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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

A franchise quarterback selection by Dave Gettleman would be defining moment as GM

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman at the NFL

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 27, 2019. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

INDIANAPOLIS – Giants general manager Dave Gettleman admits he is “spoiled as hell” when it comes to working for organizations with big-time quarterbacks.

“Are you kidding me?” he said Wednesday at the combine. “[Jim] Kelly, [John] Elway, [Eli] Manning, Cam Newton. Not bad, huh?”

Not bad at all. The one thing Gettleman hasn’t done: draft one of those franchise quarterbacks. Now it’s time to see whether he has what it takes to find a quarterback to lead the Giants in the coming years.

If he can find the second coming of Manning – or Kelly, Elway or Newton – then Gettleman will have etched his name in Giants history. If not, the franchise will suffer unmistakable and potentially long-lasting consequences.

“Listen, I have one of the best consiglieres of all time,” Gettleman said of former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi. He drafted Manning in 2004 and set the stage for two Super Bowl championships when Gettleman was the Giants’ pro personnel director. “What Ernie did for the Giants, it would be a dream for me to do the same thing.”

He may have that chance next month.

Gettleman has the sixth overall pick and could select a highly respected quarterback that high. It could be Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, who may be too small at 5-10 for a GM who would prefer a prototypical pocket passer 5 or 6 inches taller. It could be Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, who has the size and arm strength Gettleman covets. Or it could be Drew Lock of Missouri, Duke’s Daniel Jones or Ryan Finley of North Carolina State, all of whom likely will be available at a lower spot.

It is of immediate and long-range concern that Gettleman squares away his quarterback situation, because at 38 Manning is clearly near the end of his run. While coach Pat Shurmur believes Manning will be back this season on the final year of his contract, Gettleman demurred. He wouldn’t guarantee Manning would be back, although he did defend him.

“The narrative has been so negative, when you take that position, you have trouble getting off that spot,” Gettleman said. “The narrative has been negative, and I don’t think it’s fair.”

Fair or not, it is reasonable to suggest that Manning no longer can be viewed as the answer. For years, he’d been the one constant on the roster, the player you didn’t have to worry about. He has shown signs of still being able to lift an offense, but that happens only when everything around him is going well – as was the case through much of the second half of last season. It is clear, however, that the Giants can’t keep relying on Manning, and that his heir apparent must soon be found.

Gettleman remains optimistic he can be the one to get that player, although the feeling here is he missed out last year on a perfect opportunity. With Gettleman and his staff split on their evaluations of the quarterbacks available, he opted for a sure thing in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

Barkley turned in a splendid performance in 2018, winning Associated Press Rookie of the Year honors over Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. But by not selecting Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, Gettleman missed out on a chance to find his next quarterback. Darnold showed plenty of promise last year and appears to have given Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan his own signature quarterback.

Gettleman remains unapologetic about drafting Barkley and stands by his choice. But unless he can find the right quarterback – this year or certainly no later than next year – then he will be open to justified second-guessing about taking a running back over a quarterback.

Gettleman is at the very beginning of the evaluation process and will take a careful look at the prospects gathered here for the yearly look-see at future NFL starters. He doesn’t have his mind made up, nor will he definitively set his board until shortly before the draft. He may go defense with his first pick if he’s not sold on a quarterback being available at No. 6 overall.

But if he does decide there is a quarterback to his liking, he’ll go for it. And he won’t be afraid of investing future draft picks to make it happen, as Accorsi did in his draft-day trade to get Manning from the Chargers.

“No guts, no glory,” Gettleman said of the possibility of making a deal up the board.

Gettleman hopes to do as his mentor did 15 years ago. Even if the 68-year-old Massachusetts native enjoys the fruits of that decision from afar.

“I would love to draft a franchise quarterback for this place and then watch him from Cape Cod and enjoy the hell out of him,” Gettleman said. “That’d be a gift.”

For him, and for a Giants organization desperately in need of a long-term answer at quarterback.

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