General Manager Dave Gettleman
Opening Remarks: Happy New Year! It’s good to see everybody. I hope Santa made a visit, or you had some good potato latkes. It’s good to see everybody. I just wanted to open with a couple thoughts to get us going.
We’re headed in the right direction, I really believe that. We’ve had a year, we’ve done a lot of different types of things. Obviously we’ve done a pretty extensive overhaul with the roster. We consistently talked about culture and building a winning culture. Again, it’s a team that had to learn how to win again. So I feel really good about the foundation that we’ve started to lay. I’m not happy with 5-11, nobody is, but I feel good about where we’re headed. There’s eight franchises right now looking for head coaches and the common theme coming out of them was they needed to get in the right direction. Well, I feel very strongly and very good about it – and it’s easy for me to say it to you people that we are headed in the right direction.
As far as the team’s concerned, I’ve told you guys this and I mean it: there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t ask myself the question, have me and the personnel people given Pat (Shurmur) and the coaches enough players to win with? I ask that question of myself all the time because roster building is a 12-month deal. The season doesn’t begin, ‘this is the 53 and this is the 10 guys on the practice squad, and away we go.’ You have to constantly evaluate what you’re doing, so like I said, roster building is a 12-month season and I’m very conscious of that. Like I said, we had a significant overhaul this year. By the end. I think we had on the varsity, we had like 13 guys that had an NY on their lid last year. That’s it. That’s a pretty extensive overhaul. Not every move’s going to work out, oh by the way, as we’ve seen. The other part of it is, I believe in that definition of insanity – keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It’s true, so you’ve also seen that we make a decision and if it’s not working, we will make a change. Again, we still have roster work to do, I’m not going to deny that for a moment.
Then the last thing I want to talk about before I take your questions, just to get it out there just so you guys understand, (QB) Eli (Manning) and I had a very extensive conversation on Monday. No holds barred, he took me in the low post and won, but the bottom line is it was a very honest and up front conversation. I’ll keep what was said private between he and I, but in terms of any question you’re going to ask me today, just so you understand – we will do what is in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. That’s the way we’ve operated since I walked in the door, and that’s the way we will continue to operate. What we’re trying to do here is build sustained success and that takes some brutal honesty and it takes some tough decisions. Then finally, just as a quick reminder, don’t ask me about contracts, don’t ask me about negotiations, don’t ask about any of that stuff because I’m just not going to respond. Ok? Alright, let the games begin.
Q: How do you evaluate the quarterback position when you look at a 1-7 start to the season and then four wins over the second half of the year, three of which were against backup quarterbacks? Eli seemed to play better, but the pressure was essentially off at that point after the 1-7. So how do you weigh those?
A: First of all, I don’t want to hear about ‘backup quarterbacks’, ‘we played backup quarterbacks’. We went 4-4 in the second half. Here’s what I would say to you, when you’re bringing in and installing a new offense, you’re looking at four to six weeks before everybody’s really on the same page, and it’s really the outlier, it’s six. It’s going to be the outside of six. We were having O-line issues, weren’t we in that first half? We made changes and I think that’s part of it, that you’ve got a comfort factor in terms of you’re on the same page, the offense is on the same page, and you’ve also got a comfort factor in that the O-line, putting Chad (Wheeler) out there, claiming Jamon (Brown). Jamon came in out of the bye, that’s when we got him. So doing those kinds of things, that settled everything down, the combination of those two, and I think that’s the reason that the offense started to click. I almost fell down when they told me we scored more points than anybody else in the division, which kind of blew my mind. They swore to us, so I hope I’m not lying to you. The distance that the offense came from Week 1 to Week 16, you think of the points – the backup quarterback that we played against, for example, (vs. Chicago), he didn’t play defense, and the other backup, Washington – those guys weren’t on the defense, they were on the offense, so you’re asking me an offensive question. At the end of the day, between the fact that they were able to get comfortable with each other and we settled the offensive line down, we scored points. I saw a graphic, I think we averaged 27-28 points a game the last half of the year, something like that.
Q: Are you committed to having Eli back next year?
A: Here’s what I’m committed to do. I’m committed to making the best decision in the interest of the New York Football Giants. That’s what I’m committed to do. We’re in the evaluation process. I know that you guys want answers now, but very frankly, I didn’t come in yesterday. I’ve got to do what I do, which is get in my office and watch film. We’re going to meet this week with the coaches and get their evaluation. We’ll meet next week with pro personnel and get their evaluations and get their feelings on everything. That’s our schedule, and I will be watching film for the next who knows how long until my eyes bleed. That’s what I do. So, my commitment is to make this team the best team it can be and if that happens to have Eli playing quarterback, it does.
Q: Why do you feel good about the foundation? Why do you feel good about this team?
A: I’ll tell you this, and I know that I’ve said this before when we had our little fireside chats during the season and you guys looked at me like I was a little off, I feel good because, number one, winning in the NFL is not easy. It’s hard. Winning a game in the NFL is hard. If anybody tells you any different, they’ve never played, they don’t know the game. It’s very difficult. To go 1-7 for the first half of the year and to lose a number of close games, I think we tied for the league lead with 12 games decided by a touchdown or less, and it would’ve been 13 if the Saints didn’t score that late touchdown. To lose games like that, be 1-7 and to have the types of practices we were having where there was focus, there was energy, things were getting accomplished and the proof was in the pudding by what we did in the last eight games. That’s what encourages me, that’s why I think the foundation is right. You didn’t have any of the crap going on in the locker room that happened last year. There is nobody in this room that can argue with me on one point: this team did not quit. It was competitive as hell. That’s the start.
Q: You said you almost fell down when somebody told you that you led the division in points. Did you almost fall down when someone told you that you gave up the most points, too?
Q: That was evident to you?
A: Well, that’s why you’re 5-11.
Q: Is that the main reason you think you’re 5-11?
A: We’ve got to continue to improve. It’s not easy to win games when you don’t have playmakers. We need to improve the defense, guys. Just like I looked you right in the eye last year and told you we’ve got to fix this O-line, we’ve got to get better on the defensive side.
Q: You inherited two big contracts with Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins. How would you evaluate those two, the way they played this year and moving forward?
A: I haven’t. This is what I’m going to do the next two weeks. My personal feeling is the biggest mistakes are made when you’re emotional. When the season ends, you’re emotional and you’re mentally cooked. So until I start watching the film, which is going to start today, I really can’t answer that question. It’s not fair.
Q: When you look at the moves you made last offseason, do you think you misjudged how close this team was to being competitive?
A: I didn’t misjudge it at all. That’s been asked before and I’ve thought about that. I had no illusions of what we were. None. You tell me why you think I misjudged it.
Q: If you know you’re going to be in a rebuilding process, you bring back Eli, you don’t draft a quarterback, you trade, give up a draft pick for (LB Alec) Ogletree, you bring in older veteran free agents, those types of things.
A: You’ve got to start somewhere. But by the end of the year, we had one of the youngest teams in the league. Listen, nobody likes losing. Nobody. Anybody in here like losing, you want to raise your hands? Nobody likes to lose. So what you have to do when you come in is you evaluate what you have and you say to yourself, remember, I’ve told you guys – I’m on that tight rope, and me in a tutu on a tightrope ain’t pretty. It’s the tight rope of you want to win now, you want to get those wins now because you’ve got a coaching staff whose fannies are on the line every Sunday, and you want to set the team up, the franchise up, for sustained success. We sat back, we made the decisions we made last year, and here we are. There’s some good stuff and there’s some stuff we’ve got to fix.
Q: You talk about not wanting to make judgments about players without looking at film. Last year at this time, though, you were very committed to Eli Manning. You said what you saw late in the season wasn’t a mirage. I’m just curious, is there a chance there will be a another starting quarterback next season for the Giants?
A: Listen, there’s a chance you and I are going to get hit by a bus. We’re going to do what’s in the best interest, we’re going to look at film, we’re going to evaluate everything. Everything’s on the table for us. Everything is on the table for us. Okay?
Q: When you look back at the evaluation process that led you to Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh, do you have to do some self-scouting and go into this offseason differently?
A: We’ll go into this season because we have different issues. One of the biggest issues we had last year that we had to fix was what? The locker room. And both Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh are true professionals, and they were brought here for a specific purpose, they were brought here for other reasons than their play. Just understand that. We feel like we’ve turned that corner, especially with this rookie class. (RB) Saquon (Barkley) is unique. I stood up here and you watched me drool all over myself in the pre-draft. It was ugly, wasn’t it? Things happen. I should’ve worn a bib from Joe’s Stone Crab. My point is, he’s unique and he’s special. So is (G) Will Hernandez, and (DL) B.J. (Hill), and (LB) Lorenzo (Carter), and (DL) RJ (McIntosh) is still growing up physically, (QB) Kyle (Lauletta) is in a different spot because of the quarterback position. But this is all part of the process. We’ll continue to vet guys out, we’re only going to bring quality people in here that hate to lose. That will stay the same. Obviously, we’re different than we were 12 months ago, we’re in a different place, so we’ll approach things somewhat differently.
Q: Last year when you evaluated Eli Manning, you hadn’t seen him play throughout the season, so you had to rely on the film. You’ve seen him take every snap this season, you see him in practices. Why do you need to go back to the film to form an opinion on what you just saw over the last four or five months?
A: I always want to be right. You always want to have your hole card and that’s me, that’s just my nature. I’m a film junkie, and there are things that I remember that happened that, oh, my gosh – that’s me. Understand this, and I think I’ve said this to you guys before: I am very intentional about how I operate. Very intentional. Methodical. Some people call me an Alta cocker (old man), whatever you want to say, but that’s just the way I am. I’ve been that way my whole career in the NFL. Very methodical about film watching and thinking about things in making decisions. I’m very intentional, that’s why I say yes, I watched every snap, but I want to watch the film and I want to have time to breathe.
Q: When you go back and you do this evaluation, obviously you’ve got guys like Eli Manning who have been playing 15 years, you’ve got some other guys who have been playing a couple years. When you do your evaluation and base it on everything, are you looking ahead or are you looking back at the entire body of work in terms of what they’ve done in the past, injury history and all that stuff?
A: Obviously, it’s different. When you’re looking at older players, you’re looking early, middle and late, did they fade? When you’re looking at younger guys, you’re looking for early, middle and late, did they improve? That’s what you’re looking for. It is a little different, I remember – I’m really going to date myself – back in 2000 when we brought in those three offensive lineman, Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker and Dusty (Ziegler). The big question for me on Lomas was what was he playing like in December because Lomas was long and lean. He wasn’t a power player, he was an athletic tackle, so I wanted to see is Lomas the same player in December that he was in September? When you’ve got older guys, you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to see if they fade or not. That’s why I will look and look and look and look until I have the puffs of white smoke coming out of my ears or my head or whatever.
Q: Pat Shurmur to us has been very supportive of Eli, saying he thinks he’s got years left, leadership, experience, makes the throws, all that stuff and pointed out that the last eight games, this offense scored a lot of points with Eli. How much will you take that into your evaluation of Eli that the head coach seemingly wants this guy back?
A: It’s part of it. This is not a dictatorship. I really am a big believer in collaboration. I’m not a dictator, I’m not. These are conversations that you’re going to have with Pat, that’s why I say we’re going to hear the coaches and what they have to say, we’re going to talk to the pro guys and what do they have to say, and then I’ll get my work done and we’ll get together and formulate a plan. Obviously it’s part of it. Pat’s had a lot of success with quarterbacks, so I’m certainly going to listen.
Q: When you and Eli had that conversation Monday, did the two of you come to conclusions, or did you leave it as the fluid situation that you’re portraying it to us?
A: We left it at that. We had a great conversation. He’s a mensch (a person of integrity and honor).
Q: I know you want to watch the film, but you when you watch this team every Sunday, what is your evaluation of your offense with and without Odell? What difference is that?
A: He didn’t play the last four games, right? Listen, the bottom line is you want him on the field. I have this crazy idea that he’s a great player, so let’s get him on the field. Unfortunately, he got the leg whip and those calves (quads) can be funny things, they really can. The offense did what it did with him and it did what it did without him.
Q: You guys obviously made a huge financial commitment to Odell Beckham just a few months ago. Are you committed to him being here in 2019 or are you open to trade ideas or anything as well?
A: We didn’t sign him to trade him, if that’s what you’re asking me.
Q: So he’ll be here?
A: You heard what I said.
Q: A year ago, you stood there and left very little doubt that you were committed to Eli. You were very strong about that, Pat was (too) a couple weeks later at his press conference. Today you’re saying you’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the Giants. Does that indicate a change in your feeling and commitment to Eli?
A: No, it isn’t. It’s funny, last year that was the question. That was the question, but if you think about it, the guy was running for his life last year. This year, we calmed it down. Once we got rolling, once everybody got comfortable with the offense, if you’re going to look at stats, it wasn’t too shabby what (Eli) did. Obviously, we want to win more games, and we’ve got to continue to improve the roster.
Q: How did he look to you in December?
A: In December? We scored 36, we scored 35, 27, scored 40. How does that look? He still can make the NFL throws. You know what I’m saying? He’s still got it.
Q: What would be the ideal scenario at quarterback going into next season? Would it be Eli and a first-round pick? Eli and you bring in another young player? Eli and a veteran free agent or just turning the page?
A: I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what the field is right now. I don’t know what the field is.
Q: How important is it for you to address the quarterback of the future of this team this offseason? Is that a priority?
A: Let me tell you something: if you make something a priority, you will make a mistake. It’s got to be within the flow of what you’re doing. You can’t force it, especially at quarterback. That’s why the guys in Carolina looked at me like I was out of my mind, you guys looked at me (like I was out of my mind). You get in the draft, you’re taking the best player -- you’re not taking, ‘ I need a _, so I’m taking a _’. No. You do that, you’re going to make a mistake, you’re going to screw it up.
Q: The Giants have had one winning season in their last six. What is your message to Giants fans right now?
A: The message is what I’ve said to you before: we’re going in the right direction, we had a lot of competitive games and we’re getting better, and we’re going to continue to fix this.
Q: What is Kyle’s (Lauletta) future here? Are you still as high on him as you were (when you drafted him)?
A: We drafted him in the fourth round, he did some nice things in training camp. He did something silly in Hoboken or Fort Lee or wherever the hell it was (Weehawken). He’s developing, he’s like anybody else. I’m going to be a little bit of a jerk here maybe to some of you, how many of you guys wrote Pulitzer winning articles your first year as reporters? You understand what I’m saying? He’s a kid. I’m a kid, you’re kids, we make mistakes. None of us are perfect. Hopefully we learn, so to answer your question, Kyle’s a work in progress, just like me.
Q: When you traded Snacks (Damon Harrison), I believe one of the reasons you said was so the young guys could get some valuable playing time. How would assess what they did with that?
A: When we traded Snacks, part of the issue when Snacks was here was he played the one, we had Dalvin (Tomlinson) playing the three, and B.J. (Hill) playing the five techniques. Well, Dalvin’s a one technique and B.J.’s a three, so I’m very pleased with the change, to answer your question. B.J. came a long way. Pass rush is critical, as I’ve stated it a million times as we all know. B.J. had, I think, five and a half sacks, so he made some progress inside. Dalvin did what he does at the one, so for us, it worked out and those young guys are getting snaps. That’s the only way they’re going to get better. There’s a theory out there that young guys, once they get to 5,000 snaps, that’s when they’re really ready to rock and roll and that includes practice and game snaps and all that. I don’t know if I subscribe to it, but I’m just throwing it out there.
Q: On the decision to keep Eli Manning: Will that decision, though, involve money? Can he have the talent to play here, but if he makes too much money, he can’t be here?
A: I’m not going to go down that road with you. Obviously part of the salary cap is, players are not in vacuums when it comes to that salary cap. Nobody’s in a vacuum. You don’t say, okay, I’m going to sign this guy, I’ve got to sign this guy – no, wait a minute, you’ve got to look at your cap situation. But I’m not going to go there. Not going there.
Q: Eli’s father (Archie Manning) told ESPN that if Eli wants to come back that you guys need to win, that he can’t go through another season like this. Can you guarantee to Eli that you will have a winning team for him to want to continue to play here?
A: Really and truly, can anybody guarantee anything like that? Really? All you Yankee fans thought you were going to win 162 games this year (laughter). I knew better. All kidding aside, you can’t guarantee that. There’s no way. I wouldn’t guarantee that to anybody.
Q: Do you understand his point?
A: No, because Archie didn’t tell me.
Q: How do you respond to the ongoing idea that you should’ve taken a quarterback, regardless of how great Saquon was his rookie season?
A: I respond to it by saying, again, you’ve got to take the best player available. If you start reaching, you’re going to get into trouble. I’ll say it again: us taking Saquon was not a referendum on the quarterbacks, it was a referendum on Saquon – on the player he is, and on the person he is. If I was in that situation 100 times, I’d draft him 100 times.
Q: You have (Nate) Solder, you have (Will) Hernandez. Do you feel like the other three guys could be your starting line next year? Is it a big emphasis this offseason?
A: Here’s what I would say – first of all, don’t forget (C Jon Halapio) Pio, don’t forget Jon. He went down, unfortunately, in the second game. He was playing the best of anybody. So, don’t forget about Pio. I am always going to keep working on those lines, on those groups. You cannot have enough hog mollies, you can’t, because people get hurt. You can’t have enough. People looked at me in ’13, we took a defensive tackle in the first round, a defensive tackle in the second round, and I had people say, and maybe they’re right, ‘Gettleman has no idea what he’s doing’. I’m always going to do that.
Q: Why is this offseason different from year one for you? What is different about this process?
A: I think what’s different is we’ve got a better understanding of what Pat and his coaching staff are looking for, because you’re looking for scheme fits. Last year was not easy, because we’re moving to that 3-4 look – that type of 3-4 that Jimmy (Bettcher) wants to play. There’s different style players on it, and you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. That’s part of it. We have a better understanding of what the coaches are looking for and it makes it big. When I went to Carolina, it was a 4-3. We had played a 4-3 year after year. So for me, it wasn’t a big deal. The offense was not a big deal. It’s really the defense that’s different.
Q: So it is fair to say the challenges last year were on the defensive side of the ball?
A: Exactly, and you can only trade out so many guys. When you blow the whistle, 11 guys got to go out there -- at least you want 11 out there.
Q: Did you see anything to make you waver, in your mind, that Pat Shurmur is the right guy for this moving forward?
A: Not at all. If anything, it reinforced my feeling about him a year ago when we went through the interview process. It was the steadiness, it was the message. We’re 1-7 and we have two practices during the bye week, I just was kind of amazed. Again, you guys may gloss it over, but I don’t know that you can really appreciate it. You’re (the media) there, and then you’re gone. You watch them stretch – what are you guys there, 15 minutes? Then you’re gone. To stand there for the next hour and 40 minutes, I wish you could’ve seen it. Just the way Pat and the coaches kept everyone on task, going in the right direction, understanding that, to a certain degree, maybe we were the little engine that could. We kept pushing that thing up the hill. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the right guy.
Q: Why did you feel the need to have a straight-forward conversation with Eli?
A: I have this crazy idea that I’m always going to be honest and straight-forward, and sometimes that gets me in trouble, but we won’t go there. Eli came in and he wanted to talk. I just have this crazy idea that if a guy asks me questions, I’m going to be honest with him. It wasn’t like he was called to the principal’s office. He came to see me.
Q: Why did you call him a “mensch?”
A: Because he is – the way he carries himself, who he is as a person, the way he respects the game. You know men in your life who are not mensches. You know what a mensch is. There’s no deviousness, there’s no duplicitousness, none of that stuff. He’s a mensch. Someday, I hope to be a mensch.
Q: Do you look at this as a rebuild? Is it a multi-year process you’re in to get back to being a Super Bowl contender?
A: I just hate the word rebuild. You just keep going, you just keep building. It’s really what we’re doing here. We’re doing our best to accumulate the talent that fits our schemes, and that understands how to play the game, and hates to flippin’ lose. That’s what it’s really all about, and we’re going to continue to do this and get it right. We’re going to fix it.