Dave Gettleman entered his meeting with John Mara, Steve Tisch and Ernie Accorsi last week as the overwhelming favorite to be the Giants new general manager and then proceeded to blow them away.
By the time he walked out the door, the decision was all but final.
“I looked at John Mara and said, “How many electoral votes does he have?”” Accorsi, the former Giants GM who served as a consultant in the process, told the Daily News on Thursday. “There is nothing divisive about Dave. People just love him.”
The Giants decided to stick with The Giants Way. They made the right decision. This was not a job for a first-time GM.
Gettleman was hired by Accorsi and the Giants in 1998 and he worked in pro personnel for them until he was hired as the Panthers GM in 2013. They went to the playoff three times and one Super Bowl in his four seasons and he put together the 2017 Panthers team that has clinched a wild-card spot and still has a chance to win the NFC South.
He was surprisingly fired by owner Jerry Richardson on the eve of training camp this summer in a personality dispute.
“It’s not an easy organization to work in,” former Panthers GM Bill Polian, a Hall of Famer, told me Thursday. “Let me leave it at that.”
The Giants decided not to wait until the regular season ends Sunday to request permission to interview GM candidates from other teams when, “There is nobody who has Dave’s resume that will be available,” Accorsi said. “Finally we realized, he’s going to win in the end anyway.”
Now that Gettleman is in place, he will be able to act on his ready list of coaches Sunday night. Another prime reason the Giants decided to hire Gettleman on Thursday is that there could be at least 10 coaches fired on Black Monday and the competition for candidates will be intense.
If the Giants were still interviewing GMs next week, they would have fallen behind setting up interviews not only with coaches who are immediately available but with coaches on playoff teams not playing until the divisional round who are free to meet with teams next week.
Here’s who I think are the top three coaches on the Giants list: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and, if he is fired, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.
This will be Gettleman’s decision in conjunction with Mara and Tisch. One thing is certain about the Gettleman administration: Interim GM Kevin Abrams is not going anywhere unless he gets another GM job. He was the first to interview to replace Jerry Reese. The Giants value him as their salary cap expert and want him to stay. The Giants future of Marc Ross, the vice president of player evaluation, is not as solid. He is tied to the failures of Reese. Ross also interviewed to replace Reese but Gettleman may restructure the personnel department.
Gettleman’s strength has been the Giants weakness: Personnel. Picking the right players.
“I love it. I think it’s great,” Polian said. “He’s back with an organization that values him and he values.”
Polian hired Gettleman for his first NFL job in 1986 with the Bills as a scouting intern. He became a full-time scout in 1987. “We met in Cornwall, New York, one thousand years ago,” Polian said. “I was scouting and he was coaching. He was a football man through and through.”
The Giants didn’t conduct an extensive search. They didn’t talk to one candidate with another team. ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who worked in personnel with Washington and Philadelphia from 2001-13, was the fourth candidate interviewed.
But there is nothing wrong with The Giants Way. It has produced four Super Bowl titles since 1986, the most in the NFL during that time other than the Patriots, who have won five. The baton has been passed from George Young to Accorsi to Reese and now to Gettleman.
It wasn’t the Giants system that failed. It was Reese making poor choices the last few years after he helped build two Super Bowl titles. Gettleman will bring in fresh ideas he developed with the Panthers.
Gettleman is a no-nonsense guy who will help change the culture in the locker room with personnel decisions and by hiring a coach who won’t let Odell Beckham getting away with pretending to be a dog peeing on the field. He knows how to make the tough decisions and is not intimidated by criticism: He parted with popular veterans Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Josh Norman in Carolina and dealt with the backlash.
“He had to make some tough decisions,” Accorsi said. “He never flinched.”
The Giants are a 2-13 mess but are close to clinching the second pick in the draft, which could begin the era of a new quarterback. Their locker room is dysfunctional. They have a QB who will be 37 years old next week. They had to decide whether to follow through with a big contract for Beckham, who Gettleman saw melt down in the game against Norman.
It’s a big job.
“But no bigger than anywhere else,” Polian said. “The spotlight is a little brighter and the noise is a little louder. That won’t bother him. He will be fine. He knows exactly what to do. It could not have been a more efficient hire. He comes to work, knows everybody in the building and what needs to be done.”
Accorsi recommended Reese over Gettleman to succeed him when he retired after the 2006 season. “It was a flip of the coin,” Accorsi said. “I felt bad about it. I felt almost equal about the two. I just had a gut feeling about Jerry. I know Dave was upset.”
Five years later when Richardson hired Accorsi to lead the Panthers GM search, he recommended Gettleman. And 10 years after picking Reese, he finally recommended Gettleman for the Giants job.
Gettleman is 66, the same age Accorsi was 10 years ago when he decided he didn’t have the stamina for the job anymore. Accorsi found out less than a year later the reason: He needed triple bypass surgery.
“Dave is really an energetic guy,” Accorsi said. “He’s perfectly healthy. He’s lost 25 pounds. We just had to find out did he really want to be a general manager. He obviously wanted to. This was a special job for him.”
Gettleman spent time at NFL Films this season in Mt. Laurel, N.J., watching tape and staying in touch with the game. He was anxious to get back in.
He won the electoral vote. He won the popular vote. Now all he has to do is get the Giants back in Super Bowl contention.