If the Giants don’t make the playoffs on Sunday — which is possible whether they win or lose against the Dallas Cowboys — then the attention will turn toward co-owner John Mara and what he plans to do at general manager.
At the end of last season, the Giants fired coach Pat Shurmur but retained Dave Gettleman as GM. Mara admitted that Gettleman needed to “improve his batting average” and that he needed to believe at the end of this season that the organization was closer to competing to a Super Bowl. That last part remains a pipe dream.
Gettleman might’ve improved his batting average this year with smarter work in free agency and the NFL Draft, but he was below the Mendoza line before that. The end result, ultimately, will be the same as the first two years — 10-loss seasons without a playoff appearance. The Giants have had a lot of those lately.
The Giants are 14-33 under Gettleman’s watch heading into Sunday’s game. That they are 5-10 and still in contention for an NFC East title is more a reflection of the division’s ineptitude than Giants progress. In most other divisions, their playoff hopes would’ve ended weeks ago.
Ultimately, Mara’s decision shouldn’t come down to what transpires in one game, whether they make the postseason or not. Maybe it won’t.
“As a general rule, I don’t believe decisions should be based on one game,” said Amy Trask, the longtime former CEO of the Raiders. “There are of course exceptions to that rule, but even in instances in which one game is the ultimate prompt for a termination, the possibility of a termination has most likely been percolating for a bit.”
Ultimately, Trask said, a decision to fire a head coach or general manager comes down to one simple question: Can you actually find someone better?
“If the organization does not have an answer to ‘and do what?’ or if the answer is no better than or is worse than the status quo, that should be taken into account when making a decision,” Trask said. “Of course, if the answer to ‘and do what’ is that anything will be better than the status quo — and I’m not suggesting that is the case with the Giants — that is very telling.”
The Giants aren’t typically an organization that leaks out its intentions with internal matters like the job security of their general manager, but a decision of some sort is surely coming.
What might that be?
Here are six scenarios for what might happen if the Giants season ends on Sunday — from least likely to most likely.
6. Dave Gettleman retires.
Gettleman turns 70 in February and has had health issues in the past. Still, by all accounts he’s healthy now and wants to keep working. This would be more of a mutual parting of ways that is phrased to allow Gettleman to leave in good standing with the organization. He’s a “homegrown” member of the Giants family, having spent 14 years in the front office with the team before becoming the Panthers GM.
The Giants tend to take care of their own, and Gettleman still has a good relationship with Mara too.
Still, it seems unlikely this is an outcome Gettleman would accept unless there are health-related issues that haven’t yet come to light.
5. Dave Gettleman is retained, Giants bring in an outside voice to help.
The Giants already let assistant general manager Kevin Abrams handle the contract/salary cap/negotiation side of things, but perhaps it would be smart for them to bring in another football mind into the building to help with draft and free agency evaluation. It’s what the Eagles did when they hired Joe Douglas to the front office in 2016, and he played a crucial role in their Super Bowl victory the next year.
The Eagles did something similar again in 2020, bringing in former Chiefs GM John Dorsey as a consultant to help out Howie Roseman.
There would be nothing wrong with the Giants bringing in another outside voice — especially since most of the front office is homegrown — but it would be out-of-character for an organization that likes to keep it in the family.
4. Dave Gettleman is retained, but Joe Judge gets more power.
Gettleman was still the final decision-maker this past offseason, but it’s clear that coach Joe Judge at least had some influence over the decisions the Giants made both in free agency and at the NFL Draft. Many of the players the Giants added had previous ties to Judge or those close to him.
By all accounts, Judge and Gettleman get along well, so this could remain a workable relationship even if Judge gains more sway.
“I’d say the entire building since I’ve been here has really had one vision going forward,” Judge said this week. “I’ve enjoyed working with Dave the entire year. We’ve done a lot of good things together.”
This might happen whether Gettleman is retained or not, as there have been rumblings around the league that Judge might seek more power in terms of personnel. It can work out when coaches seek more power, but oftentimes (see: Chip Kelly, Bill O’Brien) it blows up in the organization’s face.
“I don’t like the use of the word ‘power’ in this context,” Trask said. “When individuals are working for the same organization … they have a responsibility to all they can to make that organization the best it can be. In other words, it’s not about what’s best for you, it’s about the organization for which you work. I believe the four most important words in business are communicate, cooperate, collaborate and coordinate. If the head coach and the general manager do that, it should redound to the benefit of the Giants.”
3. Dave Gettleman is re-assigned.
This scenario is the one that seems to have made the most noise lately. Multiple reports have indicated this is a scenario the Giants are considering, where Gettleman isn’t fired but instead moved to an advisory or some other role in the front office.
But it goes back to the point made in the initial scenario with Gettleman retiring — would he actually be agreeable to such a move?
The Giants could dress this up however they want, but this would be a demotion.
2. Dave Gettleman is fired and replaced.
Nobody would fault the Giants for making this move.
Yes, the Giants were playing meaningful football in December, but they also could still fall short of the postseason in a historically bad division. The Giants lost five games by less than 10 points, and have been outmatched by playoff-caliber teams in each of the last three weeks. Only the Jets have been worse on offense.
That all despite Gettleman spending the No. 2, No. 6 and No. 4 picks on key offensive positions (running back, quarterback, left tackle) in each of the last three years, and spending big money in free agency on Nate Solder and Golden Tate.
This offseason, the Giants didn’t add a single notable pass-catcher to help Daniel Jones, and Gettleman’s future is entirely tied to Jones’ development (or lack thereof).
Another thing on his Giants resume that remains baffling: His refusal to trade down in the NFL Draft to accumulate more picks, especially with a talent-deficient roster. The Giants only have six picks right now in 2020. He made most of his mistakes in 2018-19, and he could pay the price for them after Sunday.
The longer the Giants wait, the more likely they are to miss out on top candidates, too. Other current GM openings heading into the offseason include the Falcons, Lions, Texans, Jaguars and Panthers.
1. Status quo: Dave Gettleman returns as general manager.
If Mara’s comments are taken at face value, there are some that might argue Gettleman has done what he was asked.
1. He improved his batting average.
2. The Giants played meaningful December football.
That removes all context, but on a base level it’s true.
Gettleman’s work in free agency this year was quite good, getting key contributors and Pro Bowl-caliber performers like James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Logan Ryan and Graham Gano to sign and live up to their contracts. This might’ve been his best draft class, where Gettleman found possible contributors on Day 3 too.
It’s unclear how much of a hand he played in the hiring of Judge, but that’s a decision worthy of praise as well.
Mara has never been someone known to be quick pulling the trigger. Eli Manning was here too long past his expiration date, and some would argue the same for Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese. On paper, based on the Giants’ struggle to actually win games with Gettleman as general manager, the decision might appear simple.
But nobody knows how Mara — or co-owner Steve Tisch, for that matter — feels about the job Gettleman has done this year.
He might be happy with it.
That will be revealed soon enough.
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Zack Rosenblatt may be reached at [email protected]. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.