EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On second thought, maybe Dave Gettleman shouldn’t have talked at all.
After burrowing himself for months, the New York Giants general manager finally emerged from the shadows to account for his perceived missteps and to offer assurances about the direction of this once-proud franchise. But if you expected Gettleman’s state of the union address to include evidence of tangible signs of growth during his two-year rebuild or forthright accountability, you were disappointed. Or, perhaps, befuddled and lightly amused.
His contentious 30-minute sparring session with reporters Tuesday inspired little confidence in his decision-making or belief that he possesses enough humility to accept his shortcomings and the finesse to lead the Giants into a new age of sustainable success.
And that’s a precarious position for an organization that desperately needs a strong leader for its locker room after Monday’s dismissal of head coach Pat Shurmur.
Ownership had the option of jettisoning Gettleman right alongside the coach with the 9-23 record, instead John Mara and Steve Tisch chose to retain the general manager who assembled the roster that accounted for only nine wins in 32 games. And they did so despite the concerns about Gettleman’s talent evaluation, his approach to spending money and his reputation as an old-school dinosaur in the NFL’s ever-changing landscape.
“I understand the question of why was Pat dismissed and I was not,” Gettleman said, shortly after stepping behind the lectern. “Just to be clear: There were substantive discussions between myself and ownership regarding my job performance and vision moving forward over the past few weeks. So John and Steve made their decisions, and here I stand.”
Indeed he does. And many Giants fans are wondering why.
At a time when the Giants are clinging to relevancy and diehard fans need something to believe in, the general manager needed to shoulder the blame for the team’s win-loss record during his tenure with the same effervescence that he takes credit for drafting Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, the presumptive future of the franchise. But in a surreal display of delusion, Gettleman subtly tried to shift blame elsewhere and offered too many contradictory statements and far too much talk of his newfound obsession with “forward thinking” technology and “computer folks.”
“I know this may sound crazy, but I met recently with a big analytics guy,” he said. “I’m going to learn from my mistakes. I never stop asking myself the question, ‘What could we have done differently? What could we have done better?’ … I’ve got to talk to other GMs, inside and outside the industry, and continue to grow.”
Gettleman talks like a man only weeks on the job and one who doesn’t realize he works in the biggest media market in the country. And by now it’s apparent that he suffers from the same affliction Shurmur had: The inability to understand that in New York, the scrutiny is far more severe and the ability to obfuscate is far less easy.
He maintained that a person in his position must be wiling to make “tough decisions,” and so far he has shown a willingness to do so. He was brought in to clean up the Giants’ culture and rid the team of perceived locker room cancers and me-first talent. But his ever-changing rationale for his roster decisions is, at best, worrisome.
He said his first objective when hired was to “find the quarterback,” yet in his first year at the helm he opted not to draft one. Gettleman didn’t see any value in the 2018 crop of collegiate talent, including this year’s runaway MVP choice, Lamar Jackson.
“I really believe we’ve done that,” Gettleman said of securing a cornerstone piece for the franchise. “Daniel had a terrific year, came on, did some great things and we have seen great things for him in the future.”
He insisted the verdict is still out on the Odell Beckham Jr. trade because defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines are rookies. But when peppered by questions about trading away two draft picks to the Jets for defensive tackle Leonard Williams, Gettleman stressed "the juice was worth the squeeze,” even though the 25-year-old will be a free agent this offseason after suiting up for only eight games with the Giants.
Gettleman was adamant the Giants were “fine” with committing $23 million in salary-cap space to Eli Manning, even though the veteran quarterback was benched only two weeks into the season.
And when asked about the strides the team has made, his only evidence were the moves the Giants made behind the scenes: “We have hired four computer folks, software, and we are completely redoing the backend of our college and pro scouting systems.”
(A team employee later tweeted that Gettleman was referring to software engineers who are building the software for the scouting system, not an analytics department.)
“We have hired a full-time clinician,” the general manager continued. “We are doing a lot of things behind the scenes. In terms of being forward-thinking, we have also in the last few years [been] ramping up the analytic and technology piece. … I really feel good about the direction we’re headed.”
He wanted his audience and fans at home to know that “no decision is made in a vacuum” and that the organization believes in “collaboration among ownership and coaching and personnel.” Yet, Shurmur is the only one without a job right now.
By now, it’s clear that he wasn’t equipped to be the head coach of the New York Giants. But it remains to be seen if Gettleman is indeed qualified for his role.
Mara and Tisch’s hope is that he can finish what he started and bring this downtrodden franchise back to respectability. And with the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft and a projected $67 million in salary-cap space, Gettleman will have a clean slate and a good starting point to do that.
Just before he stepped away from the lectern, Gettleman entertained one more question from the crowd of reporters.
How would you grade yourself over the last two years?
“Not good enough,” he replied. “Really, it hasn’t been good enough. It will get better.”
He better hope qualified head-coaching candidates don’t spurn the organization’s overtures because of his presence. What Jones needs now is a good teacher and a sharp offensive mind in his corner. And, at this point, Giants ownership needs their young quarterback to develop into everything Gettleman billed him to be. If not, everything that has been done in the name of building a winner — including retaining the general manager — will have been a pointless endeavor.
GM Dave Gettleman is perplexed by the notion that HCing candidates wouldn’t want to come to the #Giants because of him.
Said there will be an oppty for them to look him in the eye and say, “Dave, whaddup?” pic.twitter.com/t7aepGWbN2
— Kimberley A. Martin (@ByKimberleyA) December 31, 2019
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