The Giants have had only five general managers since 1974, a spell of stability and patience illustrated by the four Super Bowl trophies on display at their headquarters in East Rutherford, N.J. But it has been 10 seasons since their last title — five since their last playoff appearance — and that sliver of time might as well be an epoch in their universe.
The day after another fiasco of a Giants season reached its merciful conclusion, with a 22-7 home loss to Washington that dropped their record to 4-13, the team on Monday embarked on another overhaul. The Giants announced that their general manager, Dave Gettleman, had retired, but that was only the first phase. On Tuesday evening, after meeting with Coach Joe Judge for a second consecutive day, they fired him. Judge, the third straight Giants coach to not last beyond two seasons, presided over six consecutive losses — all by at least 11 points — to close the season.
“I said before the season started that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season,” John Mara, a team co-owner, said in a statement announcing Judge’s departure. “Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we have made this decision.”
For all the Giants’ front-office continuity across the last several decades, they have struggled to identify a coach with the staying power — and success — of Tom Coughlin, who stepped down in January 2016 after 12 seasons. His replacement, Ben McAdoo, reached the playoffs in his first season but didn’t make it through a second. The next two coaches, Pat Shurmur and Judge, both hired by Gettleman, went 19-46, the team’s worst four-year stretch since 1975-78.
Judge, who had previously been a special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach for the New England Patriots, had no head coaching experience at any level before the Giants hired him. Any equity Judge built with management and the fan base last season — when they nearly won a dreadful N.F.C. East at 6-10 — dissolved amid a flurry of personnel failings, on-field ineptitude and news-conference myopia.
On Sunday, a week after Judge delivered an 11-minute defense of his performance following a 29-3 loss at Chicago in which he claimed that several former players told him they wished they still played for the team, the Giants gained all of 177 yards against Washington and, in an act of either capitulation or apathy, called consecutive quarterback sneaks — on second-and-11 and third-and-9 — from inside their 5-yard line.
2021 N.F.L. Season News and Analysis
- The Reason Every Playoff Team Will Lose: All but one remaining team have a fatal flaw.
- N.F.L. Coach Firings: Brian Flores (Dolphins), Matt Nagy (Bears), Mike Zimmer (Vikings) and Vic Fangio (Broncos) were all dismissed before the Giants fired Joe Judge and announced the retirement of G.M. Dave Gettleman.
- Week 18 Takeaways: What we learned from the final games of the regular season.
- Searching for Joy in East Rutherford, N.J.: An illustrated look at the cold, wet Giants loss to the Washington Football Team.
“Obviously, the fans deserve better than what we gave them this year,” Judge said afterward. “Our team deserves better than what we accomplished this year.”
The Giants are one of three teams — along with Minnesota and Chicago — now searching for a coach and a general manager this off-season.
Gettleman, 70, a longtime Giants executive who built the 2015 N.F.C. champion Carolina Panthers, inherited a team at the end of the 2017 season that had uncertainty at quarterback, a porous offensive line and a vacancy at head coach. He leaves a team with uncertainty at quarterback, a porous offensive line and a vacancy at head coach. For the first time in a while, the Giants are in worse straits than their co-tenant at MetLife Stadium, the Jets, who also went 4-13 but have a promising quarterback in Zach Wilson and the sound leadership of Coach Robert Saleh and General Manager Joe Douglas.
The Giants’ plunge into disarray under Gettleman has been both gradual and not unanticipated, dating to his first draft, in 2018: With the second overall pick he dismissed the diminished value of running backs by selecting Saquon Barkley instead of a quarterback, or even the elite guard Quenton Nelson, who went to the Colts.
Compromised by injuries and hurt by the Giants’ poor run-blocking, Barkley missed 18 games the last two seasons and rushed for just 627 yards with two touchdowns.
After the 2019 season, Mara said that he hoped Gettleman would remain general manager for many years and that the owners thought he was capable of assembling a “great” team. He did not.
In free agency, Gettleman doled out major contracts that backfired to offensive tackle Nate Solder ($62 million), and receivers Golden Tate ($37.5 million) and Kenny Golladay ($72 million). He signed receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a huge extension, making him the league’s highest-paid receiver, and then traded him to Cleveland for players — Jabrill Peppers, Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines — who haven’t developed into stars.
Gettleman also invested the 2019 sixth overall pick in Daniel Jones, who, playing behind a meager offensive line, has neither flopped nor offered demonstrable evidence that he should be viewed as the team’s long-term quarterback.
Gettleman did make shrewd moves, such as signing cornerback James Bradberry before the 2020 season; drafting left tackle Andrew Thomas and receiver Kadarius Toney; and trading back in last April’s draft — for his first time as a general manager — to amass another first-round choice in the 2022 draft.
The two premium selections, at Nos. 5 and 7, now convey to an as yet undetermined Giants executive the same charge entrusted to Gettleman four years ago: restore a fading franchise — the franchise of George Young and Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese — to respectability.