Building the Giants: The Difference Between Young and Gettleman

by Mike Elwell @Spartanmike

Giants fans, let’s face it, this is rock bottom for the franchise. For the fifth season straight, the Giants are a mess of a team, and a complete embarrassment considering the Giants storied past.

Most fans can agree that Dave Gettleman is one of the main culprits of the Giants’ failures of late. Dave Gettleman is four seasons into his tenure as Giants General Manager. Since he started, the Giants have stagnated. Gettleman’s management is defined by poor talent evaluation, overpaying free agents, and a seemingly outdated approach to his work. Unless the Giants miraculously turn their 2021 team around, this will likely be Gettleman’s last year with the Giants.

Since Gettleman has failed to rebuild the Giants, we have to take a more granular look to determine what went wrong. Perhaps it is best to compare Gettleman’s failed rebuild of four years, to Giants former General Manager George Young’s first four years.

George Young was a suggested hire for the Giants by then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Young had previously worked in the Baltimore Colts & Miami Dolphins front offices and came to the Giants in 1979. The Giants were absolutely atrocious in the 1970s. George Young took the team and turned them into one of the most dominant franchises in the league for the next decade. George Young went on to win two Super Bowls and was named the NFL Executive of the Year…FIVE times. To say the least, George Young succeeded in rebuilding the Giants.

How To Rebuild (The Main Ingredient)

The most important ingredient for a successful rebuild is hitting on draft picks. Let’s compare George Young and Dave Gettleman’s draft decisions, through four seasons each.

Drafting with George Young

George Young’s first pick in 1979 was Phil Simms, their future franchise quarterback. Drafting a quarterback to an unstable team is a huge risk, and undoubtedly Simms had his fair share of injuries early on. Nonetheless, the Giants secured their franchise QB for the next decade. In 1980, the Young landed Cornerback Mark Haynes. Despite not being on the Super Bowl teams, Haynes played a crucial role in the seasons leading up to the 1986 Super Bowl-winning team. He went to the Pro Bowl 3x as a Giant.

Then came 1981, and Young hit a “Grand Slam” with Lawrence Taylor, the best defensive player in NFL history. Within just three seasons, Young drafted a franchise quarterback, an elite pass rusher, and a shut-down cornerback. Those positions, along with left tackle, are generally regarded as the most important for a football team. Along with those first-round picks, Young also succeeded in drafting and signing under-the-radar talent like Bill Ard, Joe Morris, and Jim Burt, all acquired in the first four seasons under Young’s reign. Young built a foundation for the Giants’ future success with the 1979-1982 NFL drafts.

Drafting with Dave Gettleman

To start his team’s rebuild in 2018, Dave Gettleman drafted running back Saquon Barkley. The move was slightly controversial at the time since the value of a star running back has been declining over the past 20 years. Fears of injury, unfortunately, came true, as Saquon has not had a healthy season since his rookie year. In 2019, Gettleman had three first-round selections. The first was Quarterback Daniel Jones. Although Jones has not proven to be the franchise QB, I will give Gettleman credit, because Jones surpassed most fans’ expectations. However, drafting the best quarterback in a draft class is not an accomplishment. Although Jones was better than Haskins, Jones is in year three and is not playing consistent enough football. For now, Gettleman has failed to find the franchise quarterback.

The next two picks in 2019 were defensive end Dexter Lawrence, and Cornerback Deandre Baker. Dexter Lawrence is not nearly the impact player the Giants need, and Deandre Baker faced legal trouble the following year, resulting in a release after just one season with the Giants. Gettleman’s 2020 pick Andrew Thomas has been successful, and 2021 pick Kodarius Toney is starting to look more promising. That said, the biggest failure by Gettleman over these four draft classes is completely missing on mid-round and late-round talent. Players like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines have only ever shown signs of potential, but never consistently played good football every week.

In essence, George Young built a solid team through his first four years of drafting with the Giants. His success can be contributed to identifying talent in the mid-rounds, understanding positional value, and always going for impact players. Gettleman has not drafted a single Pro Bowler past round 1 and has drafted players with “upside” over guys who dominate at the line of scrimmage.

What does this all mean?

It’s very simple. The Giants need to hire from the outside for their next General Manager with VP, and assistant level personnel of NFL franchises that have successfully rebuilt in the past ten years. Secondly, the Giants need personnel from NFL teams that consistently draft solid talent, and have a history of contending.

In 1979, the Giants left rock bottom by hiring George Young. In 2022, the Giants must look to do the same thing, or they will be trapped in the trenches for years to come.