Smith for fighting his way back to being a productive NFL player after nearly losing his leg.

They deserve to be congratulated.