EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dave Gettleman believes in Daniel Jones as strongly as ever and is excited about the prospects for the Giants' offensive line. He is also dissatisfied the team averaged only 17.5 points a game in 2020.
Because of that, the general manager today had no reason to be coy regarding the franchise's objectives as it enters a critical offseason.
"At the end of the day, we need to find playmakers," Gettleman said during his annual postseason news conference on Zoom. "That's all there is to it. I'm not sugarcoating it. If you talk about philosophically doing roster building, it's the Q (quarterback), it's the big men who allow you to compete. On offense, it's playmakers. We have to be very conscious of it. We're going to find the right guys to help Daniel get us over that hump.
"We've got great leadership. We've got a young club, a new, young team. I understand that. At the end of the day, this is an important offseason, roster building offseason, for us. We've got some solid pieces. We've built up the lines. We've done some things. We have to continue to get good players and part of it is getting playmakers, because that's what you're referring to. This is a goal of ours, obviously, for the offseason."
On his own Zoom call with reporters, team president and chief executive officer John Mara expressed a similar sentiment.
"I think we certainly need to help our offense a little bit this offseason, be it free agency and the draft," Mara said. "I think we need some more pieces there. Part of the problem that we had is we had a brand new offensive line with new guys playing new positions. They had never played together before, we had no offseason, we had no preseason games for them to get to know each other and get the feel for playing with one another, and they struggled, particularly early in the year, no question about it. I thought they started to play better in the second half of the season. But there's no question that we need to help our offense going forward and add some more pieces. That will be a priority for us."
The Giants were 6-10 and NFC East second-place finishers in 2020. Despite the record, they would be preparing for a postseason game as division champions had Washington lost to Philadelphia Sunday night.
Gettleman acknowledges the roster must be upgraded before the 2021 season begins. But he strongly believes the Giants have the two elements most critical to any improvement with Joe Judge as coach and Jones at quarterback.
"The bottom line is, with Joe, is his big picture view and then the follow up on the attention to detail," Gettleman said. "That's what's really critical. He starts at A and gets to Z. That is huge, that is really huge. Obviously, he is a very bright guy. That's what really sticks out in my mind. Just the big picture and the attention to detail. No detail is too small, the old saying, 'The devil is in the details.' He and his staff, he is really tuned into that."
Gettleman selected Jones sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and he's more convinced than ever that it was the correct decision.
"Obviously, he flashed last year," Gettleman said of Jones' rookie season. "He had some big games and played well. Then he had games that weren't so great. This year, early in the season he was struggling with his ball protection. We all know that. The second half of the year unfortunately he had that blip with the hamstring (and missed two games). He finished the season very strong. He played well against Baltimore despite getting chased all over the place to a degree. Made some big-time throws."
In the season-ending 23-19 victory against Dallas on Sunday, Jones completed 17 of 25 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a season-best 106.9 passer rating. That would have put the Giants into the postseason had the Philadelphia Eagles defeated Washington that night.
"Really and truly, it may sound trite, but obviously the last game of the year was a playoff game for us, it really was," Gettleman said. "We have to win that game to force Washington to win their game. Daniel played very well. He made a couple of big-time throws. Protected the ball for the most part. The one pick was off of Evan's (Engram) hands. He's done a lot of really good stuff. He's made of the right stuff mentally and physically. Again, we're talking about a young quarterback who has had two different offensive coordinators in the NFL. Two different systems. Obviously, he had a different one at Duke, so he got three different systems in three years. I thought he got beyond the hamstring the last two games and he played well. We have complete confidence in him moving forward."
Upgrading the offensive line has been one of Gettleman's priorities since he arrived. This year, the group had three new starters in left tackle Andrew Thomas (the team's 2020 first-round draft choice) left guard Shane Lemieux (a fifth-round selection) and center Nick Gates, a third-year pro who had never before played the position. Communication and continuity are considered critical for an O-line and as Mara noted, this group (which early in the season had Will Hernandez at left guard) had to develop a rapport via virtual meetings and training camp practices.
"We've got some really nice, young pieces," Gettleman said. "Nick Gates stepped in there. He'd never played offensive center before. We drafted Will (Hernandez) and Shane Lemieux. You have (Kevin) Zeitler and Andrew Thomas who acquitted himself very well when he had that rough patch and then he got himself rolling again. I think this offensive line can compete. You can cherry pick here, cherry pick there, in terms of which game you want to pick and how the offense did. The offensive line showed very good progress. They're big, they're young, they're strong and they're tough and smart. This O-Line has a chance to be pretty damn good."
The defensive line already is, most notably Leonard Williams. Gettleman was roundly criticized at midseason in 2019 when he sent three and fifth-round draft choices to the Jets for Williams, a first-round draft choice in 2015. Williams was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice following two of the final five games, including after his career-high three-sack performance against Dallas. He finished the season with a team-high and career-best 11.5 sacks.
"Leonard deserves a lot of credit for how he prepared this year," Gettleman said. "Sean Spencer working with him as the D-line coach, the scheme that (defensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) had for him.. There was a reason that (Williams was the sixth overall selection in the draft). Leonard did a great job. He did a great job of working his fanny off. Again, the atmosphere for our players – one of hard work, you can have fun, you can enjoy yourself and Leonard did a heck of a job and his position coach, Sean Spencer, Pat Graham and Joe. The bottom line is he thrived in our atmosphere. I'm ecstatic. It's like I tell players all the time, 'I only want you to be successful and I want you to make me cry when it comes to negotiations.'"
While the Giants have numerous promising pieces on offense and defense, growing pains are always difficult to endure. Aside from perhaps Mara, no one has felt them more acutely than Gettleman.
"Of course, it's disappointing," Gettleman said. "It's disappointing not just for me personally, but I'm disappointed for the organization. I'm disappointed for the players and the fans. Sure, it's disappointing. Listen, last time I double checked, it's about winning. I'm very disappointed. I guess the best thing I can say is - John said in 2018 we didn't have a stellar year, didn't have a stellar roster building season, it's affected us. We're on the right track right now. We've done some really good stuff the last two years. We're going to fix this. We are going to fix this."
Gettleman is a cancer survivor who turns 70 next month. But he is determined and motivated to lead the fix.
"I feel good, I feel strong. I had my 24-month review with my lymphoma doctor. He says you're as healthy as a horse. Let's just keep moving, so I'm ready to rock.
"It really is dependent upon the Lord how long I stick around for. We're all day to day, by the way, in case anybody missed that point. I feel fine, I feel good, I'm excited. I just want to keep going. I don't know where this retirement stuff came from. I have no idea what that's all about. There are probably some people that… at the end of the day, I feel great. So, let's keep going."
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