PHOENIX - Perhaps you've heard, the Giants have a plan. They've been pretty insistent on that over the last week. Also, their purge of some of their most popular players was "just business". It certainly wasn't personal with Odell Beckham, whom all the key people in the organization insist they genuinely liked.
All that, of course, is part of the company line. But what have we really learned about what the Giants think and are doing over the last four days? After speaking to co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, coach Pat Shurmur, and multiple sources inside and outside of the organization, here are 10 takeaways from the Giants' time at the NFL's annual owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel:
They really want to find Eli Manning's successor next month, but they're not sure they will
They've made their desires as clear as they made their love of Saquon Barkley before the last draft. They know it's time to line up a succession plan. The problem is they don't know if they love Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins enough to take him at No. 6, or any of the others to take them at No. 17. Trading for Josh Rosen might be a possibility, as SNY reported Tuesday night, but they don't know if he's even available. And if they can't find the quarterback of their dreams, they won't force it. Not now, anyway.
They're not kidding about the thought of bringing back Eli Manning in 2020
Yes, really. The key people in the organization don't think he's done, and they feel they saw a ton of positive signs in the second half last year. Ideally, they'll have his successor ready to go next season. But if not, barring a disaster of a season, they won't hesitate to extend Manning's contract by a year. They really do want him around to rub off on the next Giants franchise quarterback, if they can make it work.
The owners know GM Dave Gettleman has a plan, and they are all-in with it
There's not a bit of hesitation in either of the owners' voices when speaking about the "plan", and they think it's kind of ridiculous some think they don't have one. They know Gettleman is rebuilding, even if they don't want to use the word, and they like that he's doing it by clearing cap space, accumulating draft picks, and building a better locker room culture. They are not wary of what he's doing. They are true believers.
They're really tired of the negative media coverage and fan reaction
Mara lashed out strongly at some of the things he's been reading from some of the New York media, and he's not alone in the organization. The idea that Manning is done, that they're keeping him out of loyalty, that they're tanking or don't know what they're doing … it's all been an angry swirl of negativity painting them as clowns. OK, a lot of it is caused by losing, which makes it self-inflicted. But no doubt the coverage (and fan reaction) has been harsh. And … well, they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
They did not hate Odell Beckham, but don't be fooled: He was still a 'pain in the ass'
Everyone went out of their way to say the trade of Beckham was just "business" and not personal, that he was a good guy and they genuinely liked him. Mara even blew up at the odd suggestion that the Giants were painting him as a bad guy. They're not. But did you notice how every time someone brought up all of Beckham's self-inflicted headaches, they all said some version "Of course that was a factor too." Yes, it really was. As SNY reported, they felt he was "a pain in the ass" and were worried it would get worse. If it wasn't for that, do you really think they'd trade one of the five best receivers in the league? No chance.
They think their offense will be better without Beckham
It's not easy running an offense through a diva who is clearly unhappy with his quarterback. Shurmur seemed to feel freed up by not having a star to placate anymore. He likes what new receiver Golden Tate can do, and he likes the idea he can now spread the ball around without making anyone miserable. He also was heartened by how the offense thrived - particularly tight end Evan Engram - when Beckham was hurt at the end of last year. They believe that is a very positive sign.
They have serious concerns about their defense
They seem excited when they talk about the offense, but not so much when they talk about the defense. They know it was bad last year and it probably blew about four games. And they know they've lost their best pass rusher and a top safety and they don't have a lot of depth at any position. They love new safety Jabrill Peppers and have high hopes for edge rusher Markus Golden. But they weren't hiding the fact that they've still got a ton of work to do. The draft will figure prominently in that.
They are strongly leaning towards taking a pass rusher with the sixth overall pick
The value is likely to be far too high among the defensive players at the top of their board, compared to any of the top quarterbacks - even Haskins. Maybe it'll be close. Maybe there'll be a discussion. But conversations with several team sources made it clear they'll have a hard time passing on an elite pass rusher with their first first-round pick.
They believe the offensive line is no longer a weakness
They saw really positive signs with them last season and have renewed their commitment to build from the trenches. The addition of guard Kevin Zeitler was a big part of that, and don't be shocked if they add a right tackle in the latter stages of free agency or early in the draft. They said that was their priority last season, but their moves didn't work as well as they hoped. It took a while, but they think they've almost gotten it right.
They actually think they can win and make a run at the playoffs this year
Yeah, I know, they were 5-11 last year. But they really saw hope in their 4-4 second half and those eight games they lost by a touchdown or less. They're not crazy enough to think they've built a Super Bowl contender, but they're absolutely crazy enough to think they can go 9-7 and stay in the playoff race while they're trying to rebuild.