Jason Garrett became the first person to pay for the Giants’ failures this season. He probably won’t be the last. The Giants have been too bad for too long to think they can fix their problems by simply changing offensive coordinators.
That’s why so many around the league are sure that big changes are coming to the Giants organization. They only question they have is: Will John Mara really do everything he needs to do?
That means not just firing GM Dave Gettleman, or nudging him into retirement, but also not reflexively handing the reins of the organization to his top assistant, Kevin Abrams. It means taking a serious look at outside candidates for the job, which they haven’t done since back in 1979.
And it means giving some serious thought about whether they’re really sure about Daniel Jones as their franchise quarterback, especially since they’re likely sitting on two top-10 picks in the next draft. And it even means taking a critical look at head coach Joe Judge, who already has a vote of confidence from Mara, but has a 9-17 overall record and has yet to show he’s really up to the job.
Everything – absolutely everything – has to be on the table for a franchise that has been to the playoffs once in the last 10 years and is on its way to its seventh season of double-digit losses in the last eight.
“There’s no halfway when you’ve been as bad as they’ve been for that long,” said one NFL source. “Cosmetic changes aren’t good enough. They always say they’re willing to do things differently. We’re about to find out if they’re serious.”
“Either they really want to change things and fix their problems,” said another league source, “or they don’t.”
The biggest expected change is the easiest one: It seems like a lock that the 70-year-old Gettleman will be gone after the season, one way or the other. His four-year record is a dismal, indefensible 18-40, and the way this team is playing it’s likely to only get worse.
But what the Giants do after showing Gettleman the door will set the tone for everything. Many around the league believe Mara wants to turn the franchise over to Abrams, who has been their assistant GM for the last 20 years. Some even think that smooth transition has been in the works since the day Gettleman got the GM job.
It’s not that Abrams isn’t qualified. He is. In fact, after joining the organization as a salary cap expert in 1999, his football portfolio has grown a ton in recent years. That’s good, but it also makes him an insider who has been a part of many of the decisions the Giants have made in the past decade.
If he takes over, he’ll undoubtedly have a fresh perspective. But how much will really change?
“When push comes to shove, they always prefer to stick with what they know,” said an NFL source. “But if you only listen to people in your system, how are things ever going to be any different?”
That has long been one of the biggest criticisms people around the NFL have had of the Giants’ operation – that Mara isn’t really willing to listen to outsiders and he certainly doesn’t want one upending his organization from the inside. Ernie Accorsi spent four years as George Young’s assistant before taking over as GM, and then he groomed Jerry Reese as his eventual replacement. And when Reese was fired the Giants had only a cursory search for candidates before bringing back Gettleman who had been their pro personnel director for 13 years.
This time, they need to look outside the “family” to at least see what others think needs to be done to turn this franchise around. That doesn’t mean they can’t hire Abrams in the end. He might turn out to be the best candidate. But the search can’t be rigged. They have to really listen to people on the outside who will surely tell them things they might not want to hear.
And that includes things about their quarterback and their head coach. Jones is only in his third year so they don’t have to make a big decision about his future just yet. But the jury is out on him around the NFL. And while it’s unclear if there’s a big-time franchise quarterback in the 2022 draft, the Giants have to at least be willing to consider their options, because how often do teams find themselves sitting on two Top 10 picks?
And yes, even though Mara lavished praise on Judge in an interview with the New York Post last month, and even though one team source said there’s “almost no chance” he fires a third straight coach after just two years, he has to be open to hearing what others think of Judge, too. There are some who believe, as one source said, that “He wasn’t ready to be a head coach and his inexperience is showing.” Another source added that after all the losing, this Giants’ team needs a “proven winner” – something they haven’t had since Tom Coughlin was fired six long years ago.
That doesn’t mean Mara has to fire Judge or replace Jones or make changes up and down the organization. But sweeping changes might be necessary. They actually began overhauling the front office when Gettleman arrived, and even more so in the two years since he hired Judge. But there are some who think the Giants have remained too loyal to long-time employees and that their overhaul hasn’t gone far enough.
What is clear, though, is this: Whatever Mara and Steve Tisch have been doing for the last decade simply isn’t working. They have to at least be open to trying something new. Everything, from their talent evaluation to their player development has proven to be off. The pathetic record speaks for itself.
There are people on the outside with different ideas. Some of them would shake the foundations of the Giants’ facility.
But different might be better. They have to be open to that. Because it’s really hard to imagine things could get any worse.
“It’s all about their willingness to change,” one league source said. “Are they just going to keep doing what they’re doing? Or are they willing to at least listen to somebody else?”