EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When asked today what would define a successful 2019 Giants campaign, general manager Dave Gettleman said simply: "Improvement."
"You would like to think that guys like Saquon (Barkley), and Will (Hernandez), and B.J. (Hill), and Lorenzo (Carter), and RJ McIntosh are going to make a significant jump," he continued. "That old saying from, 'Year one to year two (a player makes his biggest improvement).' You'd like to think that those three first-rounders (Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker) are the next man, and Julian (Love) and Corey (Ballentine) can come in to make us better. It's about just to continue improvement. I'm not going to put a record on it. It's not fair, and it's not fair to the kids."
Gettleman held the early training camp news conference that has become a tradition for the man in his position. As always, a wide range of subjects was covered. But as he did when discussing the team at large, Gettleman sometimes avoided particulars.
That included the question that has been lurking since Jones was taken sixth overall in the NFL Draft: is there a point in the season if the Giants are not competitive – or perhaps not showing the improvement Gettleman spoke of – that Jones could replace Eli Manning as the starting quarterback.
"You can't operate that way, you really can't," Gettleman said. "We are going to turn around, have a great camp and be ready to go by Week One. The guys play when it's time."
There is no predetermined number of games or record that would trigger that change.
"You can't do that, you really can't do that because everything is fluid," Gettleman said. "You can't do that to yourself because now you've put yourself in a box. You can't do that."
So he won't.
If that discussion ever arises, Gettleman was direct about who will make the final call.
"It's a Pat (Shurmur) decision," Gettleman said of the head coach he hired 18 months ago. "Pat and I talk all the time. We talk a lot, every day. And we talk about the whole schmear. The ganze megillah. We talk about every position, we go through it. Listen, I really believe this, it doesn't make a difference who you're talking about, at the end of the day, it's going to be clear. When anything happens, you've got to, don't lock your knees and just go."
In reality, a quarterback change is not what Gettleman, Shurmur or the players are focusing on. They are preparing for the season. And the general manager is confident that the team's offseason changes will lead to improvement over last year's 5-11 finish.
Gettleman is particularly eager to see his defense in action. Several rookies could start or make significant contributions to the unit, including Lawrence, Baker, Love, Ballentine, Oshane Ximines, and Ryan Connelly. And then there's the expected development of young defenders like Dalvin Tomlinson, Hill, McIntosh, and Carter.
"It excites me," Gettleman said. "This is professional football. One of the things we talk to the kids about, the rookies, is, you're expected to be a pro now. Those guys out there, those veterans out there, when you walk into the locker room, they're looking at you and saying, 'Okay, how's this guy going to help us win?' It's all about responsibilities to grow these guys, quickly. That's part of the drafting process. Who's going to have the maturity to handle that? Because this is a different world. I tell them all the time. I tell Dexter all the time, 'You're about to enter a very violent world, okay, where you're going to be playing against 28, 29-year-old men who want to rip your lungs out. You're not playing Duke or whomever anymore. You're not in the ACC anymore. This is the NFL.' So yeah, they'll make youthful mistakes, but if they're smart, they'll only make them once. If they play with youthful exuberance, we'll be fine."
A few more Gettleman musings:
*On his thoughts about Shurmur's assertion entering camp that Jones has exceeded the coach's expectations.
"You can't take their temperature every day," Gettleman said. "Daniel had a good spring. And he had a pretty good day yesterday. It takes time. It takes time for any young kid to really be able to evaluate…you're going to evaluate him over time. You don't draft based on one game. You know what I'm saying? A college kid rushes for 350 yards, you don't draft him in the first round because of that game. You draft him because of his body of work. It's the same thing here. I don't believe in taking temperatures every day. Hopefully we're all 98.6. It happens over time is what you're looking for. We'll evaluate it, probably once a week we'll have personnel meetings. But I don't believe in every day, Roman Colosseum thumb up or thumb down, thumb sideways."
*On how he and the organization can prepare to someday say goodbye to Manning, who is entering his 16th season.
"That's a really hard question," Gettleman said. "Again, as long as you do everything the right way, that's how you prepare yourself. You, in your mind, go through the things you need to go through, and you do it like a pro, you do it like a pro. But there is always the human piece of this that makes it difficult."
*On whether he believes he has built a solid foundation to "get back to Giants football."
"A big part of it will be the continued development of last year's rookie class, and what happens with this class," Gettleman said. "There are some good, young players that were left here. Bringing in a Jabrill (Peppers, the safety acquired in a trade with Cleveland) - this year is important in terms of how this rookie class turns out."
*On where thinks the roster has improved the most since last season.
"I think we have gotten more depth in a few spots where we didn't have a lot of depth last year," Gettleman said. "Obviously, we have completely remade the back end (of the defense). With the addition of (right guard Kevin) Zeitler, and that piece in the offensive line, getting Pio (center Jon Halapio) back and Spencer (Pulley) did a great job, so we feel great about that situation. We're feeling better about the O-line. The D-line, we are feeling better, feel much better about the linebacker position. We feel better about a lot of things. We feel like we've gotten a lot done in a year and a half in that respect, in terms of the personnel piece. We just got to keep going."
*His message to the team this summer:
"For me, the guys had a great spring. Our attendance was off the charts, and it's voluntary. The way they've come together, and watching this practice yesterday, the message is, 'It's go time. Let's just keep getting better.'"
*Wide receiver Golden Tate, who has played with quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, enjoys catching passes from Manning.
"As a guy who has majored in the slot, I love veteran quarterbacks because there are a lot of bodies in the middle of the field," Tate said. "Veteran quarterbacks typically can read the fields pretty well and save you guys from having to come to my funeral, so that's a good thing. But to take it a step further, Eli is a Hall of Fame type of guy. Just being out here since April I think he has a lot of juice in the tank. I think he's slinging the ball very, very well. Obviously, his knowledge is through the roof. I am excited to be out there with him. I can't wait to get out there against an opponent and see what's going to happen. It's been my pleasure to play with them. I've had a bunch of good quarterbacks in my career, and that's definitely a blessing."
*Practice report: Tight end Evan Engram was not a full participant because the team is managing his workload. Linebacker Markus Golden and cornerback Grant Haley suffered cramps. Wide receiver Brittan Golden injured his groin.