Dave Gettleman has a plan. I didn’t say it was a good one, or that I know what it is. But this ain’t reality TV. It’s the New York Football Giants. He has to have a plan … right?
Living in the Tri-State area, I’ve encountered a Giants fan or two. In my appraisal, a fair segment of that population—most of them Eli zealots and disciples of ornery FAN talking head Mike Francesa—has come down with a chronic case of Stockholm Syndrome. I’m not saying Giants fans as a whole are any less rational than supporters of other teams, but if you’re taking the 6 train from 59th and Lex to Bleeker Street on a typical weekday morning, you may hear an exchange like this:
“Odell was a drop-prone diva. Good riddance!”
“Eli’s not the problem … it’s the O line!”
“Odell and Collins are replaceable. We still have the GOAT, Saquon Barkley.”
“Did you see Dwayne Haskins’ 40 time at the Combine? No need to reach for that bozo.”
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s astounding what Gettleman has done in his short time with the Giants. A retread from the bygone Tom Coughlin Era in East Rutherford, the 68-year-old was tasked with cleaning up the mess left behind by fired GM Jerry Reese and his inept head coach Ben McAdoo (who looks suspiciously like Ricky from Trailer Park Boys). And in record time, he’s managed to turn that grease fire into a lava-spewing volcano of chaos and destruction. The annihilation of Pompeii has nothing on the fiery hell-scape the Giants now inhabit and it’s all thanks to Gettleman, the Michael Jordan of squandering assets.
With a top-two pick in hand and Eli in the gutter, Gettleman essentially had his pick of the litter last year. Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen … it was a choose your own adventure with no wrong ending. But instead of passing the torch to Eli’s successor as many expected, Gettleman went off script and drafted a running back in the first round—Barkley—for the second time in as many years (he took Christian McCaffrey eighth overall while helming the Panthers’ front office in 2017).
There’s no denying Barkley’s remarkable skill set, but when a foundation piece at the most important position is staring you square in the face, you don’t dare look that gift horse in the mouth. To say Barkley had a superior rookie year to Darnold is both a statement of fact and a short-sighted, ludicrously flawed rationale for Gettleman’s poor use of draft capital. Even if Barkley continues on this path and becomes the next LaDainian Tomlinson—a distinct possibility after leading the league in yards from scrimmage last year—the Giants still got it wrong from a team-building philosophy. It’s not just that running backs have a significantly shorter shelf life than QBs (the continued dominance of Drew Brees and Tom Brady would point to that fact). It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Compared to elite quarterbacks, star running backs practically grow on trees. Chris Carson was four picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant two years ago. Phillip “who lives at home” Lindsay wasn’t even drafted last year. Both rushed for over 1,000 yards last season.
Between the mobile talents of Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield’s playmaking ability and Darnold’s downfield escapades, the class of 2018 was flush with quarterback talent. Meanwhile this year’s crop is far less promising, and if reports are to be believed, New York has no interest in bringing another quarterback to the Big Apple, especially if his name is Dwayne Haskins. Pretty rich that the Giants would thumb their nose at the comparatively unathletic Haskins (he of 50 touchdown passes last season) when their current signal-caller runs like he’s wearing concrete Reeboks.
Gettleman has always been a man of unique taste, often prioritizing Goliath-sized “hog mollies” over his team’s more pressing needs. It’s true the Giants could use a helping hand on defense, particularly after saying uncle on their failed Olivier Vernon experiment, but Gettleman’s continued nonchalance when it comes to the quarterback position remains baffling. If Haskins doesn’t meet their criteria, who exactly are the Giants holding out for? Kyler Murray? Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa next year? Trevor Lawrence in 2021? If you thought Eli was running on fumes last year (spoiler: he was) just imagine the shriveled husk he’ll be two years from now at age 40. Loyalty is an admirable trait but rarely does it win championships.
As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Why am I hammering Gettleman for a mistake he hasn’t even made yet when there are so many other blunders we can discuss? Getts got the ball rolling last year with his catastrophic signing of long-time Pats tackle Nate Solder, who promptly vanished into witness protection, but not before pocketing $35 million guaranteed. Lavishing past-his-prime Jonathan Stewart with almost $3 million in guaranteed dough, only to see him log 17 snaps, was both a shameless act of nepotism (J-Stew had spent the previous decade in Carolina) and a prime example of Gettleman’s flawed decision-making. Letting former first-round pick Eli Apple fly the coup, thus paving his path to flourish in the Big Easy, was another miscalculation by New York’s consistently overmatched GM.
Which brings us to the latest and greatest debacle of Gettleman’s calamitous reign, Odell Beckham’s jaw-dropping trade to Cleveland on the eve of NFL free agency. OBJ certainly fits the stereotype of a high-maintenance wide receiver, but he’s also an undeniable superstar and—if he continues on his current trajectory—Beckham could wind up as one of the best to ever lace ‘em up. Take the gaudy stats out of it—how many human beings can do this? Or this? Probably just one, and he now plays for the Cleveland Browns. Nice going. And all this after Honest Dave tried to throw us off the trail with this textbook denial: “We didn’t sign him to trade him.” To quote the great Bill Shakespeare, “the Gettleman doth protest too much, methinks.”
Sure, the Giants netted a pair of choice draft picks (first and third-rounders) and a safety, Jabrill Peppers, to account for the loss of free agent casualty Landon Collins, for their trouble. But throwing in the towel on a future Hall of Famer in the prime of his career? Diva or not, it doesn’t make much sense. When Gettleman made Odell the league’s highest-paid wideout on an annual basis last year, most envisioned him as a Giants lifer in the realm of Eli Manning. But clearly Big G had a different agenda.
Now aligned with Baker Mayfield and former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry in the Rock and Roll capital, the Browns seem to have put the finishing touches on their painstaking rebuild while the imploding Giants are heading down the opposite path. I hesitate to say New York is rebuilding because … well, are they? The Giants seem unsure. “You can win while you’re building,” Gettleman explained in a recent press conference. Fair enough, but should you?
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Gettleman’s long-awaited moment of clarity finally comes. The instant he realizes, albeit two years late, that Eli is on his last leg and New York needs an exit strategy ASAP. The Giants can take their chances in the later rounds like they did previously with Kyle Lauletta (who fared miserably in his lone cameo last season), but more likely, they’ll want a sure thing, a can’t-miss prospect capable of leading a franchise for years to come. That requires significant draft capital and would probably necessitate tanking.
Bottoming out can be effective (just ask the Browns) and perhaps ridding the team of Odell’s shenanigans was Gettleman’s attempt at a clean slate. So why did the Giants then shell out nearly $40 million for arguably the best receiver on the market, Golden Tate? No one would ever mistake Tate for Beckham, but if the goal is to reshuffle the deck with young up-and-comers, why hand the keys to a 30-year-old slot receiver, particularly when your other top wideout, Sterling Shepard, also plays the slot? Redundant, head-scratching, counterproductive, whatever your word for it is, breaking the bank for Tate doesn’t make much sense for a team looking to start from scratch. Nobody enjoys losing, least of all New Yorkers, and Tate’s presence should lend at least some credibility to the Giants’ post-Beckham offense. But that’s not the point. If you’re gonna burn it down, burn it down. Why trap yourself in mid-first-round purgatory with another 6-10 or 7-9 season?
Gettleman is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He wants to rebuild but won’t touch Dwayne Haskins, the safest quarterback in the draft, with a 10-foot pole. He wants to infuse the team with young talent but can’t let go of his ancient, statue-esque QB. He wouldn’t meet Landon Collins’ asking price but wound up throwing $23.5 million guaranteed at Francesa-approved Golden Tate. Not really a practice what you preach guy, are you Dave?
Not all of Gettleman’s instincts are wrong. He’s correct in his assertion that New York needs to be stouter up front. To that end, landing stud guard Kevin Zeitler in the Olivier Vernon trade was a quiet stroke of genius. But without Odell to stretch the field, the Giants will likely revert to a primitive ground-and-pound offense featuring Saquon and not much else. Limiting Eli’s exposure by employing him in a game-manager capacity is probably what’s best at this late stage in his career. But funneling the ball to Barkley 30 times a game while sprinkling in the occasional pass to slot artists Tate and Shepard isn’t exactly must-see television.
So what’s next for New York? Do the Giants pony up their best offer for Josh Rosen, who seems to be on the outs in Arizona thanks to Kliff Kingsbury’s deep infatuation with Kyler Murray? Will they revisit their stance on Haskins, who should be there for the taking with the sixth pick in April’s draft? Or do they allow Eli to circle the drain for another few years, letting him fade deeper and deeper into the abyss until he vaporizes?
Only Gettleman can stop the bleeding. And he knows it. “Everybody wants answers now, we live in an instant gratification society, instant gratification works and everybody wants answers now. Over time, you’ll see it,” said Gettleman in the wake of Odell’s departure. “You gotta’ trust it.”
Us … trust you? Fat chance, Dave.