EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dave Gettleman was well aware of how angry fans were as the walls of the Giants franchise collapsed around him this season. He knew the outside world questioned his decisions. He could feel the heat in his office.
Yet he still refused to come out.
"I was feeling guilty about it," Gettleman said on Tuesday in his first press conference in more than five months. "I felt guilty that Pat (Shurmur) was up there taking the bullets."
He should have felt guilty.
He should have done something about it, too.
Maybe his decision to hide wasn't as costly as, say, trading two draft picks for a two-month evaluation of a free-agent-to-be, but it has to be one of the biggest mistakes of Gettleman's two years in charge of the Giants. He has been startlingly inaccessible -- even moreso than his nearly invisible predecessor, Jerry Reese. And his refusal to speak publicly, to explain himself, has created an aura of arrogance.
It's also allowed an angry media and fanbase to fill the vacuum, which was never going to go well with a record of 9-23.
Gettleman, of course, should know better having now spent 16 years working in the world's largest media market. He should've also known better from his eight years working under Ernie Accorsi, perhaps the most accessible executive in the history of sports. Accorsi understood not only that he owed the paying customers explanations and information, but also that getting his side of every decision out there could only help his cause.
Refusing to talk only makes it seems like the fans don't deserve any explanations. That's fine if you're Bill Belichick and your hands are weighed down by championship rings. Gettleman's hands are not.
Now, he's right that he's not alone in his stubborn silence. He said he had Pat Hanlon, the Giants VP of communications look around the league to see what other GMs were doing, and they are correct that most GMs don't talk at all during the season. But just because it's a trend doesn't make it a good one. Also, what plays in Charlotte or Green Bay or San Diego or under all those banners up in Foxboro isn't necessarily going to work in New York.
But really, the market shouldn't matter. Executives and owners throughout sports want you to throw your money away on Personal Seat Licenses, fill your Christmas stockings with merchandise, spend hundreds of dollars on TV packages or concessions at a game. The very least they can do in return is stand in front of the cameras and microphones and explain what's gone wrong, and why your money will be better spent in the future.
And don't pretend this is just a media issue, either. Of course reporters would like more access, but nothing about our job changes if Gettleman doesn't talk. Reporters have plenty of sources in and around the organization to still give readers and viewers insight into what's going on with the Giants. The stories will be written and TV segments will be aired, no matter what.
But nothing compares to getting information directly from the source -- or sources -- and that's where fans lose when they hide.
The worst part, perhaps, is that Gettleman could only help his own cause and image by speaking more. Yes, he can come across as arrogant at times, but he can also be charming, folksy and engaging. He offers information and insight, too, to anyone willing to listen. There's a lot to learn about what he's thinking and doing when he talks.
And that matters. Consider the season-long furor over the fact that the Giants brought back Eli Manning and his cap hit of $23 million only to bench him after two games for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. It seemed like a ridiculous financial decision -- a poor miscalculation by the GM, who never poked his head out of his office to explain why.
Finally, on Tuesday, he did. He touted all the ways Manning's presence helped Jones, how the rookie couldn't learn from anyone better. And he also admitted that while they believed Jones would be a terrific quarterback "We really didn't know he'd come that fast."
That's understandable. It makes sense. And even if you don't agree with the move, at least now you know what Gettleman was thinking.
If only he had said that back in September, soon after the decision was made.
He could've helped himself too by explaining the Leonard Williams trade back in Octboer instead of doing a softball interview on the subject with the team website -- though that move is probably a little harder to explain. He could've helped his own cause at any point by stepping forward and discussing his vision of the future, what he thought of his young players, and by showing the disillusioned fans that he really does have a plan.
Instead, he offered nothing but silence, which never, ever works. When someone hides it makes them look like they are simply unaccountable. It builds anger and resentment and forces other people to answer for them. Reporters are asked constantly "What is Gettleman doing? What are the Giants thinking?"
We can answer. We certainly have enough information to make educated guesses. But it's always better for Giants fans to hear directly from Gettleman or John Mara instead.
When they don't, they appear to be cowering. They project weakness. And Gettleman seems to know it, too.
"I'm concerned about that very much," he said. "That's why we're going to address it."
Hopefully that's true. Hopefully everyone will hear a lot more from Gettleman in the future. Fans don't have to like his answers, but they absolutely deserve to hear what he has to say.