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When John Mara brought GM Dave Gettleman back a year ago, he promised him “a chance to finish what he’s started.”
And Gettleman isn’t finished yet.
The 69-year-old general manager will be back with the Giants for at least one more season, according to a source, despite a third straight losing season by his team and a three-year record of just 15-33. That comes as no surprise to those in the organization who have long said there was no indication ownership was planning a change, and since those who know Gettleman well had insisted he had no plans to retire.
Still, given the record, many had wondered if Mara and Steve Tisch had run out of patience. But there has been a renewed optimism around the Giants this season, in the first year under rookie head coach Joe Judge, despite their fourth straight season with double-digit losses. They weren’t blinded by how an awful NFC East kept their playoff hopes alive until the last moments of the regular season, but they were apparently convinced the team is headed in the right direction by the progress they saw on the field.
The Giants have not made an official announcement on Gettleman’s status, and one likely won’t come until Mara holds his season-ending press conference on Tuesday or Wednesday. Gettleman is scheduled to speak to the media on one of those days too, which was the first clear indication that he was being asked to return.
What’s unknown is whether Gettleman will be brought back with any conditions. A year ago, when Mara announced he was keeping Gettleman, he warned the GM that “his batting average has got to increase.” There is no doubt that it did with his strongest draft so far with the Giants, and with a terrific run through free agency when he signed key players like Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry, linebacker Blake Martinez and later safety Logan Ryan and kicker Graham Gano.
Even Gettleman’s much-criticized deal with the Jets for Leonard Williams at the trading deadline last year has paid off. Williams recorded a career-high 11 ½ sacks this season, including three in the Giants’ season-ending, 23-19 win over the Cowboys on Sunday.
That win only improved the Giants’ record to 6-10 and they fell short of the playoffs after Washington beat Philadelphia on Sunday night. But the Giants impressed with the way they bounced back from an 0-5 and 1-7 start, and even kept fighting after three straight December losses that knocked them out of first place.
And they did all that despite the unique circumstances of this season, with a new coach trying to install a new program and new systems despite an offseason and preseason schedule that were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, the Giants lost their best player, Saquon Barkley, to a torn ACL in Week 2.
It also undoubtedly helped Gettleman’s cause that the GM, who will turn 70 next month, has apparently built a strong working relationship with his 38-year-old head coach.
“I’d say the entire building since I’ve been here has really had one vision going forward,” Judge said last week. “I’ve enjoyed working with Dave the entire year. We’ve done a lot of good things together. I really enjoyed the process through free agency and the draft. I’m very pleased how we came into last spring with free agency and the draft.
“I’d say the cooperation on both aspects, the building has been working as one and that’s been a very positive thing.”
And now that will continue. Gettleman spent Monday doing his usual end-of-season business, meeting with staff and coaches to begin planning for the offseason, knowing there’s plenty of work still to be done. The Giants need a lot of help on offense, where they’ll need to find better weapons to help out Gettleman’s hand-picked franchise quarterback, Daniel Jones. They also have to make decisions on free agents like Williams and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. And Gettleman’s offensive line, while improved, will need a little more work, too.
But at least the first big decision has been made. And it’s still Gettleman’s job to make the rest of the decisions, at least for another year.