Giants GM on Daniel Jones: ‘You don’t get cute with a quarterback’

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Odd travel weekend, and I was writing outside on a lovely early Sunday morning in Phoenix, at a table in the back of my hotel. Middle-aged guy approaches, introduces himself. “Giants fan,” the guy said. “Talk me off the ledge. Does Gettleman know what he’s doing?”

“I’ll give you one,” Gettleman himself said over the phone an hour later. “I was at my bagel shop this morning. Guy said to me, ‘Dave, great pick.’ “

Just a feeling: The guy at the bagel shop is not in the majority among Giants’ fans.

My big question to Gettleman in the wake of the weekend centered around taking Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at six. (Isn’t that the question on every Giants fan’s brain right now?) Actually, I had a couple of questions. That was the first, and then, why was Gettleman trying to trade with Denver at 10—which John Elway told me in Denver after the first round.

Why, I asked, did Gettleman not do what the chalk said there—get the desperately needed pass-rusher, Josh Allen, at six, and then take the calculated risk of letting Jones slide, and getting him either with the second first-round pick (17th) or in a slight trade-up from 17?

“I agonized over that,” Gettleman said from his office in New Jersey. “I agonized. Before the draft, we discussed that thoroughly as a group—first last Friday, then again Wednesday. Obviously we had great regard for Josh Allen. But the one thing I have learned is you don’t fool around with a quarterback. If he’s your guy, you take him. If you put 32 general managers in a room and gave ‘em sodium pentathol [truth serum], every single one of them would tell you a story of how they got cute in a draft and it cost them a player they wanted. So you don’t get cute there. You don’t get cute with a quarterback.”

Gettleman told me he “knows for a fact” there were two teams that wanted Jones between six and 17. I could not find them, though I certainly can’t say with certainty that two do not exist. Either way, Gettleman believed it was not a risk worth taking. And so instead of having some percentage of a chance to get Allen at six and Jones at 17 (or earlier in a trade-up), the Giants got Jones at six and run-stuffing defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at 17. Finding a run-stuffer, obviously, is easier than finding a pass-rusher. So we’ll see how it works out.

But let’s go through the exercise and see about the two teams and Jones, starting with Jacksonville at seven. No; just signed Nick Foles. Detroit; highly unlikely with Matthew Stafford in-house. Buffalo; no, Josh Allen (the Wyoming QB) just drafted last year. Denver at 10: I was there, and Broncos had Drew Lock number one on their QB board. Bengals at 11; doubtful but don’t know for sure. Green Bay at 12; highly unlikely. Miami at 13; unknown. Atlanta at 14; no way. Washington at 15 seemed locked in on Dwayne Haskins. Carolina at 16; highly unlikely. So Miami, maybe. I can’t find another one that appears likely to have had Jones in the crosshairs, though that doesn’t mean it was not so.

The bile aimed at Gettleman was, even by New York standards, extreme. WFAN’s Mike Francesa called the Giants “football clowns … chronic losers” with a GM “who doesn’t have a plan.” The Post’s back page had Gettleman looking clueless and a “BLUE’S CLUELESS” headline. On Twitter, someone posted “Dave Gettleman’s Résumé” and this:

Gettleman brings some of this on himself when he says things like he fell in “full-blown love” with Jones after watching him play three series at the Senior Bowl … as though that’s all he had to see to mortgage the Giants’ franchise on Jones. Clearly he studied the quarterbacks at length and decided Jones had the arm strength and mental makeup to be the best of the four atop this draft. “Being the quarterback of the New York Giants is a mental load,” he said. “If you can’t handle the mental aspect, you can’t make it. That’s one of the things we liked about Daniel.”

Part of Gettleman understands the visceral reaction to the pick. He told me if he couldn’t deal with the brickbats he’d go back to coaching high school football. (At a fairly significant salary reduction.)

But part of him is sad for what the business has become.

“The bottom line is, I have confidence in what I do and who I am,” he said. “I’ve been a part of organizations that had pretty good quarterbacks—Jim Kelly, John Elway, Kerry Collins, Eli Manning, Cam Newton. I’ve led a charmed life with the quarterbacks on the teams I’ve worked for. I know what good ones look like. The other thing is, résumés matter. Every once in a while, I wish the people taking the shots would take a minute to look at my résumé. I’ve been a part of teams that went to seven Super Bowls. I had a hand in some of them. But today, there’s no patience. And there’s no room for civil discourse in our society, which I find sad.”

I would have done it a different way, I think. I’d have taken Allen at six and found a way to trade back for Jones, if I was that worried about missing him at 17. To me, the risk to acquire a pass-rusher (an essential element the Giants do not now have) would have been worth it. But the point about Jones, and going all-in for a quarterback you like, is something every GM has to do at some point. I don’t believe Gettleman was dumb for picking Jones, because quarterback-prospecting is one of the most inexact things a GM has to do. Lawrence is a solid but likely overpicked defensive tackle. The third first-rounder, cornerback Deandre Baker, could well be a day one starter at a position the Giants had a big need.

Nothing anyone could tell Gettleman could dissuade him from thinking the Giants got a lot better over the weekend—even if the sixth pick doesn’t play for a year or two. Football requires patience to judge whether players turn out to be good, particularly at quarterback. But the Giants haven’t won a playoff game in seven years. Eli Manning’s a swell guy, but seven-year droughts are not often broken by 37-year-old quarterbacks. It’s time to turn the page. Fans want change now. With the Giants, it’s not happening that fast.

“In three years,” he said, “we’ll find out how crazy I am.”

Read more from Football Morning in America here

Why Texans need to trade for Redskins’ Trent Williams now

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Three Things I Think

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Three quick thoughts:

1. I think my everlasting memory of this trip will be watching J.J. Watt steam in from Aaron Rodgers’ left side on a live pass-rush drill (well, full-speed, but no hitting the quarterback in a camp practice) in the Texans-Packers joint practices. He jousted with left tackle David Bakhtiari, dipped to the outside, got half a step on the left tackle, and sprinted at Rodgers. Watt meant it. As did Rodgers, who sprinted up the right side and evaded Watt. First time Watt ever stepped foot in Wisconsin to play pro football (though a practice), and he got emotional about it, and it meant a lot to him. Two Hall of Fame players going at it on a Monday morning in northeast Wisconsin. Loved it.

2. I think the Texans need to trade for Washington left tackle Trent Williams, who is unhappy in Washington and threatening to not play this year. Houston’s time is now. Watt turns 30 this year. So much of this team is in its prime. They could get three or four more years out of Williams, who turns 31 next Monday, and he’d strengthen the only true weak point of this team.

3. I think I marvel at DeAndre Hopkins and found it compelling to just watch him practice in Green Bay. He even dropped a pass over the middle. Consider that last year he became the first receiver since drop stats were kept—at least 13 years—to catch at least 110 balls without a drop. “Why do you think people don’t really know that?” he asked me after practice, a bit annoyed. I don’t know, but I do know Hopkins is the best wideout in football by almost any measure. “There are games, like against Philly last year, when he gets his jersey ripped off,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “Teams are so physical with him. What makes him special is so many plays are contested. People are draped on him, and he comes down with it.” With wideout injuries last year, Houston saw a weird three-man coverage at times on Hopkins, “cut coverage,” O’Brien called it, with a linebacker undercutting him near the line of scrimmage before he would get out in the open field and face two cover guys. I asked Hopkins how he worked on his hands as a kid. Jerry Rice tossed and caught bricks with his dad, a mason. Hopkins: “This is something I haven’t told many people, because it’s embarrassing,” he said. “We always used to catch flies with our hands. I was the only one who could catch ‘em. One-handed, two-handed. I actually studied flies. I’d watch ‘em. How do you catch flies? They fly up. If I can catch that, I can catch anything.”

Why Antonio Brown is crazy to fight NFL over helmet issue

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Regarding the Mike Silver/Adam Schefter-reported stories Friday about the melodrama surrounding the Oakland receiver—or, I should say, the receiver employed by Oakland who is not currently playing for Oakland—the overriding thought I have is a simple one. The NFL and the NFLPA have teamed up to research helmet safety and helmet technology through exhaustive, independent studies since 2016. All players were told in 2017 they’d have to wear new helmets—league and union-approved—by 2018, with a one-year grandfather period pushing the absolute deadline to don correct helmets to 2019. I did a podcast about the helmet in May, and over the previous seven months talked to 14 players about the helmet issue. Several of the players weren’t crazy about making the change, including 49ers tackle Joe Staley, who’d worn the same model of helmet for 15 years (though it had been updated at least once) and admitted to me he would not have changed unless forced.

“It’s something that needs to be done,” Staley told me last fall, “and I think I’m a perfect case study of why it needs to be done. I wouldn’t have changed my helmet unless they made these rules changes.”

For Brown to be fighting this is just crazy. According to Schefter, Brown had a two-hour grievance hearing Friday with an independent arbitrator, arguing that he should be able to wear a helmet he has been wearing for more than 10 years. (That, in itself, makes the helmet illegal; the NFL mandates that helmets worn for at least 10 years be replaced, regardless of their condition.)

There isn’t much the league and players union agree on without reservation, but the current helmet protocol, the outgrowth of a $60-million investment by NFL owners in 2016 to improve helmet technology and reduce head trauma in players, is one of those things. If Brown wins, he would be the lone player out of 2,016 active and practice-squad players in the NFL this season who would be wearing a helmet—the Schutt Air Advantage, in his case—not approved for use by NFL and NFLPA testers. And this helmet is so old that it’s not even been tested by the league and the union. I’m told unquestionably it would fail any test for helmet safety, as would virtually any helmet not made in the last four or five years.

A few other thoughts on this nutty story:

• Brown has to grow up, or he’s got to get some help. Someone in his life, if anyone has a scintilla of influence over him (and that is in doubt), needs to say to him: The Raiders could void your contract for this behavior, and you’d be out $30.1 million in guaranteed money, and what team would pay you even a fraction of that after? You walked out on the Steelers and then turned into a child on the Raiders and boycotted them too—in the span of nine months!

• The Steelers have to be the happiest team in the league right now. They don’t have a great player, but they do have a sane, undivided training camp.

Jon Gruden has to defend Brown, which he did Saturday night after the Raiders’ preseason win over the Rams. But anyone who knows Gruden knows he’s got to be frustrated over his best offensive weapon being disabled because of the freaky frostbite injury and fuming at Brown being AWOL because the NFL is trying to make football safer for him.

• To be a fly on GM Mike Mayock’s wall. He’s a football purist, and his first season piloting a storied franchise might be sent over a cliff by the weirdest controversy in years that has incredibly little to do with real football.

• Mike Silver’s 20-tweet thread detailing the Brown story Friday was exquisite. Best football thread I’ve seen, full of rich detail and information about the dysfunctional Brown/Raiders/helmet thing. What was great about Silver’s long social screed: It was essentially an 800-word news story, broken in real time on Twitter instead of being broken on NFL.com with a Twitter link to the story. Whatever the reason for doing it that way (NFL.com I’m sure now regrets the loss of traffic on a heavily read story), I found it easy to digest just by scrolling up on my phone. Silver had the helmet stuff solid, and this piece of information that can’t go on in team meetings: “Brown, according to witnesses, typically glances at the screens of several tablets and his smart phone during meetings, distracting himself by engaging in activities which include perusing his bank accounts and ‘liking’ photos on Instagram.” Social media is still the Wild West, but Silver showed you can break news with a story broken into 20 easy bites.

• “Hard Knocks” is either going to show a slice of this Brown story this week, with some real video and team reaction, or it’s Pravda. And I know Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, the curator of this show. He will want to show the real story, very much.

I’ve been around a lot of crazy stories in the NFL in my 35 years covering the league. But the last nine months in the life of Antonio Brown is right up there.


One more thing from Kearse: “The NFL changed the rules to prevent more head injuries and more head contact. But at the end of the day it’s a full-contact sport and guys are kind of making quick decisions, and you want to be able to have a product that’s going to be able to protect you. I think the NFL wants this league to last. They’re going to have to continue to keep digging deeper to improve. It’s an uncontrolled environment where things can happen and for me personally, I want to have the best protecting me out there.”

Someone’s got to get to Brown, and fast.