Back in April, embattled Giants general manager Dave Gettleman did one of the most selfless things we’ve seen from a football executive on the ropes: he traded back (for the first time in his career as a decision-maker) for a pick that he may not even make in 2022 if the team decides to move in another direction, which, based on the Giants’ spotty track record of late, is not an impossibility.
General managers do wild things when they sense uncertainty creeping in. They draft project quarterbacks. They trade up for singular talents they hope will reverse their fortunes. All the hogwash they spew about pragmatism floats down the drain in the name of self-preservation, which is why Gettleman, sensing that thirst in another, similarly troubled GM in Ryan Pace, allowed him to sell the farm for Justin Fields and reap the long-term benefits. He remained calm.
This may be a difficult ask for Giants’ co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, but if they are hellbent on retaining the entirety of their coaching staff after their club was boat raced by the Rams 38–11 on Sunday, they must ask Gettleman to do something selfless again before the trade deadline. This is a team that, for sure, has injury issues beyond their control which could fool them into believing life should be different. On Sunday, already without Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay, the team saw budding star left tackle Andrew Thomas and first-round pick Kadarius Toney got injured on the first drive.
But this is also a team adrift from a cultural standpoint. If the promise of Joe Judge were real, the Giants wouldn’t be losing back-to-back games by 24 and 27 points, respectively. Judge built his platform on grit and determination. He won favor a year ago because he played teams closer than he probably should have. At halftime against the Rams on Sunday, he inferred that players’ roster spots were not guaranteed. He should be subject to that reality. If he can truly conjure team toughness from dust, see if he can do it when some of his best players are dealt.
If the promise of Jason Garrett were real, this team would be relevant in any statistical category that doesn’t revolve around the individual improvements of Daniel Jones, who, along with Thomas, are the lone bright spots amid this dismal 1–5 season. Garrett won favor as an offensive play-caller more than a decade ago, back when he could hide any inefficiencies behind a generational offensive line and plow the ball down defenses’ throats.
While selling the rest of the team off for parts would largely be an admission of guilt by Gettleman and the Giants scouting staff and a vote of confidence in Judge, it is clear that they will not use the talent they have now and may not get any return for them in the future. If Barkley is cleared to play by the time the Nov. 2 trade deadline, they should get what they can, which may still amount to more than a compensatory selection. Evan Engram is also finishing out his rookie deal, and should be considered a player on the block now that Zach Ertz has been dealt, leaving the tight end market wide open. There were multiple teams interested in Ertz before the season, some of which could theoretically still be on the lookout for a secondary weapon.
Barkley, of course, would be the ultimate indictment. The Giants chose Barkley over Sam Darnold, Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, Josh Allen, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Vita Vea, Lamar Jackson and Mike McGlinchey, all of whom they would be better served having on the roster than a running back they cannot unlock within the confines of their offense anyway. Gettleman became a symbol of antiquated football decision making, when really, he may just have suffered from a public speaking perspective. The importance of the running game has been articulated and understood better in recent years. There is a reason the Browns tripped over themselves to hire Bill Callahan as their offensive line coach. There is a reason offensive line coaches are earning coordinator titles.
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When you cannot run despite all of your best efforts to do so (making one offensive lineman the highest-paid in the NFL, utilizing a second-round pick, a No. 4 overall pick) there is a point where you can still pull the ripcord and there is a point where you can still get out with a reputation as a general manager who was not too stuck in his ways.
The latter of which seems to suit Gettleman better. He bet big on large, powerful players at a time when NFL defenses were vulnerably thin and undersized. But the failures of the coaching staff alongside of him made any potential advantages unattainable. If Tisch and Mara aren’t interested in making any changes there, they should at least recognize an opportunity to provide a better future for whomever is making the decisions.
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