Giants general manager Dave Gettleman speaks to the media on Dec....

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman speaks to the media on Dec. 31, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Dave Gettleman has had a contentious run as the Giants’ general manager, with criticism delivered his way on a number of fronts since he took over from Jerry Reese in 2018.

There was his draft selection of running back Saquon Barkley over a quarterback with the second overall pick in 2018. Signing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a $95 million contract and trading him a year later was a head-scratcher. His decision to take quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall draft pick in 2019 was widely panned. And his trade for underachieving Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams midway through last season, with no guarantee Williams would be with the team this season, was broadly second-guessed.

Judging a general manager’s efficacy often takes years, and it may not be until Jones shows that he is truly worthy of being the long-term answer at quarterback that Gettleman’s tenure will be considered a successful one.

That said, there have been encouraging signs in recent months that the decisions he has made have gone a long way toward putting the team on a path toward success.

The Giants enter Sunday’s game with the Cardinals on their first four-game winning streak since the 2016 season. First-year coach Joe Judge, who received Gettleman’s blessing during a hiring process in which co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch had final say, has the team headed in the right direction after an 0-5 start.

Many of the players Judge is coaching have been brought in during Gettleman’s run, and while some didn’t show enough during the previous two seasons under Pat Shurmur, they have begun to blossom with the vastly improved coaching of Judge and his staff.

Williams’ play has been a central part of the Giants’ defensive improvement. With a career-high 8 ½ sacks, he has reinvigorated the pass rush and is showing why he was worth the No. 6 overall pick in 2015.

Gettleman was forced into using the franchise tag to retain Williams’ contractual rights this season, but he is performing beyond his $16.1 million salary. It remains to be seen whether Gettleman can keep Williams long-term, but the Giants certainly will have the advantage of creating an atmosphere in which Williams could thrive. That could go a long way toward a decision by Williams to remain with the team on his next contract.

One of Gettleman’s most important free-agent acquisitions this year was cornerback James Bradberry, who was drafted in Carolina when Gettleman was the Panthers’ GM. Bradberry has been one of the league’s most impactful shutdown corners, as his performance in Sunday’s shocking 17-12 win over the Seahawks in Seattle showed. The NFL’s leading receiver, DK Metcalf, shadowed by Bradberry for most of the game, was held to five catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns.

Blake Martinez was another hit in free agency. The former Packers linebacker has solidified the middle of the defense and leads the team with 111 tackles. The Giants hope a back injury he suffered last week in Seattle isn’t too serious, although he missed practice this week.

Free-agent kicker Graham Gano has been so automatic all season that the Giants extended his contract last month. He is 26-for-27 on field-goal attempts.

After Logan Ryan spent his entire career as a cornerback for the Patriots and Titans, Gettleman signed him to a one-year deal as a safety after rookie Xavier McKinney suffered a leg injury in training camp. Ryan has been a revelation for this defense, not only transforming his skill set to the safety position but adding a leadership element that was more than anyone could have expected.

Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, drafted in the first round in 2019 with a pick acquired from the Beckham trade, is showing signs of being an impactful player on a defensive front that now is among the best in the game.

Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas, chosen fourth overall in the 2020 draft, started off slowly this year but has been a rock in pass protection the last several weeks.

Jabrill Peppers, another player acquired in the Beckham deal, has been excellent at safety and has added value as a punt returner.

The addition of young players such as defensive end Jabaal Sheard, linebackers Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown, and defensive backs Darnay Holmes and Isaac Yiadom has provided important role players whom defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has used smartly.

Jones’ development certainly will carry a lot of weight in the final analysis of Gettleman’s tenure, and he showed signs of improvement before suffering a hamstring injury against the Bengals two weeks ago. If he eventually develops into a trustworthy quarterback who is capable of becoming a consistent playoff contender, the Giants will have solved their most vexing post-Eli Manning issue.

And Gettleman will have solidified his case as a general manager who overcame some questionable decisions early on yet built the Giants into a reliable team for the long haul.

Belichick pays tribute to Perkins

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to pass during the second half...

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to pass during the second half against the Jets on Oct. 18 in Miami Gardens, Fla. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

Bill Belichick got his start with the Giants in 1979, when Ray Perkins hired him as a defensive assistant and special teams coach. Belichick would go on to become the most accomplished coach in NFL history, winning six Super Bowl titles as the Patriots’ head coach and two as the Giants’ defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells.

After learning of Perkins’ death this past week at age 79, Belichick paid tribute to the man who gave him his start in New York and helped his career to flourish.

"Ray gave me an opportunity in ‘79 to go with the Giants and that was a life-changing moment for me," Belichick said Friday. "I learned a lot from him in those four years with the Giants. We developed a very close relationship and I appreciate all that he did for that program, which was terrible when he took over in ‘79, to make it a highly competitive team in ‘81 and ‘82 was a strike year. And then Coach Parcells took over, he built that into a championship organization. So certainly Bill did a tremendous job there and deserves all the credit that he’s gotten for the two championships and for the growth of that franchise."

Perkins’ contributions are not to be taken lightly, however.

"I think [Parcells] would tell you, and I would certainly say, that Ray had a lot to do with setting the tone and the first four years of that development from ‘79 to ‘82 when that team and that franchise was obviously at the very bottom of the league," Belichick said. "Ray was, as a former player and coach, he had a good perspective on the game. He played for two of the greatest coaches of all time [Bear Bryant and Don Shula]. And his level of competitiveness and toughness was about as good as anybody I’ve ever been around."

Belichick called Perkins "a good man and a good coach and a man who really loved football. He was very successful at a lot of different levels — college player, pro player, college coach, pro coach, even building the program at Jones Community College there. A very loyal person I have a ton of respect for."

Tua on a roll

Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has won four of his five starts since replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter, and he has been exceedingly careful with the football. Consider: In those five starts, he hasn’t thrown a single interception and has seven touchdown passes. He leads all rookie quarterbacks with a 99.4 passer rating.

He has his work cut out in Sunday’s matchup against defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. But if he keeps his streak alive, he’ll become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to not throw an interception in his first six starts.

Donald the dominant

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald tackles Browns running back Nick...

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald tackles Browns running back Nick Chubb during the first half on Sept. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. Credit: AP/David Dermer

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has double-digit sacks in four straight seasons, increasing his career total to 84 ½. Donald, who has 12 ½ sacks this season after getting 1 ½ in the Rams’ 24-3 win over the Patriots on Thursday night, surpassed Jared Allen (83) and Von Miller (83 ½) and moved into fourth place among players with the most sacks in their first seven seasons since 1982.

Donald soon will pass Derrick Thomas (85), although he isn’t in striking distance of DeMarcus Ware (99 ½) and Reggie White (110).

Around the league

Kirk Cousin of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass in the...

Kirk Cousin of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass in the first half against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 6, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Cowboys rank last in the NFL with 2,014 rushing yards allowed and have given up an average of 5.2 yards per rush. It’s a big reason the team will fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after the season . . . Huge matchup on Sunday in Tampa, where the 7-5 Buccaneers will host the 6-6 Vikings in a game that will have NFC wild-card implications. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been hot of late, throwing for at least three touchdowns and 300 yards in each of his last three games. Tom Brady, meanwhile, comes off the bye after a mediocre performance in a 27-24 loss to Kansas City. Brady has thrown 11 interceptions, which is close to his career high of 14. Maybe the Bucs will wise up and not have Brady wing the ball down the field so often, instead relying on his accuracy on mid-level throws to move the chains . . . Philip Rivers hasn’t been great for the Colts this year, but he's been good enough to give the team an 8-4 record and first place in the AFC South. Rivers, who will face the Raiders — his former AFC West rival — on Sunday in Las Vegas, has thrown more career touchdown passes against the Raiders (47) than against any other opponent . . . Aaron Rodgers looks to extend the Packers’ lead in the NFC North against Detroit on Sunday. He’s No. 1 in the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and is the first quarterback in NFL history with five career seasons of at least 35 scoring throws.


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