Dave Gettleman absolutely hates the word "rebuild." Now, he has no choice but to use it.
No matter how the Giants' sell it in the coming days, that's what this franchise is undergoing right now, and likely for the foreseeable future. The stunning trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns all-but proves it. Gettleman, entering his second year as general manager, has now just about blown up whatever was left from the Jerry Reese era, and is rebuilding the Giants' from relative scratch.
In the last few days alone he's jettisoned two of his best defensive playmakers. Now the departure of Beckham, one of the NFL's top receivers, leaves the Giants barren on offense too.
Beckham, of course, was jettisoned to the Cleveland Browns, just seven months after signing a five-year, $90 million contract - and just 13 days after Gettleman repeated his mantra of "We didn't sign him to trade him". The Giants got a first-round pick (17th overall), a third-round pick, and third-year safety Jabrill Peppers in return.
If that doesn't seem like an overwhelming return for one of the game's most dynamic players, it's because it's not. It was simply the best the Giants could do. Gettleman had been willing to listen to offers for nearly a year for Beckham in part because he's become a distraction-prone, high-maintenance player. Gettleman has said one of his jobs as GM is to "eliminate distractions."
And that's fine. The problem is in this case he's not leaving much on the field.
Think of what the Giants are going to roll out there this season. Their No. 1 receiver will be Sterling Shepard - a nice No. 2 who is coming off his best season (66 catches, 872 yards, four touchdowns) and who by the way is unsigned beyond this year. Their No. 2 receiver is Corey Coleman, a failed first-round pick from 2016 who has never topped the 33 catches he had as a rookie. And their third receiver … well, let's just say Saquon Barkley can expect to get the ball a lot this year.
Beckham never looked like himself last season, his first since missing much of 2017 with an ankle injury, yet he still caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns despite being limited to 12 games by a hematoma in his leg. How are the Giants supposed to replace that? The Giants were supposedly encouraged by the play of their offense down the stretch, and believed they could score points even with 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning behind a rebuilt offensive line.
But if Manning was declining before, what's he going to look like now that the Giants have taken his best weapon away?
And even if the Giants do mount an offense, who's going to stop the other team? They had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL last season and just traded their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon (7 sacks in 11 games last season). The 25-year-old Collins, meanwhile, was a locker room leader and largely considered one of the best young safeties in the NFL. Getting the 23-year-old Peppers in return is good, but Collins' presence will still be hard to replace.
So yes, the on-field product will suffer. Whether the future looks brighter or not remains to be seen. With the sixth and 17th pick in the upcoming draft the Giants could land both the pass rusher they need and their quarterback of the future. They also have 10 other draft picks to fill many of their other holes.
But again, that's for the future. They are setting themselves up to get ready for the post-Manning Era, which will start in 2020 and likely not bring competitive football back to the franchise until 2021. That may be a reasonable thing to do - and realistically it may have been Gettleman's best option - but it's still painful for fans of a franchise that has missed the playoffs six of the last seven years.
It's almost certainly going to be seven of eight now, no matter how they try to sell it in the coming days. Sometimes franchises do need to be torn down and everyone needs to start over. And even if "rebuild" feels like a dirty word to Gettleman, it's now crystal clear he's all-in on that rebuild now.