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New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has a plan. Or, does he?
“You can win while you build a roster,” Gettleman said after the franchise traded star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Pro Bowl defensive end Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns in separate deals, per Michael Eisen of the team’s official site. “We do have a plan, and this is part of it.”
Nobody believes Gettleman because the Giants’ recent moves make little to no sense. The main problem with the general manager’s comments is they fly in the face of the team’s actions.
An organization can’t build a roster by moving on from its best players while holding on to an over-the-hill quarterback in Eli Manning who doesn’t factor into a long-term rebuild.
A mishmosh approach that combines a win-now attitude and a roster overhaul only signals one thing: more losing. These two philosophies don’t work hand-in-hand. A team needs to commit to one or the other.
Instead, the Giants are trying to work past last season’s 5-11 campaign by combining traditional rebuilding elements with veteran pieces who don’t fit together.
Within a calendar year, the Giants rid themselves of nose tackle Damon Harrison, safety Landon Collins (walked in free agency), Beckham and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Vernon. All five have been Pro Bowlers or All-Pros at some point.
Harrison remains the game’s best run defender. The Washington Redskins made Collins the NFL‘s highest-paid safety (six years, $84 million). Beckham accumulated 5,476 receiving yards and 44 touchdowns in his first five seasons. Pierre-Paul and Vernon combined for 19.5 sacks in 2018 (on separate teams).
Gettleman isn’t building a roster; he tore down one.
Now, he’s trying to reassure both the league and Giants fans that his team won’t skip a beat, as if he’s a great talent czar on par with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team reloads every year. Spoiler alert: Gettleman is closer to being the league’s worst GM than he is the greatest head coach/talent evaluator.
This became clear last season, when the Patriots showed interest in Beckham before the Oct. 30 trade deadline—which caused New York to rethink its approach, as Chris Simms discussed on Pro Football Talk Live. That insecurity says everything anyone needs to know about how the Giants handled the situation.
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Once Gettleman agreed to trade the team’s star receiver Tuesday, the NFL world came unglued. A power shift occurred, and the Cleveland Browns entered the conversation as a potentially elite team. Of course, the Browns were already trending in the right direction after winning seven games in 2018, but Beckham may be the piece to put them over the top. He can aptly be described as a game-changer.
Ultimately, the Giants melded two agreed-upon trades for Beckham and Vernon. New York received guard Kevin Zeitler and safety Jabrill Peppers as well as the 17th and 95th overall picks in April’s draft in Nashville, Tennessee.
“With the first-round draft choice, that gives us six and 17,” Gettleman said. “As we continue to build this team, you need draft-pick capital. This trade enabled us to do that.”
Gettleman didn’t have any problems flipping draft picks a year ago to acquire linebacker Alec Ogletree and punter Riley Dixon. The 180 the team endured shows it’s not operating under a streamlined long-term plan.
The Giants appear to be making it up as they go. Further evidence can be found in this year’s free-agency moves.
Wide receiver Golden Tate, safety Antoine Bethea and outside linebacker Markus Golden are solid additions when viewed in a vacuum. But that’s not how the league operates. Each turned into a signing to stop the bleeding from the talent the team hemorrhaged. Furthermore, each is a significant downgrade.
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Where Tate fits is anyone’s guess since the Giants already had a solid slot receiver in Sterling Shepard. New York doesn’t have a single quality outside receiver on its roster, which makes Beckham’s loss even more devastating.
The failures may start with the general manager, but they also reflect on head coach Pat Shurmur. His hire was supposed to halt the growing discontent in Ben McAdoo’s locker room and bring a culture change.
“With all things Odell, we just need to start talking and find out why things happen,” Shurmur said in January 2018 after being hired, per Newsday‘s Tom Rock. “And if they’re not to our standards, then we have to find a way to get it fixed.”
Instead, Shurmur and Co. quit on Beckham. The team’s best player is now on another squad because they seemingly couldn’t handle his idiosyncrasies.
Astonishingly, Manning remains in the Big Apple. The Giants “do not expect to move on” from their quarterback and plan to pick up his $5 million roster bonus Saturday, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano.
“He’s what we have at this point,” a team source told Graziano.
Well, that’s a ringing endorsement. There’s only one issue: Manning is part of the problem. His diminishing skills at 38 years old are apparent.
Manning ranked 30th last season with an average depth of 7.82 yards per target, according to Pro Football Focus. The aging signal-caller struggles to make throws both into tight windows and deep outside the numbers. He finished sixth-worst in big-time throw percentage (3.3) from a clean pocket. Beckham’s departure to Cleveland is the best thing for the receiver since he only saw an accurate pass on 50 percent of his targets, according to PFF’s George Chahrouri.
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A team shouldn’t try to build around a failing quarterback.
The Giants may be able to save some face this offseason if they trade for the Arizona Cardinals‘ Josh Rosen, who has been linked to New York, or make an aggressive move to land a top quarterback prospect. The odds are slim-to-none that the player selected with the 17th overall pick (acquired in the trade) will make the same type of impact as Beckham. A franchise quarterback is the Giants’ only hope.
Ironically, the Cleveland Browns had a plan and nearly executed it perfectly. They didn’t try to rebuild on the fly for the zillionth time. Instead, previous general manager Sashi Brown tore down the team to the studs and accumulated as much draft and financial capital as possible. Then John Dorsey took over and utilized those assets to find a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield and other elite young talent, and he traded for veterans in their primes to make a playoff push this coming season.
The Giants went from trying to win now in 2018 before realizing they took the wrong route. Now, they’re trying to appease two masters. They are loading up on draft picks and creating salary-cap flexibility while still trying to win with Manning in the short term.
The Giants’ offseason doesn’t make any sense. Maybe the organization will surprise us all with a plan that really does pay future dividends, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead, it seems to have a floundering general manager who is trying to rationalize a plethora of poor decisions.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.