EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Monday will come and the annual NFL chaos will be underway. It’s the day when coaches and general managers arrive at work and are inevitably greeted with pink slips. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!
For the New York Giants, the question is whether coach Pat Shurmur and/or general manager Dave Gettleman will be among those losing their jobs the day after the regular season concludes. The tea leaves suggest Shurmur is unlikely to survive barring a huge finish, Gettleman is in trouble and co-owner Steve Tisch is in favor of a major overhaul.
Tisch and John Mara have declined multiple opportunities over the past month to offer votes of confidence for Shurmur and Gettleman. That’s not a great sign. It leaves open the possibility of significant changes to the organization for the second time in three years.
This is the inescapable reality for a team that enters Sunday’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox) with a 9-22 record over the past two seasons. That doesn’t happen by accident. It only occurs when you stack mistakes on other mistakes.
Let’s start with Gettleman and forget for a second the evaluation miscalculations, such as trading for linebacker Alec Ogletree and signing offensive linemen Patrick Omameh and Nate Solder. There are fundamental flaws in his thinking that must give ownership pause.
Gettleman brazenly boasted after taking running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft that the Giants never seriously contemplated a trade out of the spot. What if someone offered multiple first-round picks? What if the Jets at No. 3 wanted to move up one spot to guarantee they would get their quarterback? The Giants might have been able to move down one spot, collect assets and still take Barkley. It didn’t matter. “[The Browns] went [Baker] Mayfield. We were taking Saquon,” Gettleman said. “End of discussion.”
The Giants made Odell Beckham Jr. the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history, signing him to a five-year, $90 million extension in 2018. They traded him nine months later. Their reward: Paying Beckham $21.5 million for one year of pedestrian production and incurring $16 million in dead cap space this season. The Giants have more than $40 million in dead money this year, a mind-numbing number.
The Giants brought back quarterback Eli Manning at ages 37 and 38 for $33 million over the past two seasons when their roster screamed rebuild. They were trying to win while simultaneously restocking their roster. This, as they were coming off a 3-13 campaign in 2017 that led to a new coach, new GM and the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Gettleman didn’t trade safety Landon Collins, a three-time Pro Bowler, at the trade deadline last season. Instead, he allowed him to hit free agency, which brings at best a compensatory draft pick in 2020. There would have been a market for Collins. The Redskins traded a fourth-round draft pick for a less talented safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) at the 2018 trade deadline. When they hit free agency in March, the market revealed that Collins had far superior value. He signed a record deal for a safety (six-years and worth up to $84 million, including $45 million guaranteed from the Washington Redskins). Clinton-Dix signed a one-year contract for $3 million with the Bears.
This season when the Giants were 2-6, Gettleman traded with the Jets, sending a third-round pick in 2020 and a fifth-rounder in 2021 (which could turn into a fourth-rounder) for impending free agent defensive lineman Leonard Williams. He doesn’t have a sack in seven games with the Giants and cost the team draft capital it desperately needs to fill holes on the roster.
It’s almost inconceivable to think an organization would put its fate in the hands of someone making these kinds of decisions, even if that individual seems to have hit on quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick last April.
That is Gettleman’s top selling point. It appears he made the right decision on the most important position. He has that going for him, and a roster filled with young players who could turn into something. Or maybe not.
This is what the Giants must decide. Is that enough to keep him as general manager? You don’t keep someone simply for the sake of stability, or in the hope that maybe some of his decisions pay off despite unsound logic. The worst thing for the organization would be to keep the wrong person in place and not admit a mistake.
This holds true for Shurmur, as well.
It seems he is in need of a miracle to make it to the third season of his five-year deal. Would three straight wins, including one Sunday that could knock the Eagles out of the playoffs, qualify? Especially if Jones produces his fifth game this season with at least four touchdown passes or his second straight game with five?
It certainly wouldn’t hurt. Shurmur said as much Sunday after Jones’ record-setting performance in an overtime win against the Redskins. Back-to-back wins — even if they were against the Miami Dolphins (4-11) and Redskins (3-12) — are valuable to his case.
“It shows that Coach Shurmur still can get guys to buy in,” captain Mike Thomas said of the two-game winning streak this late in the season. “It doesn’t matter if it’s going good, going bad, guys are still willing to fight.”
The development of Jones (Shurmur noted Sunday that the rookie is “light years” ahead of where he was after the draft) and the fact he hasn’t lost the team are two of Shurmur’s strongest arguments to remain for another season.
He’s admittedly trying to get the most from an insufficient roster.
“For some of these young guys who on most teams would be backups or maybe practice squad players, they’re front line guys for us, and this is huge for them to be able to compete as starters,” Shurmur said last week.
Maybe the Giants are building something with four rookie defensive backs starting and the third-most rookie starts this season. Or maybe not.
Ownership might make its feelings known come Monday.