INDIANAPOLIS – Dave Gettleman has a vision. He is lounging on Cape Cod, years down the road and watching a veteran quarterback, whom he drafted, lead the Giants to the postseason.
"And then enjoy the hell out of it," the Giants' general manager said in his Boston accent. "That's a gift, and that's what I'd like to do for the New York Giants."
Gettleman admitted he has been "spoiled as hell" with the most important position in sports. A member of seven Super Bowl teams, three winners, his quarterbacks have included Jim Kelly, John Elway, Eli Manning and Cam Newton. However, he didn't draft any of them personally. Gettleman and the Giants are out to change that.
While Manning is expected to be back for his 16th season with the team, the team knows it needs to find a player worthy of taking the torch from the two-time Super Bowl MVP. The search becomes more critical with each year. Gettleman isn't in denial about that fact. His philosophy just dictates that he will never reach, especially at quarterback. He held his conviction a year ago when the Giants selected running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 pick in the face of a class deemed full of franchise quarterbacks. There were no regrets as Barkley led the NFL in scrimmage yards, made the Pro Bowl, and was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Now the top decision-makers are back in Indianapolis for the ultimate job interview known as the NFL Scouting Combine. Whether or not the Giants' future franchise quarterback is among the 300-plus prospects gathered this week remains to be seen. If he is, Gettleman wouldn't shy away from moving up to get him, like his mentor did. Ernie Accorsi bet the house on Manning 15 years ago and is still enjoying the hell out of watching him.
"I have one of the best consiglieres of all time," Gettleman said. "I talk to Ernie all the time and what Ernie did for the Giants, it would be a dream for me to do the same thing."
What Accorsi did was make one of the most important moves in the history of a 95-year-old franchise. All these years later, the Giants still believe Manning has "years" of productive football left.
"The one thing I know in the last half of the season – let's just talk on offense – when the guys around him were playing better, really that allowed us to see more of what Eli could do because I don't think any one player can carry a team," coach Pat Shurmur said. "They all have to be able to do their jobs well, and we found a way to block more efficiently and allow him to do the things he needed to. By blocking better, we ran the ball better. It's really a coordinated effort. So that's why I still think the 'years' thing is true."
"Really and truly, like Pat said, we came in and it was a whirl (last year), and we evaluated the team as best we could, made decisions, moved forward, and feel strongly we made some good strides," Gettleman said. "At the end of the day, we saw what Eli was capable of once we gave him help. He still can make big-league throws, he can still make the NFL throws, and it's, I say it all the time, it's the ultimate team game. It is, because 10 guys do everything perfect and an offensive lineman falls down, the guy gets whacked. So to answer your question, we looked at Eli and we feel good about him."
Since winning their fourth Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants have gone 47-65 and made the playoffs just once (in 2016). In that time, they have changed head coaches twice and general managers once. Manning was the starting quarterback for all but one of their games.
"The narrative around Eli for the past four years, five years, since I was gone, was really negative," said Gettleman, who left to be the Panthers' general manager in 2013 before returning to the Giants in 2018. "The narrative's been negative. There's an old saying: 'Tell a lie enough, you believe it.' The narrative is so negative that when you take that position, most people struggle getting off that spot, most people struggle saying, 'I'm going to look at this with fresh eyes.' So, for example, when you evaluate pro players, every year's a new year. When you evaluate him, it's a new year. Yes, before he was at this level, but that doesn't mean when you look at him that he's automatically at this level (up) or at this level (down). You've got to take everything for what it's worth at that time and I think that the narrative has been negative, and I don't think it's been fair."
What is fair to say, however, is they need a succession plan. "The Kansas City model really worked well," Gettleman said. He was referencing the Chiefs' decision to draft Patrick Mahomes 10th overall, sit him behind veteran Alex Smith for a year, and then start him the next. He went on to throw 50 touchdowns and become the league MVP. The Giants are just beginning the process of finding out if the next Mahomes or Manning is in this class, which includes Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, who finished third in voting for the most prestigious college award.
"I think at the end of the day, you can't say to yourself, 'I'm going to get him next year,'" Gettleman said. "You evaluate the Q's, and you take the guy when you believe he's the guy and it's at the right spot. You can't worry about the future because now someone else is going to say, well, in two years there are a couple college quarterbacks that are coming out that are really amazing. … So at the end of the day, if the right guy is there at the right time who we think is the right guy, we'll pull the (trigger)."