The overwhelming consensus outside of the Giants organization was that they were going to have to look outside their organization to fix their problems. They were going to have to hire a general manager from outside their “family.” They needed to think outside their little box.
“They’re going to have to change all of their thinking,” a former NFL GM said late in the season. “But it’s a family business. They don’t want to do that.”
Maybe they don’t. But that’s still exactly what the Giants are doing now.
No matter how this search eventually turns out, give Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch credit for this: They are doing exactly what everyone thought they should do as they search for a new person to run their team. There were eight known candidates for their GM job within 24 hours after Dave Gettleman retired.
Every single one of them was from the outside.
That has to be uncomfortable, to say the least, especially for the Mara family that has owned the franchise for nearly 100 years and held either full control or lots of sway over football operations for much of that time. They have family members in powerful positions in the football operations department – a fact their critics seize upon often. The last true outsider to run the football side came when George Young was forced on them by the NFL back in 1979.
But this time they are not leaning on what or who they know. If nothing else, they have assembled a diverse field of candidates, from various teams and backgrounds and different levels of experience.
The group so far, according to sources, includes Buffalo Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen, Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and VP of player personnel Ryan Cowden, Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles, Arizona Cardinals VP of pro personnel Adrian Wilson and VP of player personnel Quentin Harris, and San Francisco 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters and director of player personnel Ran Carthon.
There are only two on the list with any obvious ties to the Giants: Carthon, whose father, Maurice, played fullback and won two Super Bowls for them from 1985-1991; and Harris, who was a safety in Giants training camp in 2006.
The group is also young, with an age range from 36-44. Most of them would become the youngest true GM the Giants have ever had. And while there are currently no former GMs on the list, the group comes from a variety of NFL backgrounds – some former players, some ex-scouts, all with varying levels of front office experience. They also come from five different organizations – all in the playoffs this year.
So they are doing what smart teams do: They’re looking for up-and-coming front office stars who’ve experienced success.
And they are casting a very wide net.
“It’s exactly what they needed to do,” said a current NFL executive. “They needed to hear different ideas. They needed fresh eyes taking a critical look at their organization. And this is a good list. These guys are well-respected. It’s a very good start.”
It also wasn’t a given that they’d go this way. Kevin Abrams, the Giants’ assistant general manager, was always expected to get serious consideration for the GM job, considering he’d been with the organization for 22 seasons and had interviewed for the job twice before. Joe Judge, who was fired on Tuesday, had been pushing for Abrams to get the promotion to maintain some level of status quo.
But again, give Mara and Tisch credit: They knew they couldn’t do that, and not just because they couldn’t sell it to the fans. Abrams, even if he didn’t have final say, has been the vice president of football operations for the past four seasons. So he’s had a part in Gettleman’s record of 19-46, too.
“They’ve had stability in that franchise since George (Young) was there and you know they wanted to retain that,” said a former NFL executive. “It’s just not necessarily the right thing to do.”
And so they won’t, which is the right thing to do under the circumstances, no matter how extensive the changes are that an outsider brings. There is likely to be complete upheaval in the front office, and some powerful people will lose influence. Some of them may even be part of ownership’s family tree.
But good, because the status quo hasn’t worked since the ticker tape stopped falling on the Canyon of Heroes after Super Bowl XLVI. In the last 10 years, the Giants have had eight losing seasons, seven with at least 10 losses, four head coaches and an interim head coach, two general managers and an interim GM, just one playoff game that didn’t go well at all, and an overall record of 61-100.
This is a franchise crying out for a new plan, a new operation, a new way of thinking about football.
And now, for the first time in 43 years, it looks like that’s exactly what the Giants are going to get.