Dave Gettleman used to sit on the front porch of the apartment building where he grew up in Boston and just observe. For hours, he said, he would notice how folks walked, talked and behaved when they weren’t even aware anyone was looking. Certainly not some kid on the stoop.
“I’m an inveterate people watcher,” he said. “I’d watch people. My father told me that you can learn a lot by doing that, and he was absolutely right.”
It’s a skill that he’ll bring with him to Indianapolis this week as he attends the NFL Scouting Combine for the first time as general manager of the Giants. So while other people are busy writing down split times for 40-yard dashes and counting off bench press reps — things Gettleman calls “that height-weight-speed silliness” — he’ll essentially be back on the porch of that triple-decker apartment building, quietly taking mental notes on all of the prospects.
“A lot of it is just watching how guys carry themselves and how they interact with other people and how they are on the floor,” he said. “It’s another piece of the puzzle.”
There are, Gettleman said, a lot of pieces. In an exclusive interview with Newsday on Friday, the general manager who will have been on the job for less than two months when he arrives in Indianapolis early this week spoke about what he wants to accomplish at this year’s Combine, what he’s looking for in potential future Giants, and why he will not be coming home with a conviction on what he’ll do with the No. 2 overall pick in late April.
“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he’ll have made that critical decision by the time the Combine ends. “There is a whole lot more information to gather. I’ve heard stories about teams setting their boards in February and that’s where they sit. That’s not my philosophy. I want all the information so I can make an informed decision. I don’t have any preconceived notions, I just let the process play out. You have to respect the process, and the process doesn’t end until you’ve done Indy, gone out to the Pro Days, had visits with kids both here and at their campuses, and then we gather up all the information. I’m a firm believer in respecting the process. You take short cuts, you’re going to make mistakes. I can’t sit here in early March and decide who I’m taking with the second pick in the draft. It’s silly.”
Making it even more ludicrous, he said, is that he doesn’t know what the roster will look like in April.
“The purpose of free agency is to set yourself up for the draft,” he said. “You do the UFA signings and then you see where your roster is, and then you move forward. In the ideal world you don’t have to go into the draft with a forced need. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to take a ‘fill in the blank.’ You can go in where you can legitimately take the best player available at each pick.”
Determining those players will take on a different form this season. Unlike his predecessor, Jerry Reese, who was often enamored by potential and athleticism, Gettleman will be more focused on production and intelligence, and more focused on the 60 player interviews the Giants are allowed to conduct at the Combine.
“One of the biggest adjustments these guys make is the mental part of the game,” he said. “A lot of them come from systems that are fairly simple and they’re not asked to do a lot, so we have basically a football interview. We have film and they talk us through everything. We’re trying to find out how much football they know, which is really important.”
That’s not to say Gettleman will eschew the on-field data. The vertical jump, broad jump, and the 20-yard shuttle are the three drills he said “give you an indication of a guy’s athletic ability and explosion.” He also said he’ll keep an eye on things like the throwing mechanics of quarterbacks or the hand placement of receivers.
But those in-line dashes and sprints? Not for Gettleman.
“I’m a big believer in play speed and not time speed,” he said. “If time speed was the answer then we should all be at track meets.”
Gettleman’s changes in philosophy and method have had to trickle down to all of the scouts in the organization, and in a hurry. They Giants were fairly far along in their write-ups of college players when Reese was fired in early December and Marc Ross, the team’s former vice president of player evaluation, was fired later in the month when Gettleman took over. At the Senior Bowl in mid-January Gettleman first explained to the scouts what he is looking for, and over the past two weeks the team had nine days of meetings to dive deeper into those new strategies and reinforce the approach.
“You’re trying to get a handle on everything as quickly as you can because time is of the essence,” Gettleman said. “Once time goes, that’s it. You can’t make it up. I think we’ve been diligent in getting things done and I feel like we’re in a real good place right now.”
As an organization, and personally as well.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “We’ve had the nine days of draft meetings and really got a lot accomplished. You just have to keep pushing the ball forward. It’s been good. It’s been really good. We’re all adjusting and I’m very, very pleased with the direction we’re going.”