There are few figures in New York sports as polarizing as Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman. He took over the struggling franchise at the end of the 2017 season and promptly turned it into … well, a franchise that is still struggling.
But almost every major figure currently on the Giants, with the exception of Sterling Shepard, was signed by Gettleman. It’s hard to deny that he has improved the 3-13 team he inherited.
As Daniel Jones enters his make-or-break third season — a season that will also be a referendum on Gettleman — let’s use the benefit of hindsight to review Gettleman’s time as general manager so far.
Drafting Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall: In a perfect world, the Giants would have drafted Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, but very few scouts predicted just how good those two quarterbacks would be. It isn’t fair to fault Dave Gettleman for that missed opportunity.
New York was almost certainly deciding between Barkley and Sam Darnold, who so far has not done much to differentiate himself from Jones. Gettleman famously said he wanted a player he could picture in a “gold jacket,” and Barkley has lived up to that billing with an average of 115 yards from scrimmage per game. When healthy, he has played better than any of the three players selected after him. Grade: B+
Trading Eli Apple to Saints: Apple is yet another name in the long list of Giants first-round busts, but he was drafted before Gettleman arrived. It hurt to trade the former No. 10 overall pick for a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder, but it was ultimately the right call. Apple’s play declined even further, and he has since been cut by both the Saints and Panthers. At least Gettleman got something in return. Grade: A
Trading Odell Beckham Jr. to Browns: There has arguably never been an offseason transaction that left New Yorkers as outraged as they were after losing Beckham. But a few years later, this has turned out to be one of the most brilliant trades in recent history and the best evidence that Dave Gettleman really is a step ahead of the competition.
Beckham was not traded because of his play; he was coming off his fourth 1,000-yard season in five years and had just signed a five-year, $90 million extension. Rather, the organization had grown tired with his off-field headaches and in-game antics. Gettleman said at the time that “part of the responsibility of a general manager is to eliminate distractions.”
Statistically, Beckham’s two years in Cleveland were his worst so far. He averaged 92.8 yards per game in New York and 61.5 in Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Giants’ return from the trade — safety Jabrill Peppers, a first-round pick and a third-round pick — has shaped their defense. Peppers has played at a Pro-Bowl level, and Dexter Lawrence, drafted with the first-rounder, is one of New York’s best pass rushers. Grade: A-
Drafting Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall: This pick could have been much worse. Dwayne Haskins was widely considered to be the best quarterback available to the Giants, and Gettleman dodged a nightmare scenario by passing on him.
However, the Giants almost certainly could have selected Jones with their next pick at No. 17, and Gettleman’s explanation that “you don’t get cute with a quarterback” doesn’t quite cut it. That reality will always haunt this pick, even if Jones turns into a star.
After two years, no one is sure what to make of Jones. He flashed potential as a rookie but regressed last season and threw a dismal 11 touchdown passes. However, Barkley’s injury and the lack of talent at wide receiver made it hard to fault Jones for his play. He did decrease his fumbles from 18 to 11, but they are still an issue he will need to fix very quickly to prove he is a franchise quarterback. Grade: B-
Drafting Andrew Thomas No. 4 overall: Thomas was not just bad as a rookie — for much of the season, he was the worst left tackle in football. He allowed 57 pressures, 14 more than anyone else, and struggled with basic mechanics until late in the year. The Pro-Bowl-caliber play of fellow rookies Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs only rubbed salt in the wound. The Giants still have hope that Thomas will take a big step forward in Year 2, but if he doesn’t, Gettleman could be on the chopping block. Grade: D
2020 Free Agency: A theme seems to be emerging: Dave Gettleman has not had much success with the draft, but he has been superb otherwise. Last offseason, he signed the unproven James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million contract. Bradberry turned in a career year and emerged as one of the league’s best cornerbacks, leading Pro Football Focus to list his contract as one of the biggest bargains in football. Blake Martinez (151 tackles) and Logan Ryan (94 tackles) also greatly outplayed their contracts and helped restore New York’s reputation as a fearsome defensive team.
Image courtesy of Michael Conroy/Associated Press