Describing the New York Giants Key Leadership Figures in a Word

Patricia Traina

Exasperating. Thrilling. Hopeful.

Many words can be used to describe the New York Giants 2020 season and its key personnel.

So as we go through the bye week, instead of trying to grade what’s still an incomplete season, let’s change things up by using one word to describe each key member of the various units.

For fun, instead of starting with the players, let’s begin this four-part series with the top of the heap--ownership, general manager, head coach, and coordinators.

As always, if you’d like to offer your own word for any of the personnel listed, drop a comment below—but please keep it G-rated!

Team Co-owners John Mara/Steve Tisch: Optimistic

Fans might not want to believe this because of the money aspect, but the Giants co-owners haven't been happy with how the franchise has disintegrated into a poor man’s rendition of the Keystone Cops over the years.

But after two failed attempts at trying to replace the legendary Tom Coughlin as their head coach, they are hopeful that they finally got it right in Joe Judge, who so far has justified their love.

Despite his young age (38) and his inexperience as a head coach at any level, Judge is that “adult in the room” the Giants have been seeking since Tom Coughlin resolved, a guy who not only talks a good game but who also backs it up.

While it’s not known how exactly Mara defined “progress” which, in August, is what he said he wanted to see by the end of this season, the Giants' baby steps that are starting to clump together are no doubt encouraging signs.

General Manager Dave Gettleman: Polarizing

Not since quarterback Eli Manning in his final years has a member of the organization divided the fan base and the media as much general manager Dave Gettleman.

Now in his third season, Gettleman hasn’t been perfect. He grossly misjudged the talent level when he said the franchise could rebuild and compete.

And some of the moves he’s made were designed to be stop-gaps that initially looked promising but, when the buzz wore off, looked less and less attractive. These include the signing of left tackle Nate Solder to a massive free-agent contract or the addition of running back Jonathan Stewart, who ended up not having much left in the tank after all.

But he’s made a lot more wise decisions than some want to give him credit for. Need proof? Look at the promise of the Giants offensive line rebuild, which is finally on the right track, or the free agents he’s brought in for the defense that has the unit consistently ranking in the top half of the league in almost every major statistical category.

The draft classes? If you prescribe to the belief that you can’t fully assess a draft class’s impact until it’s been in the league for three years, then the jury is still out on Gettleman’s classes, at least until the end of this season when the 2018 class finishes its third year. (And from that class, only one player, Kyle Lauletta, is no longer with the team to evaluate.)

Again, there have been mistakes, and the record hasn’t given people much to smile about of late. While Gettleman has been good about not extending scholarships to his draft picks, one of his most glaring mistakes has been getting rid of players without really having an established replacement on the roster. (See receiver Odell Beckham, Jr and defensive end Jason Pierre Paul as two prime examples).

Sep 14, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants head coach Joe Judge walks on the field prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach Joe Judge: Brilliant

Seriously, when was the last time a 3-7 football team generated the kind of positive buzz that Joe Judge’s Giants have? The answer is never, and it’s all due to this young student from the school of Saban and Belichick who walked confidently into East Rutherford with an air of confidence, a vision, and a plan to make it all happen.

Judge is building up the Giants franchise by incorporating a nice blend of old school style methods and newer school approaches that have kept his players bought in during a year where perhaps in the past, most if not all of the team would have checked out by now.

Sure, playing in a weak division helps, but you have to learn to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. And just as general managers tend to fall in love with players from smaller school that stand out among their competition, if the Giants can stand out in a weak division, well, who knows what the future and a few more tweaks to the roster combined with a more experienced Jude will bring in 2021 and beyond?

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham: Creative

Rams head coach Sean McVay said it best when back in Week 4 he described the Giants defensive as a “pain” to prepare for.

That’s because defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s “Yes” defense (my nickname for the defense in honor of Graham’s answer when asked if he planned to run a 4-3 or 3-4) has so many different options off any given look that the defensive unit has baffled even the most experienced of quarterbacks.

As a bonus, that Graham has managed to overcome injuries and lineup changes practically every week and not have too much of a drop off is another feather in his cap. It has shown an ability to adjust the scheme to fit what he has rather than force something that’s not there.

“It all comes back to the players. When we have success, it’s the players. It’s them and if we’re not successful, it’s because there is something I can do better,” Graham said recently. “The success is because of the players.”

And the teaching, which if Graham won’t take credit for, his boss will make sure he gets a nod, even if it’s indirectly.

“I think when you practice with good execution and you’re confident with what you’re doing schematically, you can play more aggressive,” Judge said about the defense’s success.

“They’ve really done a good job week by week adapting to different game plans and how they fit, and understand not only their responsibility, but how the guy next to them has to play as well. When you understand that, you can play more aggressive. That’s probably why some of that is starting to show up the way we want it to on tape.”

Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett: Focused

Jason Garrett’s offense might not have gotten off to the fastest of starts, nor did it unveil as some expected it might, but after some trial and error, he appears to have it going in the right direction.

Last month, Garrett set off a few alarm bells when he admitted that the offensive coaching staff as a whole was still trying to figure out what they were good at doing in the running and passing games.

To be fair to Garrett's timing with that statement, because this was a new staff working with players they had never worked with prior and were working with them now without having had the benefit of an off-season or preseason, the trial and error period was bound to be a lot steeper than in 2011, when the lockout wiped out the off-season. Still, the Giants survived since they had many players returning in the same system run by the same coaching staff from the year prior.

Based on how much more efficient the offense has been, Garrett’s focus has paid off. The Giants have not only improved over the last five games in several offensive categories, but they are also starting to look like a competitive and cohesive offense. 

If everything remains intact moving forward, it offers a great deal of promise thanks to Garrett’s focus on finding what this group can do well individually and collectively.

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey: Reinforced

Thomas McGaughey was already doing a stable job in rejuvenating a special teams group that was the Giants Achilles heel for years.

But in being granted a new boss who just happens to have the same coaching background, that has not only been a blessing, but it’s also been a reinforcement that has made the Giants special teams units even better than they were the first two seasons under McGaughey’s leadership.

“It’s definitely been a different experience for me as far as being a coordinator,” McGaughey said earlier this month.

“Being able to talk to your head coach and he understands exactly what’s going on--how to attack it or what’s the issue, what’s the problem or with the 46-man roster. All those things that go into being a special teams coordinator, all the nuances of the job. It’s excellent having him as a head coach.”

It's also allowed the Giants to integrate some trick plays and creativity, the best example to date being the Canadian gunner that Judge was probably behind doubt introduced to the special teams playbook that worked so well a couple of weeks ago.

Tomorrow: The Offense

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Comments (2)
No. 1-2

grrreat analysis and commentary..watched Judge breakdown Giants Special Teams third gunner play. The result was exactly as it was designed to do. I believe Coach Judge challenges his coaching staff to be creative to put Giants players and the team in positions to succeed.



This is a truly interesting exercise. I describe ownership as Indolent. They tend to take action only when fans are "burning their tickets." As for Gettleman, your description seems right on. I think he made mostly mistakes in the early years ( and I add the Williams trade/give away to your list of blunders; as well as drafting Barkley ). But I also agree that he has hit home runs recently: David Jones, the 2020 draft, and coach Judge. It is hard for me to know if coach Judge is "brilliant." But he seems competent, forceful and capable, at minimum. I think Graham is creative and I think Garrett, recently, has been so as well ( though not at the outset ). For special teams, I would say focused and capable. Not sure how "re-enforced" applies, though you do explain. Happy thanksgiving. Stay safe.