And so ends one of the most brutal runs by a general manager in the history of New York sports. Now the Giants are left to clean up the mess left behind by Dave Gettleman.
In a widely anticipated move, Gettleman announced his retirement on Monday, less than 24 hours after the team he assembled completed a hideous 4-13 season with a desultory 22-7 loss to the Washington Football Team at a mostly empty MetLife Stadium.
Gettleman slinked out of the office shortly after telling the players he would be leaving, issued a statement through the team in which he expressed his disappointment that things weren’t better, and walked off into his NFL sunset without taking any questions about his wretched 19-46 record.
"We obviously have not had the on-the-field success I expected, and that is disappointing," Gettleman said. "However, I have many fond memories here, including two Super Bowl victories, and I wish the organization only the best moving forward."
Those two Super Bowls came when Gettleman was a personnel executive under Jerry Reese, who succeeded Ernie Accorsi after the 2006 season and was in charge for two title runs. But when the front-office buck stopped with Gettleman from 2018-21, the results were woeful.
He mistakenly selected a running back with the second overall pick in 2018, and no matter how good Saquon Barkley was at Penn State, you don’t start the reconstruction of a team by drafting the way they did in the 1970s and ’80s. Barkley’s injuries the last two seasons underscored the perils of investing too much in a running back in a passing league.
And let’s not forget the reason Gettleman settled on Barkley and not a quarterback that season. He contended Eli Manning had years left — yes, it was years, with an "s" — of good football. He even suggested that Manning’s 434-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Eagles, which came two weeks after a benching that resulted in the firing of coach Ben McAdoo and Reese, was no mirage. Manning made 18 more starts before being replaced.
Gettleman overdrafted Daniel Jones with the sixth overall selection in 2019, and though Jones showed modest improvement before suffering a season-ending neck injury in November, he hasn’t answered the question of whether he can be an elite quarterback.
Or maybe he has. Maybe what he has been is what he will be — a serviceable quarterback with a limited upside.
Gettleman’s biggest failure was not rebuilding the offensive line, a project he confidently suggested would be a no-brainer upon taking the job. He said he’d get his "hog mollies" to stock the line to protect his quarterback and open holes for his running backs — and it never happened. Left tackle Andrew Thomas is the only lineman Gettleman drafted in four years.
The roster he left behind is in shambles, and coach Joe Judge’s future remains uncertain as the team searches for Gettleman’s replacement.
It is incumbent upon co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch not to force Judge on their next GM. If they tell that next executive that Judge must remain, they will be making the same mistake they did when they looked for a GM who believed Manning still had a lot of football left.
Gettleman was a familiar face, having previously been in the organization before becoming the Panthers’ GM. And when he told Mara and Tisch that he believed in Manning, that was a deciding factor in their move to hire him.
No, this time they cannot foist the coach on the new GM. If the best candidate believes in giving Judge at least one more season, then it’s something to consider. But if the top choice wants a different coach, Mara and Tisch must be willing to part ways with Judge.
The players were left largely in the dark on Monday, with Judge speaking to them as if he’ll be back. But Judge never held his usual postmortem with reporters on Monday, leading to speculation that his status remains undecided.
Several players spoke highly of Judge before departing Monday, but that means nothing. What else are they supposed to say about someone who might be their boss next season?
But Mara and Tisch must be mindful of the diminished reputation of their coach, who is 10-23 in his two seasons and has come off poorly the last two weeks in taking shots at predecessor Pat Shurmur and at the Washington team that beat the Giants on Sunday.
"This ain’t a team that’s having fistfights on the sidelines," Judge said during an 11-minute rant after a Week 17 loss to the Bears, appearing to reference Washington. "This ain’t some clown show organization or something else, OK?"
After losing to coach Ron Rivera on Sunday before a defeated MetLife Stadium crowd, there’s nothing left for Judge to say. Now that the failed GM who approved his hire is gone, you wonder how much longer he’ll get to stick around.