This isn’t the way Dave Gettleman envisioned heading into retirement.
Gettleman, 70, once said that his dream as general manager of the Giants was drafting a franchise quarterback, setting the organization up for years of success like his mentor Ernie Accorsi once did and watching it all unfold from Cape Cod. Instead, Gettleman is being forced out the door one way or another because the Giants’ big picture looks every bit as bleak (or worse) today as when he arrived in December 2017, including a record of 19-45 that is fourth-worst in the NFL during that span.
Here is a look back at the many missteps during Gettleman’s tenure:
Saquon Barkley, 2018: The decision synonymous with Gettleman’s tenure is using the No. 2 pick on a “touched by the hand of God” running back. Barkley was sensational as a rookie and good in his encore, but he has missed 21 games over the last three years due to various injuries. The Giants passed on trade offers that Gettleman described as “a bag of donuts, a hot pretzel and a hot dog,” as well as on Pro Bowlers Denzel Ward, Josh Allen, Quenton Nelson and Bradley Chubb within the top 10.
Kyle Lauletta, 2018: Some executives believe in drafting a quarterback every year. The Giants had a young option (Davis Webb) behind Eli Manning but still used a fourth-rounder here rather than addressing other holes. Webb was cut after the Lauletta pick. Lauletta threw five passes in one game and was cut after the Daniel Jones pick.
Sam Beal, 2018: Gettleman gave up a third-round pick in the 2019 draft to use it on Beal in the 2018 supplemental draft. Beal showed up with a bad shoulder and re-injured it in his very first NFL practice — a sign of things to come. He played sparingly in nine games over four years (including a 2020 opt-out because of COVID) and was arrested on a gun charge before he was released, re-signed to the practice squad for a week and released again.
Daniel Jones, 2019: Picking No. 6 and No. 17 in the first round, Gettleman’s “full-bloom love” prompted him to take Jones at No. 6 when most analysts saw him as a late-first-round prospect. The Giants bypassed pass-rusher Josh Allen (18.5 sacks in 39 games for Jaguars) because of concerns another secret team might steal Jones before No. 17. Choosing Jones over Dwayne Haskins was the right call, but, three years in, Jones looks more like a mediocre starter than a franchise star.
Dexter Lawrence, 2019: Nobody loves run-stuffing defensive tackles like Gettleman. He immediately mocked a question about Lawrence’s lack of pass-rushing ability, which predictably has proven to be an issue (nine sacks in 47 games).
DeAndre Baker, 2019: The scouting community was scared by red flags about Baker’s work ethic. Giants coaches liked other cornerbacks more. But the Giants traded up from the second round to make Baker a first-rounder and the first corner off the board. Then he started falling asleep in meetings, playing poorly on the field and his tenure ended after one season when he was arrested on four gun charges (all later dismissed).
No. 11 pick in 2021: The Giants coveted one of the top two receivers or top two cornerbacks, all of whom went between picks No. 6 and No. 10. The punch line was two rivals trading — the Eagles moved up to No. 10 and the Cowboys down to No. 12 — so Philadelphia could steal away DeVonta Smith. Gettleman then traded down (for the first time in his career) to pick up a first-rounder in 2022 and settled for enigmatic Kadarius Toney.
Nate Solder, 2018: After top priority Andrew Norwell chose the Jaguars, Gettleman showed no interest in re-signing Justin Pugh and quickly pivoted to a four-year, $62 million contract to make Solder the highest-paid tackle in the NFL. He has allowed 24 sacks in 47 total games before and after opting out of the 2020 season. He has ranked as the No. 18, No. 45 and No. 69 tackle in each of his three seasons, per Pro Football Focus.
Jonathan Stewart, 2018: Scoffing at a mountain of evidence that running-back production near age 30 falls off a cliff, Gettleman dipped into his Carolina background to sign Stewart to a two-year, $6.8 million contract. After Gettleman said “Jonathan Stewart is in his 10th year and he’s hardly lost anything,” Stewart had six carries for 17 yards in three games before going on injured reserve and ultimately retiring.
Golden Tate, 2019: After trading Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants turned to Tate (four years, $37.5 million) as a replacement. It was a bad schematic fit because of similarities to Sterling Shepard. And he brought a new set of issues like a four-game PED suspension, a family score to settle that led to a postgame brawl against the Rams, and a one-game team suspension for demanding the ball. He was cut after two seasons.
Kenny Golladay, 2021: In a depressed market for receivers, Golladay signed for four years, $72 million despite few teams willing to go to that level after his hip injury and combative relationship with the Lions coaching staff. He has more sideline blow-ups with since-fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (one) and missed games (three) than he does touchdown catches (zero).
Kyle Rudolph, 2021: Rudolph agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Giants but failed to pass his physical when it was discovered he needed foot surgery. Instead of audibling to an incentive-based contract, the Giants kept the original terms and inherited a problem because “we’re going to do everything with class.” Rudolph has hobbled his way 22 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Trades & Non-Trades
Jason Pierre-Paul, 2018: As part of a locker-room ego and salary cap purge, Pierre-Paul was traded to the Buccaneers for a third-round pick and a swap of fourths. The Giants wound up with B.J. Hill (7.5 sacks and 17 starts in 48 games) and Lauletta (cut after one season) and the Buccaneers landed Pierre-Paul (33 sacks and a Pro Bowl selection in 54 games).
Odell Beckham Jr. 2019: Trading Beckham to the Browns for Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks looks like fair value. The issues are those draft picks (Dexter Lawrence, Oshane Ximines) haven’t panned out, the 49ers and other teams might have topped the return from the Browns if given a chance to match, and the Giants carried a $16 million dead cap charge in 2019 for trading Beckham after signing him to an extension rather than trading him in 2018.
Leonard Williams, 2019: Gettleman nailed the evaluation of Williams as a player underachieving with the Jets. The problem? He botched the business process. By trading two draft picks when the Giants were 2-6 and believing Williams “wants to be here,” Gettleman lost all negotiation leverage. Williams was franchise tagged ($16.1 million) off a season with a half-sack. He capitalized on his second walk-year with 11.5 sacks and a three-year, $63 million contract. If the Giants waited five months to sign Williams as a free agent, the final bill might have been about half as steep.
Evan Engram, 2019-20: The Giants resisted trade inquiries at the October deadline — reportedly demanding a first-round pick as compensation in 2020 — for the underachieving tight end both years. Engram never capitalized on his potential, became the No. 1 player target of fan ire, and lost all his trade value by 2021. He is likely to leave in free agency after the season.
Quotes & Philosophies
“You can win while you build a roster.”
This is the big one for which the Giants are still paying. Instead of starting a rebuild or going all-in in 2018, Gettleman split the difference. He admitted after two seasons and a coaching change that “I thought you could do both. I was wrong.” The Giants still blame the 2018 offseason spending spree — including a win-now trade of draft picks for coverage-liability linebacker Alec Ogletree’s fat contract — to make another Super Bowl run around Eli Manning for their current predicament. To add salt to the wound, the 2021 Eagles are winning while rebuilding.
“It wasn’t a mirage,” about sticking with Manning as the starting quarterback
The first of many quotes when Gettleman denied what was easy for many around the league to see: Manning was finished, and that’s why the previous fired regime tried to move on. Gettleman was tricked by one late-season game against the Eagles (a loss!) in 2017 into giving Manning another 18 starts to collect $33 million. Manning’s contract, especially as a backup in 2019, was an albatross preventing better resource allocation.
“The head coach job for the New York Football Giants is a job for an adult,” about hiring head coach Pat Shurmur
The not-so-veiled shot at Ben McAdoo — who was fired before Gettleman arrived — looked silly when Shurmur couldn’t corral Beckham’s antics any better than any other coach. Shurmur also proved to be as over-sensitive to questioning as advertised from his two years as Browns head coach — which made some in the building cringe — and was fired after going 9-23. None of the seven candidates the Giants interviewed in 2018 became good head coaches.
“Hurt guys get hurt” about the important of a players’ injury history
The scouting axiom Gettleman revealed in 2020 makes a lot of sense, if you abide by it. The Giants did not in 2021, when they signed Rudolph, Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson — who missed 28 games combined with injuries last season — for a total of $123 million. Then they used a first-round pick on Toney, who had durability issues at Florida. Three of the four (not Jackson) essentially missed all of training camp and haven’t been right since.
“A lot of that’s nonsense … someone who had this idea and got into the analytics” — about drafting a running back No. 2 overall
This is the quote that gifted social media the popular image of Gettleman punching keys on an imaginary keyboard. It also made him a lot of enemies and revealed just how far behind the rest of the NFL the Giants are in incorporating analytics. Three years later, Gettleman doubled down when presented with the widely accepted logic that running backs have shorter career spans than other players: “I don’t know that that’s true.”
“We didn’t sign him to trade him” and “The a–hole quotient.”
Both of these phrases were said in February 2019, when Gettleman was asked about re-signing Landon Collins and possibly trading Beckham only a few months after signing him to a five-year, $90 million extension. The Giants’ best offensive and best defensive players at the time were gone within a month as Gettleman defaulted to building a locker room where “talent sets the stage, character sets the ceiling.” But the Giants still had a handful of less-talented questionable characters.
“You miss on a quarterback, you’ve really hurt the franchise for five years. It’s a five-year mistake.”
The jury is out on Jones, who has bounced between turnover-prone aggressive play and hyper-conservative play when healthy. He’s also missed 10 starts due to injury. The Giants almost have no choice but to decline his $21.3 million option for 2023 and make him play as a pending free agent in 2022.
He never added a dominant edge rusher: It’s as if, despite being on staff, Gettleman forgot how important Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and others were to the Giants’ last two Super Bowls. Pierre-Paul, Romeo Okwara, Olivier Vernon and Devon Kennard have combined for 82.5 sacks after leaving the Giants. The top edge rushers added — Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin — have combined for 30.5 sacks for the Giants, and the top producer (Golden) was often regarded as a spare part. At least Williams has 17.5 sacks in 40 games from the interior. The goal posts on the edge keep changing: Don’t measure them by sacks, measure them by pressures. … until the pressures are way down, too.
Hog follies: After promising to find the right “hog mollies” to “fix” the offensive line, the Giants are in worse shape up front than when Gettleman arrived. Version 1.0 — Solder’s big contract and Week 1 starters Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers, both of whom were cut before Thanksgiving — was an epic flop. It didn’t get much better in 2019 or 2020 (50 sacks allowed). Then, worst of all, this past offseason the Giants cut their top offensive lineman for salary cap space, ignored the need to replace Kevin Zeitler and Gettleman scoffed every time it was broached. Predictably, the line played poorly in the preseason, prompted two late August trades and now the Giants have used 11 players and nine starters. The offensive lines under Gettleman ranked No. 21, No. 17, No. 31 and No. 28 (so far), per Pro Football Focus.
Salary cap: The Giants had about $23.4 million in cap space when Gettleman arrived, but fat contracts for underachieving stars like Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Vernon promised to be a long-term issue. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Gettleman once was against restructuring contracts because he (correctly) saw it as “kicking the can’’ down the road and in favor of saving $20 million for a rainy day in-season. With assistant general manager Kevin Abrams and director of football operations Ed Triggs leading the way on the cap, the Giants are searching for spare change in the couch cushions by restructuring a contract every couple weeks nowadays just to stay operational because of more fat contracts. They are projected by spotrac.com to have $3.5 million in space in 2022, and most potential cap casualties carry more dead money now than initially because of restructuring.
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