Giants GM Joe Schoen speaks to reporters during the NFL Combine...

Giants GM Joe Schoen speaks to reporters during the NFL Combine on March 1 in Indianapolis. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Hickey

It ended with a news release, a seven-paragraph statement signaling the end of Dave Gettleman’s woeful run as the Giants’ general manager and one of the darkest eras in franchise history — no small statement, considering the Giants will celebrate a century’s worth of football in 2025.

Gettleman was afforded the dignity of stepping down despite running the Giants’ roster into a ditch and taking the salary-cap situation right along with it. He presided over a four-year period in which the team finished 19-46, with only three teams winning fewer games over that stretch. His missteps in the draft and free agency were at the heart of a miserable epoch, one that left the Giants reeling.

Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch had hoped to find the next George Young in Gettleman — a GM who could steer the team out of misfortune the way Young did after the nightmare of the late 1960s and ‘70s. Instead, their hiring set the franchise back incalculably. And if it wasn’t a big enough mistake naming Gettleman the GM in 2018, it was an even bigger error in judgment in retaining him after Pat Shurmur was fired at the conclusion of the 2019 season and smooth-talking Joe Judge was hired in 2020.

It is against that backdrop that Joe Schoen embarks on his first draft, a critically important time for the recently named GM. Not only did Gettleman leave behind a non-competitive roster, but the salary-cap problems were so onerous that Schoen could only bring in a handful of low-cost patches for a team desperately in need of a big fix. It would be one thing if the Giants were coming off a Super Bowl season and had to begin dismantling the roster the way other cap-strapped playoff participants have discovered. Instead, the Giants were 4-13 after a free-spending 2021 offseason netted nothing but disappointment.

Welcome to the show, Joe!

Schoen knew what he was getting into when he interviewed for the job and was ultimately selected from a solid group of candidates in January. He understood that the Giants’ cap situation meant he’d be going into the offseason with one financial hand tied behind his back. And he was under no illusions about the quality of his roster, which contributed to his “open for business” pronouncement at the Scouting Combine when asked if he’d consider trades, even of key players such as Saquon Barkley.

He eventually walked back the emphasis of that phrase after realizing it sounded as if he might be shopping Barkley. But it was nevertheless symbolic that Gettleman’s first important draft-day decision was at the heart of Schoen’s early steps at the helm.

Schoen must now succeed where Gettleman failed, with a mountain of decisions, the next of which will take place in this week’s three-day draft. It is especially critical that Schoen has better results early in the draft, which may have been Gettleman’s greatest undoing. Gettleman’s first-round stumbles have been critical to the team’s overall failure, starting with the selection of Barkley. There’s no debating Barkley was a special talent coming out of Penn State, but Gettleman selected him with the idea that he could provide an important weapon for Eli Manning, whom the GM believed had years left to his career at age 37. In fact, Manning’s career was effectively over after Barkley’s rookie season, because he was replaced by another of Gettleman’s controversial first-round picks. Barkley now enters the final year of his contract, and with a rebuilding team featuring far more pressing needs, it’s a reach to think the Giants will pay big money on a second contract.

Daniel Jones was taken sixth overall in 2019, and Gettleman pounded the table in defense of the Duke quarterback. But Jones hasn’t been the answer, either. And while part of his problem revolves around a poor surrounding cast Gettleman failed to improve in a meaningful way, the “eye test” tells you that Jones is what he is heading into Year 4: good, not great.

With Jones back for what could be his final season with the Giants, and with a better crop of quarterbacks on the horizon in 2023, Schoen isn’t expected to select Jones’ successor this week. But if he comes away with a top offensive tackle, cornerback or pass rusher with picks five and seven, and if he can find decent talent in the lower rounds, he will have at least charted a proper early path out of the muck that is the Giants’ roster.

Gettleman’s checkered first-round record also includes wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the 2021 pick who is already being considered for a trade because of an uneven rookie season in which he was injured for much of the year and a work ethic that has come into question. Perhaps not coincidentally after the trade speculation, Toney showed up for Monday’s offseason voluntary workout program after missing the first week.

Just another complication for Schoen as he goes about the task of undoing his predecessor’s mistakes. There is a mountain of work ahead for the first-year GM, and the draft provides an important window of opportunity.

Schoen understands failure is not an option.

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