The New York Giants' decision to hire Dave Gettleman was puzzling at the time, back in December of 2017. Gettleman deserved credit for helping the Carolina Panthers return to the Super Bowl but was fired two years later and the second-most notable storyline of his Carolina regime revolved around running franchise legend Steve Smith out of town. Familiarity, though, matters a lot in the NFL, and Giants owner John Mara was very familiar with Gettleman after the personnel man spent 14 years within the organization's scouting department.
Rarely does a hire prove so quickly to be a mistake. It's actually quite a remarkable job by Gettleman. He made headlines in a bad way ahead of his first draft with Big Blue as he railed against the analytics movement and sounded very much like a man living 20 years in the past. He then proved those quotes weren't for show and drafted Saquon Barkley second overall despite the obvious decline of the value of running backs in the modern NFL.
That's a pick that can be forgiven if everything else breaks right. Barkley's talent level is high enough to justify it if the team around him is built correctly. Gettleman, as we've seen, failed to do that. His next two top draft picks, Daniel Jones (No. 6 in 2019) and Andrew Thomas (No. 4 in 2020) are both on track to bust status. It's too early to consider the jury out on both players, but the returns so far reflect badly on the man who made the call to select them.
Jones has shown flashes of starting potential in his first two seasons, and the 2019 draft was very bad for quarterbacks in a year the Giants really needed one. At least Jones, unlike Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock, is still starting for the team that drafted him. But there hasn't been the progress that a high first-round pick should exhibit, especially at quarterback. It's been the opposite, in fact. After throwing for 24 TDs and 11 interceptions as a rookie, Jones managed only 11 TDs with 10 picks as a sophomore. Those aren't exactly numbers that inspire thoughts of Jones as the long-term future.
Thomas has been substantially worse. He started at left tackle from the get-go with New York and was one of the worst rookie lineman in the NFL. That happens and it doesn't mean Thomas is going to be a terrible player forever, but the selection makes Gettleman look all the worse because out of the four tackles taken in the first round of the 2020 draft, Thomas was easily the worst. And he was taken before everyone else.
Neither of those two guys appeared to have made much progress, either. Preseason games are made for overreaction to good performances, and those who do so often look silly in retrospect. But when a player looks bad in a preseason game, it's usually far more telling. Last night's Patriots-Giants game showed how little Jones and Thomas have come along. Thomas was a turnstile all night, giving up two sacks in the first two drives.
Jones, meanwhile, mustered 135 yards and one touchdown pass. Not a bad night in preseason. But it also took him 17 completions on 22 attempts to even get to 135 yards, and his one interception on the night is something you'd expect to see from a low-round rookie, not a former top-10 pick.
As I said, it's remarkable that Gettleman's first three meaningful picks have all been net negatives for one reason or the other. Barkley had a good rookie season on a team that won four games before tearing his ACL. Jones has struggled to show anything resembling quality quarterback play, potential be damned. Thomas looks like the worst of the bunch and is giving fans unpleasant flashbacks of another first-round bust named Ereck Flowers.
The Giants have gone 10-30 in their first 40 games under Gettleman. The only reason the Giants aren't seen as a nuclear disaster at this stage is because the NFC East is so bad New York was still in the divisional race in the final week of the 2020 season despite finishing at 6-10.
Gettleman has done nothing to prove he deserves this job. The Giants' drafts over the last three years have produced very few starting-caliber players. That's not all a GM's job is about, but Gettleman came up in the scouting department. It's supposed to be his MO. Yet it's been the biggest area of failure during his latest stint with the Giants.
New York does not look like a good team in 2021. Gettleman's biggest draft mistakes will likely be the strongest contributing factor to that, too. Unless the Giants shock the world and come together as a legitimate playoff team, Gettleman's time must be up.