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April 18, 2019

Did Dave Gettleman even watch the Giants last season?

March 19, 2019

Dave Gettleman incredibly said Monday that “there really wasn’t a decision to make” on bringing Eli Manning back in 2019, the greatest jaw-dropping hit of a conference call laced with spin on the GM’s Odell Beckham Jr. trade.

“This narrative that Eli’s overpaid and can’t play is a crock,” said Gettleman, treating Manning’s $5 million roster bonus that locked in Sunday as a mere formality. “With the way we ended the season and what he’s making, there really wasn’t a decision to make.”

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The horror. Outrageous.

The GM’s comment pretends there wasn’t internal discussion about other, better options at quarterback this offseason (there was). It pretends some members of the Giants’ brass weren’t fully aware during and after last season that a change was not only inevitable but required.

And it spits in the face of all Giants fans and tells them it’s raining.

Does Dave Gettleman know what he’s doing? (Julio Cortez / AP)

You think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was grateful when Gettleman traded Beckham? He might throw Gettleman a party for this one. You know Jerry, too: he’d spare no expense.

Here is the crazy part, too: Gettleman, as we’ve been trying to tell you, is trying to simultaneously win in 2019 while also building for the future. He is straddling the line between two clear directions rather than picking one, which is why the Giants remain in limbo.

He won’t even use the word rebuilding. That’s how much winning in 2019 — more specifically, winning with Manning — matters to ownership. And of course, that’s where the accountability for this decision ultimately rests, with co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

We will hear from them in about a week at the NFL Owners’ meetings in Phoenix, Ariz. In the famous words of Terrell Owens, get your popcorn ready.

“We’re building,” Gettleman said. “The object of this is to win as many games as possible every year … You can win when you’re building.”

The gut punch of the Giants’ publicized aim to win in 2019, though, is the accompanying sales job that somehow trading Beckham and Olivier Vernon, letting Landon Collins walk, and retaining Manning makes the Giants a better team now than they were in February.

Gettleman, who insisted in his press release last week that “we do have a plan,” resented being asked to describe what exactly his plan entails.

“It’s not my responsibility to tell you guys what I’m doing, just like it’s not my job to respond to every rumor that comes down the pike,” he said, alluding to his NFL Combine stance that reports and questions about trading Beckham were only rumors. (True arrogance; he just traded the guy).

The problem is, however, that Gettleman owes a much greater explanation than his insincere ‘thanks for your contributions’ send-off to Beckham last week. The GM is not negotiating from a position of strength.

He just gave Beckham a five-year, $90 million contract in August, including just under $21.5 million for the 2018 season alone, and traded him. Since Beckham was due to make around $8.5 million in 2018 on his fifth-year option before signing the extension, this means the Giants paid him an extra $13 million for the season — or more than $1 million a game (12 played).

This is not a mistake a GM typically can escape. In fact, some sources doubted a Beckham trade was coming last fall based sheerly on how ridiculous it would be for Gettleman to admit such a gross error, pay an extra $13 million in 2018 and eat $16 million in dead money in 2019.

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Gettleman did it anyway, which at least reinforces the GM’s most admirable quality: he has conviction, and he will do something if he thinks it is right, even if it means he will be criticized. The problem is this organization also is intensely stubborn, and having conviction about mistakes only digs a deeper hole.

That’s where the spin comes in. Nothing is more nauseating than listening to Gettleman argue that this is on the right track by saying he inherited a three-win team in 2017 and then won five games and lost several more close ones in 2018.

Has the Giants organization fallen so precipitously that a five-win season is measured as progress? That’s a rhetorical question. That kind of thinking doesn’t belong in the building. Just like anyone who believes there was no decision to make on Manning being the 2019 starter doesn’t belong in a position of authority here either.

A lot of Odell Beckham spin to digest.
A lot of Odell Beckham spin to digest. (Tom Canavan / AP)

As far as the Beckham trade, the Cliffs Notes version is Gettleman said he only initiated a call with the Buffalo Bills to gauge their interest in OBJ after the Antonio Brown trade fell through. He also said the San Francisco 49ers had been interested consistently but they just never could agree on a price, and the Browns won the sweepstakes. (The GM for some reason left out last spring’s initial conversations with the L.A. Rams, the news of which kicked off Beckham’s market that culminated in last week’s trade).

Gettleman said he didn’t trade Collins at last year’s trade deadline in part because they didn’t receive a good enough offer and also because “what message are we sending by trading him?” It appears to be lost on him that it sent a similarly discouraging message by letting Collins walk out the door to Washington.

The GM, meanwhile, called the Beckham trade “a football business decision” that he “did not take lightly.” But despite Gettleman’s best efforts to conceal the drama that prompted this deal — and to rationalize the low return of the trade — the reality is the drama and OBJ’s lack of support of Manning were big factors. The Giants wanted to move Beckham, and Gettleman did it at a lower price to get that done.

The cherry on top, though, was Gettleman’s insistence that the Giants offense looked great late in 2018 and that this proves Manning’s still the obvious choice at QB.

Ignore the 1-7 first half of the season. Ignore that Pat Shurmur needed Beckham to throw his second TD pass of the season to galvanize a dead offense against Chicago in Week 13; that the Titans shut out the Giants, 17-0, in Week 15; that Week 16 and 17 losses to the Colts and Cowboys ended on a Manning interception and turnover on downs, respectively.

And pretend that Manning’s play in 2018 didn’t warrant the “very extensive conversation” that Gettleman had with the QB on breakup day, Dec. 31.

Because if Gettleman truly doesn’t believe there even was a decision to make on Manning this offseason, then he simply wasn’t doing his job.

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