NY Giants: Post Mortem 2019

PART 1- Shurmur Out, Gettleman Remains

It is really one large cosmic joke that the Giants have not parted ways with Gettleman. The conventional wisdom (brainwashing) is that you want stability and that Gettleman needs more time. A friend, Dimitri Raitzin, counters this with correct perspective:

The problem is that Mara wants the Giants to be the Steelers, but Gettleman is no Kevin Colbert. Stability is nice when you’re competing for the playoffs every year. The Giants are annually competing for a Top 5 draft pick. That type of stability is worthless.

Therein lies the problem. John Mara is living in the past, thinking he is one fix away from getting back on track. We have noted how he needs to remove himself from this process completely, relinquishing control and stepping down as Chief Executive.

The Giants have Gettleman for at least 1 year but more likely at least 2 years, as he will now be attached to the next Head Coach’s fate. Gettleman can recognize talent in the Draft but he does not make good decisions. His Free Agency track record is awful. Gettleman chose Shurmur. He lacks fundamental understanding of what wins in the NFL in 2020. And he lacks understanding of how to make value-based decisions in a hard cap value world (as evidenced by him paying Barkley top 4 RB money on his rookie contract when the rookie contract is a key to extracting value in the post-2011 CBA order).

PART 2- Head Coach Search

Front and Center, the Giants now embark on a Head Coach search. It will be Gettleman who will conduct this search.  His due diligence on Shurmur was flawed. If one looks at Shurmur’s track record more carefully, we see that he was the Interim Head Coach in Philadelphia yet Philadelphia did not elevate him- why? We know why now, 2 years later. Note how 2 years ago the Giants wanted an “adult” post-McAdoo. Today the owners are singing a different tune, saying that they want a “leader.” Get the picture? Maybe Gettleman will get lucky this time. I prefer to make my own luck.

Mara and Tisch will sign off. Garbage in, garbage out. There are a few prominent names under consideration from this report collected by Jordan Raanan.

  1. Matt Rhule. This one can make a lot of sense. “Rhule is acceptable,” says Wonder, the Draft Analyst for UltimateNYG NY Giants Blog. “He will get them back on course. He does a good job of organizing and putting together his team. While I am not overwhelmed by him, I do like him. He is pretty solid. He is a much better selection than a retread like Ron Rivera.” And speaking of retreads, Wonder issued a very stern and sharp warning for those even mentioning the name of Jason Garrett. “If the Giants tap Garrett as the next Head Coach, all fans should just turn in their Giants card. Go on strike. Throw in the towel.” I had independently reached the same conclusion, having tweeted that Garrett does less with more, the classic sign of underachievement. I think any Giants fan paying attention to Dallas (they are, after all, in the NFC East) knows that Garrett does not make his team better.
  2. Josh McDaniels. I was a little concerned about what happened in Denver in McDaniel’s first stint as a Head Coach. It felt like major dysfunction, along with immaturity. After reading this, I would be hopeful that his next opportunity would fare much better. Wonder would be comfortable with McDaniels. Realistically speaking, I do not think it will happen, as there are rumors that Belichick told both Patricia and McDaniels not to take the Giants job 2 years ago. Wonder really likes McDaniels, and thinks he would be even better than Rhule: “I am not concerned about what happened in Denver. He may have a handshake agreement on getting the job in New England if/when Belichick steps down, so that is the reason why I am more doubtful about the likelihood of it happening here.”
  3. Eric Bieniemy. “I want no part of him,” says Wonder. “The only reason why he is being considered at all is because the KC Offense is stacked. Even I could coach that team with all the talent there,” jokes our analyst.

PART 3- Nepotism

I keep hearing about Chris Mara wanting the NY Giants GM job, be it two years ago when he was passed over, now or whenever. Is there anyone who has confidence in his abilities? There was open dysfunction between him and Jerry Reese. How do you fire your own brother?

PART 4- The Draft

The Giants have the 4th pick overall.

Mara: “The key is still the Draft, making good draft picks and you have to supplement that with Free Agency. You can’t think that you’re going to solve all of your problems in Free Agency… it just doesn’t work.”

The good thing is that I agree with EVERYTHING Mara just said there. The problem is that his GM that he supports does not understand the value of his Draft picks (or how to make good sensible FA decisions either, but let’s stay with the Draft….). No GM bringing up the rear at the trade deadline gives up Draft picks FOR the expiring contract. Gettleman blew the 70th pick overall plus a Round 4/Round 5 pick in 2021 for Leonard Williams. The key is the Draft. Mara just said it. The value is in the rookie contracts. The CBA says it. The Giants threw away critical currency for its rebuild. Gettleman did it.

Preliminary indications are that this Draft is deeper in OL. Ya think that that 70th pick overall can help throw help at that problem?? Look at the Patriots, who are competitive every year. They collect massive amounts of draft picks and let veteran players walk, in return for … compensatory Draft picks. So the answer is right in front of you. This is how to do business in the 21st Century. To be fair to Gettleman, he did move some players (like JPP, Apple and Harrison) and collected picks. Yet to go in reverse and go for Williams on the hope of signing him was not consistent with value. Williams was bait for a playoff contender who needed (injury) help with interior DL. Period. If we could somehow sign Williams to a much cheaper deal before FA, that was the only way this was paying off. That is highly unlikely.

Every part of your plan must be efficient. Bad decisions add up. You find value through a series of decisions where EVERY decision has value. Just because it has value does not mean it will work out. If I throw a coin and heads I win $2 while tails I lose $1, I want to throw that coin. I may lose with tails but that is ok. The Williams trade simply did not have value. That was not a good coin toss.

PART 5- Analytics

Why are analytics important? We talked about this at length literally a decade ago on this blog when we recommended Money Ball by Michael Lewis. My old posts are gone due to a couple of host site migrations over the years, but all you need to know is that Billy Beane figured out that by cranking the numbers you can figure out what works for assembling a winning team. It was all about VALUE. Beane was able to field competitive teams on salaries that were significantly less than his peers.

Beane got outspent because he did not have a hard cap. Imagine Beane in a hard cap sport and that is football analytics. To belittle/ignore their value is like passing on that favorable coin toss. Or worse… not quantifying what the coin toss looks like in the first place.

Imagine our amusement, when hearing this from Steve Politi…

“I’m still digesting John Mara’s press conference today, but when an owner … tells everyone that his team has a killer new analytics department that you just didn’t know about… that was weird, right?”

Maybe it is completely weird when Dave Gettleman, only a couple of years ago, waves his hands, pokes fun at the nerds and calls analytics “nonsense.”

So who are you going to believe? Did Gettleman all of a sudden wake up and figure out that he needs to change and get into the 21st Century? Positional VALUE? I’ll believe it when Politi asks Gettleman that question tomorrow and we see a 180 from the Giants GM. “People don’t change. They become more so,” said a wise sage. No, I am not expecting lightning bolts tomorrow.

PART 6- Scapegoating Shurmur

Jay Glazer called out the Giants for contradicting facts.

Did you expect anything less when they decided to keep Gettleman? We know Shurmur was a boob on mismanaging the players. We never chased after Gettleman when Shurmur under-leveraged Barkley’s skills. Similarly, we did not go after Shurmur when the Giants traded draft picks for Leonard Williams.

I thought the Reese bye week pressers were comedy. Today was a continuation of the denial. Mara on Gettleman’s Free Agency boners: “He does know that the batting average has to increase going forward.” Well, at least we got that. The last time we got a warning from Mara to his GM, Reese lost his job two years later. I sure hope Gettleman nails the Head Coach hire because we fans can’t take another 2 years of this.

Dave Gettleman

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.”

Really?

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.