There is a collective groan every time Giants GM Dave Gettleman mentions running the ball or "old school" football. It makes him seem out of touch to a generation dazzled by analytics and some dizzying passing statistics.
But building a team around running the ball and stopping the run remains Gettleman's philosophy, and it appears to be one he shares with new Giants head coach Joe Judge. They are convinced that they can still win in today's NFL by playing the old-fashioned way.
By the way, you know who else believes in that?
The reigning NFC champs.
And anyone watching the NFL playoffs this year knows that the 49ers are not alone in winning with a strong running game and a powerful defensive line. The fact is, a majority of this year's playoff teams had a lot of "old school" in them, and they ran their way to victory more often than not.
Yes, the Chiefs are built the more modern way, with a fast-break, air-centered offensive attack. But if these NFL playoffs proved anything, it's that even now there is more than one way to win a football game. Gettleman may be "old school." Maybe he is even rooted in the things that worked best in the past.
But that doesn't mean he's wrong.
"People say it's a passing league. I get that," Gettleman said on Jan. 9, a few days after the NFL playoffs began. "But that graphic on Sunday afternoon should not have been lost on everybody. Top four passing teams were not in the playoffs. The top four rushing teams were in the playoffs. Most of the teams were in the top, I think, 12 in terms of rushing.
"Again, it's a physical, violent game and if you don't build your team to do that late in the year when the weather's lousy and it's mush out there, the tougher team is going to win."
The analytics crowd and a whole next generation of fans and media gasped when he said that, but the numbers in this postseason have certainly supported Gettleman's supposedly outdated idea. Through 10 postseason games, teams have averaged 130.7 yards per game on the ground and 236.8 yards per game through the air -- numbers that hardly reveal a passing revolution.
And the teams that ran it better were having more success, too. Winning teams have averaged 154.5 rushing yards and 211.4 passing yards per game. Losing teams have averaged 106.8 rushing yards and 262.2 passing yards.
Only some of that can be explained by winning teams running to protect leads. But it doesn't explain the Titans running the Patriots and Ravens out of their own buildings with 201 and 217 rushing yards, or the 49ers (with 285 rushing yards) doing the same to the Packers in the NFC championship game.
It's more complicated than that, of course, and there are surely analytics that can be used to prove that what we're all seeing is not really what we think we're seeing. The 49ers, after all, aren't just a ground and pound team. They have an imaginative offense run by Kyle Shanahan and a quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been remarkably efficient and has shown he can air it out if necessary.
But the point is that the 49ers haven't won because of Garoppolo's 208 passing yards through two games. And they didn't go 13-3 because of his 3,978 passing yards. They were the No. 2 rushing team in the NFL this season. They also had the NFL's No. 2 defense.
That's old school. And that's why the 49ers are in Super Bowl LIV.
"Old school to me means you're always going to be strong with the basics," Gettleman explained. "The fancy schmancy is nice, but you get to that when your basics are sound. To me, that's what old school is."
There he goes again. Just the use of the words "fancy schmancy" made the heads of many younger fans explode. And those whose heads remained intact likely screamed "But, the Chiefs?" That's a fair point.
The Chiefs are a decidedly pass-first offense with a defense that has shown no ability to stop the run. Behind the amazing Patrick Mahomes, they've averaged 341 passing yards in their two playoff games. They have averaged a respectable 103 rushing yards per game, too, though more than half of those have come from Mahomes.
The Chiefs, though, have been the exception this postseason, not the rule. But even that's not really the point. The fact is there are still different ways to win in the NFL. Yes, it's more of a passing league than ever, but "old school" football can be a winning approach. The 49ers don't have Mahomes or Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce, so they chose to grind their way to Super Bowl LIV.
What's wrong with the Giants, with Saquon Barkley and -- at some point -- an improved offensive line, using that approach, too?
And remember, it's not even that simple. They're not going to run a wishbone offense or hand the ball to Barkley 500 times.
"Our philosophy is going to be to put pressure on the opponent to prepare for multiple things," Judge explained at his introductory press conference. "So, while there may be some games that we throw the ball 50 times, there's going to be other times we may throw it 10 times and run the ball 45 times. I don't have a crystal ball, Miss Cleo can help you better with that."
If she can, and she's seen the 49ers or any of these NFL playoffs, she'd have to concede this clear point: An analytics-based, pass-heavy attack might be the wave of the future.
But "old school" football seems to be having a postseason revival, or at least making a very strong last stand.