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4 major mistakes of the Dave Gettleman era as Giants GM

There are a lot of things to pick on — let’s put them in some general categories and try to break them down

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

19-43.

That is a .306 winning percentage. It is also all you need to know about Dave Gettleman’s tenure as general manager of the New York Giants.

NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.

Not even close.

The Wilderness Years, where the Giants went from 1963-1981 without a playoff berth, were awful. The last five years, though, are the worst sustained stretch of football in the history of this proud franchise. Five consecutive double-digit loss seasons. Even in the Giants’ 17-year playoff drought they managed five seasons of .500 or better football. Four of those double-digit loss seasons have come on the watch of Gettleman, who was hired to clean up the mess that had been made from 2012-2017.

There are decisions Gettleman has made that I agree with. There is a major one I believe was made above him — continuing to try to build around Eli Manning in 2018 — that I do not believe Gettleman should be blamed for. That decision, though, has colored everything that has happened since.

There have, though, been major mistakes during the Gettleman era. Let’s see if we can put them into a handful of generic “buckets” for discussion. There will be a few things included in each bucket, and probably some crossover.

2018 offseason

We know that the Giants did not commit fully to a rebuild at that time. They kept Manning, they hired a retread head coach with a reputation as a quarterback whisperer in Pat Shurmur to try and make that work, and to eventually help find and develop a long-term Manning heir.

That offseason ended up being disastrous for the Giants, and both Gettleman and John Mara have since admitted that it wasn’t good. Let’s look at that.

Free agency

The Giants signed Nate Solder (four year, $62 million) and Patrick Omameh (three years, $15 million) to try and fortify the offensive line. They jettisoned Devon Kennard and gave Kareem Martin a three-year, $15 million deal to give defensive coordinator James Bettcher a player he wanted. They jettisoned a potentially good young pass rusher in Romeo Okwara to sign washed-up veteran Connor Barwin, who had a connection to Shurmur, for two years and $5 million. They gave up draft capital for the expensive and largely unproductive Alec Ogletree.

I understood the why of what they did, viewed through the short-term prism of going all-in to win with Manning. None of those moves, though, panned out. Omameh was a disaster and was cut before the season ended. Solder was, and is, an average player at best who was never going to play up to that contract. Martin and Barwin were mistakes that cost the Giants better players.

The Giants also let Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg leave that offseason, and traded Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Understandable moves, but Pugh-Omameh and Richburg-Jon Halapio were downgrades, and Pierre-Paul has played better and longer than anyone imagined possible.

The draft

Now we get to the oft-debated way that the Giants approached this draft.

Again viewed through the prism of trying to win with Manning, the selection of Saquon Barkley was understandable. The Giants felt the Manning-Barkley-Shurmur-Odell Beckham group, along with a revamped offensive line and the arrival of a highly-regarded young defensive coordinator would get them into playoff contention.

No matter the reason or the talent of the player, drafting Barkley No. 2 overall was a huge mistake. It was a short-term play at a non-premium position when long-term, creative thinking was required.

In retrospect, having made their bed with Manning, the Giants were never going into a 2018 quarterback market that included Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson even after the Cleveland Browns took Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall.

The play at that point was to trade down for a haul similar to what the Indianapolis Colts got for moving down from No. 3 to No. 6 to allow the Jets to take Darnold — a pick still in the top 10 and three second-round picks. You still end up with a cornerstone piece like Quenton Nelson who helps you immediately and long-term at an area of immense need, and extra draft capital to accelerate a rebuild you know running with Manning is putting off.

That decision highlighted a Gettleman flaw that I believe we have seen repeatedly. The inability to properly assess and maximize value. We will talk more about that, but we have to get to another big “bucket” first.

Offensive line failures

This was supposed to be the hog mollie loving Gettleman’s forte. It was supposed to be a slam dunk that the old-school Gettleman would be able to fortify the offensive line.

“Big men allow you to compete. That’s really just so true. I believe in the hog mollies, and we’re going to get back to that,” Gettleman said at his first press conference. “We gotta fix the o-line let’s be honest, let’s not kid each other.”

Moving on from Pugh and Richburg was understandable. Both had injury histories, and neither had really played up to the contracts they were looking for — and eventually got.

Signing Solder and Omameh did not work.

In 2018, to admittedly cherry-pick, they could have chosen Orlando Brown instead of Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. I won’t remind you that linebacker Fred Warner was still on the board when the Giants took Hill at No. 69.

Not drafting an offensive lineman until Round 7 in 2019 (George Asafo-Adjei, 232nd overall) was a mistake. There were a number of Round 2 tackles who could have been available to the Giants had they not moved up from No. 37 to No. 30 for DeAndre Baker.

Gettleman tried to fix the line “once and for all” by using three picks in 2020 — Round 1 Andrew Thomas, Round 3 Matt Peart, Round 5 Shane Lemieux. We don’t yet know how the careers of Peart and Lemieux will unfold. We know Thomas is outstanding. Few teams, though, thought he was OT1 in the draft. Could the Giants have moved down a few spots (value again) and still gotten their man?

The plan for 2021 was understandable, though risky. Still, once again failing to add a young lineman somewhere in the middle of the draft is something Gettleman can and should be criticized for.

Cornerback Aaron Robinson looks like a really good player. In retrospect, though, a half-dozen offensive linemen went off the board in Round 3 after Robinson. Might one have been a more appropriate choice? Should the Giants have been the team that gambled on Trey Smith? I won’t kill them for the latter, but I wouldn’t have killed them for taking the risk, either.

To use Gettleman”s words, let’s not kid each other. The Giants head into 2022 with ONE lineman you know they can go forward with — Thomas. That’s not good enough.

Now, let’s talk about value

We can quibble about misses in the draft — Hernandez for one. Carter and Hill while leaving Warner and Brown on the board for another. Micah Parsons/Rashawn Slater instead of the trade down if it makes you feel better. Remember, though, Gettleman was widely praised for that move.

In my view, I don’t have a major issue with Gettleman’s talent evaluation. It’s a fact of life that you get some decisions right and others wrong.

Gettleman got a terrific player when he took Barkley in 2018. He just didn’t maximize the value of having the No. 2 overall pick.

The trade up for Baker in 2020 is one that didn’t have to be made. There were plenty of cornerbacks (like Greedy Williams) or offensive linemen who would have been available at No. 37. On top of that, the 132nd overall pick given up could have become a useful depth player.

Thomas is going to be a really good tackle for a long time. As I said above, though, my bet is that the Giants could have moved back a couple of spots, added a couple of Day 2 draft assets, and still gotten him. Besides, would it have been so bad to end up “settling” for Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills or Mekhi Becton?

The Giants traded two draft picks for the overpaid, mediocre Alec Ogletree.

Perhaps with the encouragement of Joe Judge, Gettleman appeared to consider long-term value more in the 2021 trade down from No. 11 to No. 20, which netted the Giants a 2022 first-round pick.

There were, though, plenty of opportunities before that. Had Gettleman taken at least some of them, the Giants would likely be farther along.

Managing the salary cap

In many ways, this is an extension of the value discussion. Did Gettleman and the Giants really have to spend their money the way they did?

Going back to 2018, Solder was an overpay. Yet, he was the best offensive tackle on the market, the Giants really had to have him and that was the price. It has not worked out well, but that is one signing I can’t really kill Gettleman for.

Three years and $15 million for Omameh and Martin? Seriously? I find it hard to believe the Giants had to pay nearly that much for either player. The same with giving Jonathan Stewart a $6.8 million deal. I have to think he could have been signed for less. Trading for Ogletree?

Four years and $37.5 million for a fading Golden Tate? Really?

It looked like the Giants had learned in 2020 with reasonable shorter-term contracts for James Bradberry and Blake Martinez. Still, they threw what seemed like an unnecessary amount of money at Levine Toilolo. The small, unnecessary expense like the money spent on Toilolo eventually add up.

Desperation led them to overpay Kenny Golladay. I still have no issue with the signing, but Golladay’s contract was $5.5 million in terms of average annual value and $35 million more in total value than what the Jets gave the market’s second-highest paid receiver, Corey Davis. I can’t believe the Giants needed to go to that extreme.

Same with Adoree’ Jackson. He got a top of the market three-year, $39 million deal — third-highest among cornerbacks — after being bid adieu by the Tennessee Titans. Hard to believe the Giants had to fork over more than they are paying Logan Ryan to get Jackson.

Gettleman has always talked about saving a good percentage of money to use in-season, yet has operated as though he’s playing with Monopoly money. I’m sure you have noticed the many contract restructurings as the season has wound down, with the Giants pinching every penny to make it to the finish line.

It did not have to be that way. While what they tried to accomplish in 2021 was understandable, the Giants did not have to do it in such a way that Over The Cap estimates them to be $9.905 million over the expected $208.2 million 2022 cap.

Final thoughts

Many have always thought I wanted to blame the entire mess the Giants remain in on former GM Jerry Reese and that I have tried to absolve Gettleman of responsibility. Not the case. At this point, this is Gettleman’s mess.

After four seasons, whatever constraints he was handed when he took the job and acknowledging the reality that there was a necessary mid-stream coaching change, some semblance of on-field improvement should have been shown by now.

A good bit of what has gone wrong in 2021 lands at the feet of the head coach. Which is why there is an argument to be made that the Giants sweep out the coach and the GM and start over. That, though, does not appear to be the path they will choose.

So, let’s keep the focus on the GM who appears to be leaving. Gettleman’s work has not left the Giants’ roster in the shape you would expect after four years, nor has it left them with any real financial flexibility going forward.

Those things are on him.

If you have read this far you will no doubt know that I have not been critical of the trade of Beckham or the drafting of Daniel Jones. Let me touch on those quickly.

I always believed, and still believe, the trading of Beckham was necessary. I think getting a return of Dexter Lawrence and Jabrill Peppers has been fine value-wise.

When it comes to Jones, it is unfortunate that Justin Herbert wasn’t there. I believe he would be a Giant had the opportunity to select him in 2019 been there. He wasn’t. The Giants believed they needed to take a swing at quarterback and they did just that. Jones has not been the transformative player Gettleman (and Shurmur) hoped, but teams around the league miss on quarterbacks more than they hit. You have to take the swing, so I won’t fault the Giants for that.

In all, Gettleman’s work just hasn’t been good enough — whatever the reasons. That’s why it’s almost certain that he will be watching from Cape Cod next year as someone else makes personnel decisions for the Giants. And hard to argue that moving on is not the right call.