Before new GM Dave Gettleman can find the next wave of his beloved “hog mollies” in his second stint with Big Blue, he must remove any remaining lipstick on the pig that is the dysfunctional 2017 Giants and make real fixes.
Gettleman, 66, who spent 15 seasons with the Giants prior to holding the Panthers’ GM post from 2013-16, inherits a 2-13 club that arguably has as many issues off the field as on it in the wake of former coach Ben McAdoo losing the locker room in Year 2.
Gettleman must decide on the future of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who turns 37 next week and has endured arguably his most difficult of 14 seasons. Manning was benched by McAdoo last month, and his 82.0 passer rating and 18:12 touchdown-interception ratio are his worst since 2013. The Giants can save $16 million by releasing Manning before the 2018 league year begins, and ensured a a top-three pick to find his potential successor, Gettleman doing so can't be discounted.
Gettleman also must determine whether 2016 first-round CB Eli Apple’s time with the club is salvageable. Apple was suspended indefinitely by the team Wednesday, one day after defensive leader Landon Collins called Apple a “cancer” on ESPN Radio. Moreover, Gettleman must root out other issues in the secondary, where all three starting corners served team-imposed suspensions under McAdoo.
Gettleman also will lead complex impending contract negotiations with Odell Beckham, the transcendent star wideout coming off a broken ankle and likely still having quite a bit of maturing before the Mara family would consider handing him a record contract when his expires after next season.
Gettleman has shown he won’t let sentiment creep into any of the franchise-altering decisions that lie ahead. Gettleman's business-like approach is one of the primary reasons he was surprisingly fired as Carolina's GM in July, just two seasons removed from his 15-1 Panthers earning their third consecutive division title and appearing in Super Bowl 50.
From his stunning decision two offseasons ago to rescind the franchise tag of CB Josh Norman to overseeing the unceremonious exit of franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and slower-than-expected contract talks with Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis, Gettleman’s tough dealings led to his jettisoning being celebrated by some of his former players.
That the Panthers are heading back to the playoffs after last season's 6-10 regression seemingly indicates not only that Gettleman knew what he was doing but that the Giants tabbed the right guy to navigate the treacherous path ahead.
Few doubt Gettleman’s football acumen, and he’s well qualified to lead the Giants’ coaching search. It was Gettleman’s patient approach with inherited coach Ron Rivera in their second year together that coincided with the organization’s best three-year run and Rivera earning a pair of Coach of the Year awards.
Gettleman’s return to New York could move Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks at least near the top of the Giants’ short list of coaching candidates. Wilks, who arrived in Carolina in 2012 alongside Gettleman as the team’s defensive backs coach, was promoted this season to defensive coordinator following Sean McDermott’s exit for Buffalo. Wilks has quickly put a more aggressive stamp on the Panthers ‘D,’ which is in the top third of the league in total yards, rushing, sack percentage and points allowed.
Gettleman also has a reputation for building his clubs from the inside out, particularly defensively, where he tends to spend in the trenches before the secondary — further adding to the intrigue surrounding the fate of the Giants' mercurial and underachieving group. He’s credited with helping find Pro Bowl defensive linemen, including Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kawann Short, if not letting Norman leave for Washington without the Panthers receiving any compensation two years ago.
But Gettleman's preference for building powerful fronts should again endear him with a Giants fan base longing for offensive line and run game maintenance that was too often neglected by predecessor and longtime former colleague Jerry Reese.
First things first, Gettleman must find his coach and set out to reestablish the winning locker room culture he helped Tom Coughlin build in his first stint in New York.