When Dave Gettleman was introduced to the media and fans as the new General Manager of the NY Giants, he said something that stuck with me then and still sticks with me to this day…
“But at the end of the day, it’s the three things you’ve had to do in 1935 that you got to do now in 2018. You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer.”
Two out of the three most important things you want to architect your franchise with are running the ball and stopping the run? This is Neanderthal thinking. Dave Gettleman is an anachronism. It is manifested in many ways, but the biggest one was his unequivocal decision to draft Saquon Barkley at 1.02 overall in the 2018 Draft. We did not like the pick from the moment he chose the Running Back, we still don’t like it, and we won’t like it even if Barkley goes to the Hall of Fame (which may happen if Barkley has a head coach with ‘intelligence’). Love the player. Hate the pick. Yes, we need to restate that Wonder had Barkley as the NUMBER ONE PROSPECT on his Draft Board that year. Yet it is not how you build a team in 2018.
For those of you who want to re-enter 2018 (and 2020, which is fast approaching), consider this article on analytics in Sports as we close out this decade.
“It doesn’t take a calculus degree to understand why quants have screamed for teams to pass the ball more. It was simple. As it turns out, passing consistently yields more yards.”
Roughly speaking, the game I grew up with the 1970’s ran the ball roughly 60% of the time and passed the ball 40% of the time. Today it is reversed. Why? Because the rules have changed. Offensive Linemen can hold inside the shoulder pads. Defensive players are not allowed to breathe on receivers after 5 yards. Rules for safety mean you can only hit the QB in about 3% of his body without being called for roughing the passer.
The NFL has an agenda. It wants the ball in the air. It wants its QBs to be protected from injury. It does not want receivers getting concussions on every passing route like the days of Wayne Chrebet.
Selecting Running Back at 2 Overall is folly, and we do not want to spend this blog post regurgitating all of the reasons why. Injuries, career length, platooning, absence of star running backs on nearly all of the past 10 Super Bowl winning teams, picking one without an Offensive Line to block for him (see our guest podcast from last week)… POSITIONAL VALUE for Running Back is a freaking joke.
We will mention one more reason which we have not mentioned previously, because it only goes further in exposing what insanity it is to take a guy like Barkley at 1.02. When Barkley was signed as a rookie at that spot, he instantly became the 4th highest paid Running Back in the NFL without even taking a snap. The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and owners got rid of this excess by reducing rookie salaries as a proportion of the cap. Yet this happened .. why? Because Running Backs do not have the positional value anymore in the NFL to command huge salaries… because of all the reasons we cited above. Money talks and bullsh*t walks. Even the money says don’t pay it to running backs. Yet by taking a RB at #2 overall, Gettleman the fossil ignored the 21st Century and architected his team right out of the box with a 20th Century move. If he had selected a QB or traded down, he would not have had that problem. He would have figured out what everyone else in the NFL has figured out- that you select QB, an elite pass rusher (the one part out of 3 he actually did acknowledge correctly), or you trade down. (Yes, if there is an elite Left Tackle, you can go that route too, but there are risks there.)
Maximizing the cheapness of rookie contracts is critical to being competitive in an NFL hard cap world. The worst part is that Gettleman doesn’t know what he doesn’t know… we’re betting his hubris makes him oblivious to this dynamic. Confronted with the Brutal Fact that a 1.02 RB eliminates rookie cap value, he’ll just say that that doesn’t matter because I have Barkley. These things do matter because they all add up- the lack of an OL to leverage a RB’s production, the injuries, the wasted rookie cap advantage… we see it via an 8-22 record.
In the podcast, we discussed how critical it is to squeeze out production from cap dollars. Look at competing teams like the Saints and Vikings, who have Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook on much cheaper rookie deals allocated to this position. Cook makes $1.6M/yr, selected 41st overall. Barkley makes $7.8M/yr. That $6M extra every year for 4 years to use on OTHER POSITIONS is a huge competitive advantage. Yes, it’s harder to find talent in the draft in Round 2 than Round 1. But not that difficult. And because RB is avoided by GMs in Round 1, you can get impact RBs more easily in R2 or R3. This all goes back to positional value.
There are other moves that Gettleman has made which demonstrate his prioritization with stopping the run. We rated Dexter Lawrence high out of the Draft. He was #13 on our Board, and the Giants took him at 1.17. He helps the Defensive Interior. Why Gettleman also traded for Leonard Williams at the end of his contract for a ~3.66 and 2021’s Round 4 was over the top stop-the-run zeal. Now he must sign Williams to realize the value of picking up a player when the team was nearly a lock not to make the playoffs.
We will not go into all of the myriad mistakes Gettleman has made, such as Omameh, Stewart, not rebuilding in 2018, Shurmur et al. Just keep it simple and know that the Giants GM is not in step with the NFL. He believes that it is a foundation to run the ball and stop the run. It is not. Those days are long gone. It is not a coincidence that the Giants days as a winning organization are also in the past. It is time to reenter the present and get a GM who understands the truth of what it takes to win in the NFL.