EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants had never really fired a general manager before Dec. 4, 2017, when Jerry Reese was told to clean out his office. The closest they came was in 1978, when Andy Robustelli left on his own, saving the Maras from pushing him out the door.
From 1979 through 2017, the Giants had three general managers with an average tenure of 13 seasons.
There's a reason for that kind of front office stability -- a very good reason. And no matter how frustrated John Mara and Steve Tisch may be with the last two miserable seasons, they shouldn't ignore that and change their philosophy with Dave Gettleman now.
Despite all the cries from an understandably angry fanbase, it would be absolutely crazy for Mara and Tisch to fire their current general manager just two years into his tenure. It would be the ultimate knee-jerk reaction, a sign of severe dysfunction, and an acceptance of the kind of instability they've always tried to avoid. They'd be starting from scratch again, two years after they last started from scratch.
Simply put: It's the kind of things that bad franchises do.
For the moment, it's still unclear if the seat under the 68-year-old Gettleman is really hot at all. There are plenty of people around the league speculating the Giants may soon clean out their entire franchise. Meanwhile, one team source said there's no indication at all internally that a GM change is coming. Of course, that's not something that's likely to be telegraphed throughout the organization. Only two people likely know, since it's solely an ownership call.
One thing everyone acknowledges, though: The owners -- Mara in particular -- don't want to change GMs. Mara has spoken in the past about how difficult that can be, how it can cause a massive, internal overhaul of executives, scouts and support staff. It can also change a team's philosophy dramatically. It could take years for the new GM to build a program the way he wants it to be run.
That last part is key, because Gettleman has only been given two years, which isn't a long time for a general manager at all. Yes, he wears the same 8-22 record that's the current Scarlet Letter on his head coach, Pat Shurmur. But it's impossible to truly evaluate a GM that quickly, since most of his decisions play out only over the long term.
So far, Gettleman has run two drafts, bringing in 16 players, 15 of which are still on the roster, and 12 of which have been pretty significant contributors to the current 3-11 team. That includes the franchise quarterback -- the most important part of any rebuilding plan -- even though many thought the GM had whiffed on his chance to find a Quarterback of the Future when he drafted Saquon Barkley No. 2 in 2018, and despite the many who thought he overreached at No. 6 for Daniel Jones.
Jones, of course, has shown signs of being a terrific Quarterback of the Future. He and Barkley alone are a 1-2 punch many teams would love to have. As for the others, most of them have shown promise, though often only in flashes. Maybe only one of Gettleman's picks -- quarterback Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round in 2018 -- can really be considered a bad pick or a bust.
Yes, he has made some head-scratching moves. The trade of a third and either a fourth or fifth-round pick for a two-month rental of Leonard Williams is probably the biggest, and one for which he still owes everyone an explanation. (And by the way, the lack of access to Gettleman and the lack of public accountability for moves like that should be offensive to every paying customer).
But aside from that, he hasn't made any moves that really hurt the long-term future of the franchise. The two contracts that draw the most criticism -- two years, $6.9 million for broken-down running back Jonathan Stewart, and three years, $15 million for bust lineman Patrick Omameh in 2018 -- didn't cost much and they were easily escapable. They were inexpensive fliers that didn't hurt at all.
And some of his other "bad" deals were born out of necessity. He needed a defensive leader when he overpaid for Alec Ogletree, trading a fourth- and sixth-rounder to the Rams for him and his hefty contract. And that four-year, $62 million contract for left tackle Nate Solder (with $35 million guaranteed) clearly doesn't look great as the 31-year-old has struggled.
But, at the time, the Giants had uber-bust Ereck Flowers at left tackle and an aging, immobile quarterback behind him. Gettleman made a necessary, aggressive move to go get the best available left tackle on the market in the hopes of keeping Eli Manning from getting killed.
Of more legitimate concern, especially with Solder's money likely to come off the books, is that Gettleman hasn't restocked the offensive line with young players. He's only picked "Hog Mollies" with two of his draft picks. And all he has to show for two years of efforts to rebuild what he views as one of the team's most important positions is guard Will Hernandez (a second-round pick in 2018) and Nick Gates (a promising prospect who arrived as an undrafted free agent that same year). That's a definite problem.
Still, the draft is where Gettleman wanted to rebuild this franchise and it's where he'll ultimately be judged. Two years in, how can anyone look at his overall draft haul as bad?
There are young players with talent at many key positions, like quarterback, running back, receiver (Darius Slayton), cornerback (Sam Beal, DeAndre Baker), safety (Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers), and defensive tackle (Dexter Lawrence). They even had one at linebacker (Ryan Connelly) before he got hurt in Week 4.
Gettleman has also rid the franchise of many bloated contracts over the last two years, which could give him $70-90 million in salary cap space to spend in March. And he's absolutely changed the "culture" of the locker room, which again was in full revolt mode when he arrived in late December, 2017. Yes, he got rid of some talented players -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, Eli Apple, Odell Beckham Jr. -- and that hasn't helped the record.
But those subtractions led to a much better, team-oriented Giants locker room. That, along with the picks and cap room Gettleman got in return, can only help him with his long-term rebuilding plan.
Will that plan really work? It's a fair question given the hideous record. But the truth is, nobody knows what Gettleman has done for the Giants yet. No one can truly and fairly evaluate the young players he's brought in. It takes two, sometimes three years to really get a handle on the future of most NFL players. Maybe his last two drafts will be the core of the Giants' next championship. Maybe not.
It's simply too soon to tell.
All anyone can really say for sure about Gettleman is this: He took over a team with salary cap issues, weighed down with bloated contracts given to overrated players, an aging quarterback, a crumbling offensive line, a locker room that had just revolted on its coach and showed an alarming lack of character and accountability in many corners, and was finishing off a 3-13 season -- its fourth losing season in five years.
And he not only found a franchise quarterback, he paired him with one of the most promising running backs to hit the NFL in years, and revamped the roster with a small army of first- and second-year players -- 10 of which were in the starting lineup on Sunday afternoon.
Those are all good things. While the record stinks, his record can't be anything other than "incomplete?" Why should Mara and Tisch fire him before seeing if his long-term plan works? Then what will they do with Gettleman's replacement? Watch him start over and then fire him in 2021?
That's how bad franchises operate. They react to the mob. The Giants know better, and they have four Super Bowl trophies in their lobby to prove that the patient approach works. They endured George Young going 10-22 in his first two seasons, and Ernie Accorsi going 15-17 in his first two.
It didn't take long for the franchise's patience to pay off with both of them. Who knows if it'll pay off with Gettleman?
But two years into his tenure, it would be crazy to abandon their philosophy now.