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Giants Will Implode If Franchise Tries to Hit the Gas on Rebuilding Plan

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterApril 2, 2020

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks to pass as he is sacked by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

If you hate the way general manager Dave Gettleman runs the Giants when he's taking his time, just wait until you see what he does when he's in a hurry.

Per Jay Glazer of The Athletic, Gettleman is suddenly on the hot seat. "He presented a plan [to Giants ownership] for how he'll turn it around in a year," Glazer wrote in a mailbag column early in the week. "That needs to happen. If it doesn't happen, he'll be gone, and rightfully so. If he doesn't follow through, it's time to go." 

Gettleman in win-now mode? Does Gettleman even have a win-now mode? If he does, it must look like that sign behind the counter of the local diner: "Drink coffee: Do stupid things faster and with more energy!"

Let's take a deep breath. "Turning things around" probably doesn't mean Giants ownership expects Daniel Jones to turn into Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson and lead the team on a Super Bowl run in his second season. (And if it does, hoo-boy.) It means ownership expects to see some forward progress after a 12-36 record in the last three seasons, two of them on Gettleman's watch. After all, the Eagles won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and a receiving corps plucked from a tailgate-party pickup game last year; after three offseasons of building, it's not unreasonable to expect the Giants to be competitive in such a weak division.

Unfortunately, their roster is nowhere near ready to compete with the Eagles or Cowboys. And trying to turbocharge the rebuild will only leave the Giants right back where they started.

Gettleman is an easy punching bag for columns like this because he comes across as the father-in-law who calls you every time he forgets his own Wi-Fi password. (It's an "o" not a "0"? Why does that even matter?) Gettleman has been in the NFL for over 30 years, once scouted Bruce Smith and was one of the architects of 2007 and 2011 Giants Super Bowl teams, all facts that he manages to slip into most press conferences. He has an eye for talent and a no-nonsense approach to cap management. But he believes the best way to build a champion is to start with the defensive line, then the offensive line, then the defensive line some more, until eventually the team is so overpowering in the trenches that it can get away with being merely OK everywhere else. That approach, when it works at all, takes time. 

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Gettleman's offseason has been a mixed bag. The Giants franchise-tagged run-thumping defensive tackle Leonard Williams, whom they traded for last year. (If you ever meet someone as infatuated with you as Gettleman is with Williams, marry them and never let them go.) Former Titans defensive tackle Austin Johnson was added for good measure, while Blake Martinez, an old-fashioned middle linebacker with coverage deficiencies, arrived from Green Bay to replace Alec Ogletree, an old-fashioned middle linebacker with coverage deficiencies. 

The Giants have gone 9-23 in their two seasons under general manager Dave Gettleman, which hasn't exactly thrilled the team's owners.
The Giants have gone 9-23 in their two seasons under general manager Dave Gettleman, which hasn't exactly thrilled the team's owners.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry upgrades the secondary, which is a good thing, because several members of last year's Giants secondary played as if someone selected them before the snap on Madden and then dropped the controller to get a snack. Kyler Fackrell adds a jolt of pass rush, and Dion Lewis provides a better alternative when Saquon Barkley is off the field than wishing Barkley was on the field. On the downside, Mike Remmers' departure for the Chiefs leaves a void in the middle of the offensive line, which is not the sort of void Gettleman prefers to create.

Add an impact player with the fourth pick in the draft, and the Giants will come out a little bit ahead this offseason. But 4-12 teams are supposed to come out at least a little bit ahead. It's hard to find evidence of the grand one-year plan the organization wants to see.

Ownership's impatience is understandable. After years of trying to relive 2007 and 2011, the Giants have lurched from Tom Coughlin to Ben McAdoo to Pat Shurmur to Joe Judge; from Eli Manning to Jones; and from Jerry Reese to Gettleman, since 2015. Along the way, they have slowly moved away from their keep-it-in-the-family philosophy, with Gettleman as the last guy in the room telling old Coughlin stories.

Frustration with Gettleman within the organization almost certainly extends beyond the team's win-loss record. Top brass must wonder why a purported infrastructure-builder built so little infrastructure after two full seasons. An organization that loves to project uber-professionalism can't be pleased when Gettleman's press conferences start to sound like a sweaty nightclub comic is getting frazzled by hecklers. Ownership chose to pair Gettleman with the inexperienced Judge instead of making a clean sweep. Now the Giants run the risk of being pulled in two different directions.

Judge is a Bill Belichick disciple, and for better or worse, Belichick disciples tend to take over personnel control and turn their organizations into bootleg-brand Patriots. He sounded like he was in square-one rebuilding mode with his blank-depth-chart rhetoric at the combine. Judge has time to wait. Gettleman doesn't. That will inevitably cause friction. 

If the Giants hope for some quick turnaround, their best model would be last year's Titans. Barkley could play the role of Derrick Henry, Jones could conceivably handle Ryan Tannehill duties, Judge could impersonate Mike Vrabel and Gettleman could merrily stack both lines with all the hog mollies he can find. But even that is more of a two- or three-year plan than a quick fix: The Giants are just too thin in the secondary, on the offensive line and at edge-rusher to turn into some smashmouth powerhouse overnight. 

The good news for the Giants is that if Gettleman even owns a panic button, he probably needs to call tech support to teach him how to press it. He could have tried to assemble some massive compensation package for Jadeveon Clowney but didn't. He might still trade for disgruntled Jaguars hog molly Yannick Ngakoue but is at least biding his time. The franchise could try to speed things up by selecting a receiver like Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb instead of a more Gettleman-like choice on the offensive line or defense, but the Giants cannot go wrong either way, because they have needs everywhere. 

The Giants have yet to strike a long-term deal with defensive tackle Leonard Williams but franchise-tagged him for $16.1 million.
The Giants have yet to strike a long-term deal with defensive tackle Leonard Williams but franchise-tagged him for $16.1 million.Rob Leiter/Getty Images

Gettleman is too committed to the way he does things to start overspending or taking huge risks. But adding a false urgency to the team's situation will only create false expectations and encourage shortcuts and missteps. The Giants' priorities this season should be to implement Judge's program, verify that Jones can grow into the Eli clone they hope he will be and upgrade as many positions as possible—not try to sneak into the playoffs at the expense of greater long-term goals.

If Judge and Jones deliver in even a modest way, the Giants should "turn things around" by climbing into the neighborhood of .500 anyway.

And if they don't, at least the next general manager will have yet another top-five draft pick to work with.

                          

Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier.

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