Giants Paid the Price for Roster Overhaul, but Are Better Days Ahead?
When general manager Dave Gettleman was hired to sort through the pieces of a roster that had crumbled under the weight of what he saw as a cultural issue, the general manager had two choices in how he could approach fixing what ailed the franchise.
The first was to gradually swap out those players who had put themselves ahead of the team; the other was to rip off the bandage and start from scratch, no matter how painful the results might be.
Gettleman chose the latter. In doing so, he gutted the locker room of familiar, yet costly contracts belonging to talents such as those belonging to edge rusher Olivier Vernon, nose tackle Damon Harrison, receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and cornerback Eli Apple.
He also famously let safety Landon Collins walk out the door via free agency, and spoke about improving the team’s fractured culture, which under then-head coach Ben McAdoo had deteriorated into a hot mess.
Fast forward to the present. After two off-seasons, only ten players precede Gettleman’s arrival—Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie, Sterling Shepard, Janoris Jenkins, Jon Halapio, Evan Engram, Dalvin Tomlinson, Wayne Gallman, Aldrick Rosas, and Rhett Ellison.
Come next off-season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if at least half of those 10 are not on the roster, which would mean in two-plus years, the Giants roster has been completely overhauled.
But in the process, the Giants have struggled to jell as a unit, and some of the younger players have struggled to find their way as professionals. This, combined with a coaching staff that, while armed with a vision has come up short to execute it, has led to two disappointing seasons in the Pat Shurmur era.
Gettleman himself hasn’t spoken since the start of training camp in late July, but he has, in the past, talked about the importance of building a good locker room culture.
In sweeping out some of the now-former players, it’s probably safe to say that Gettleman either didn’t view those personalities as being conducive to building a robust culture or decided those players weren’t worth their contracts. As such, if the Giants were going to struggle with them, they could struggle without them.
But in retrospect, did Gettleman do too much too soon? A case can certainly be made that the massive roster turnover is on par with what one might see with an expansion team that is looking to put together a new program with a new attitude.
Thirteen of the players on the roster are Gettleman draft picks, while five other draft picks are holdovers from the Jerry Reese era.
Gettleman acquired nine out of the ten veterans on the roster via trade or waiver, the lone exception being Manning. And 20 players were signed as free agent additions by Gettleman.
While all the players share the same goal of wanting to be winners, they have struggled to get on the same page in how to accomplish that goal. And that lack of cohesiveness has led to the seat under Shurmur’s backside cranked up to broiling status that somehow gets hotter and hotter with every passing loss.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the win total that we’re looking for,” Shurmur said. “We believe in guys that are certainly talented enough to play that are good teammates.
“I regret that our record isn’t much better. That’s the only thing I regret. Our job is obviously to get it better, and when it’s not, obviously, it falls on my shoulders.”
But here’s the thing to remember. The Giants weren’t winning with those players who had bloated contracts (and in some cases bloated egos to match). So rather than exacerbate the problem, Gettleman decided to tear it all down and start from scratch.
Did Gettleman make missteps along the way? Absolutely (see Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh as examples of “culture” guys who didn’t necessarily deliver the goods on the field).
To his credit, so far, Gettleman hasn’t compounded the mistakes he’s made by stubbornly hanging on to those players with the hope that they turned out as he expected.
Year No. 3 of the Giants’ rebuild will be here in a matter of weeks, and it’s a big one for Gettleman, who barring any unforeseen circumstances will be back to continue the overhaul of the once-proud franchise that is still struggling to find its way.
His challenge and that of team ownership will be to decide whether to allow Shurmur and his staff to continue overseeing the day-to-day rebuild on the field or switch gears and go with someone who has a better track record.
Gettleman’s challenge will also be to ensure that those players he adds continue to support the culture of professionalism he’s put in place while also doing a better job of pushing this team closer to becoming one that can be competitive again.