The decision to trade perhaps the NFL’s most dynamic player, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., in Tuesday night’s megadeal suggests that New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman has committed to a deconstruction of the team’s roster and a full-scale rebuild.
The problem: That roster still includes 38-year-old Eli Manning as, at least for now, the apparent starter at quarterback.
Those confoundingly mixed messages had many in and around the league wondering, in the wake of Tuesday’s jarring news, just what Gettleman and the Giants are doing. To which approach — win now or restock for the future — are they committed?
“So are they rebuilding now?” an agent who represents a number of free agents said Tuesday. “I’m not sure I can figure it out.”
Others were equally baffled.
“The [G]iants didn’t even get the Browns[‘] best third,” former Browns and Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Banner wrote on Twitter of a trade in which the Giants will receive first- and third-round draft picks as well as safety Jabrill Peppers. “Gettleman has made one inexplicable decision after another since he got the job. Hard to explain any, forget all of his moves.”
The Giants had an opportunity last offseason to commit to a rebuilding project. They were coming off a 3-13 season in 2017 that had cost General Manager Jerry Reese and Coach Ben McAdoo their jobs. McAdoo had awkwardly sat down Manning to end the quarterback’s lengthy streak of consecutive starts. The Giants possessed the second selection in a quarterback-rich draft. Beckham had vexed the Giants with his off-field behavior, leading co-owner John Mara to declare publicly last March that the team would listen to trade offers for the gifted wideout.
It would have been easy for Gettleman to trade Beckham last offseason, use the No. 2 pick on quarterback Sam Darnold and put Manning’s farewell tour in motion. The team’s fans probably would have accepted that and waited relatively patiently as the team attempted to build a contender around Darnold.
Instead, Gettleman used the selection on running back Saquon Barkley, left Manning in the starter’s role and failed to put a quarterback of the future in place. The Giants retained Beckham and signed him to a new contract. It was a win-now approach for a team not particularly equipped to win now.
The results were calamitous. Barkley was terrific; he was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. But Manning, playing behind a leaky offensive line, looked old and, at times, done. The Giants went 5-11 and finished last in the NFC East. Beckham, new contract and all, conducted a televised interview in which he questioned the offensive approach of first-year coach Pat Shurmur, failed to offer an endorsement of Manning and left many wondering whether he wanted to remain in New York.
So much for the win-now approach.
Is Gettleman rebuilding? Perhaps. He has gotten rid of Beckham, and he has the sixth and 17th picks in the draft. He presumably can get whichever rookie quarterback he wants — unless that’s Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals take him with the No. 1 pick.
Here’s the issue: It’s a year late for that. Last year’s draft was the time to go quarterback shopping. This year’s? Not so much.
“WOW!” former Giants great Carl Banks wrote on Twitter. “This is officially a ‘trust the process’ moment for fans … so many questions to be answered. A friend just asked if there is need for Eli at this point. I honestly paused [and] couldn’t answer definitely. [A]ll I can say is … we will all find out soon. WOW! [H]ate to see him go!”
There was plenty of praise Tuesday night for the Browns and the roster overhaul led by General Manager John Dorsey. Praise for Gettleman and the Giants was scarce.
The Giants can only hope that the first reaction to the trade, by those within the league as well as by fans, was off base.