EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dave Gettleman's arms flailed and a smile crept across his freshly shaven face as if trying to touch the corners of his rectangular glasses. The Super Bowl prize he had won as a front-office member of the New York Giants sparkled on his right ring finger while he laid out his intentions as the team's general manager.
"My plan is to come in here every day and kick ass. That's my plan, OK?" Gettleman said at his introductory news conference on Dec. 28, 2017. "And I'm going to keep doing it until they either take my key card or the Lord calls me home."
This came minutes after he quoted 1970s sitcom grouch Archie Bunker and yelled, "Fumble!" as he knocked the miniature water bottle off the podium and onto the floor. Perhaps it was foreshadowing what was to come.
It has been 1,404 days since that news conference. Getting close to four full calendar years with way too many losses and not enough wins. In a league where production determines job security, the clock is ticking for Gettleman.
Steve Spagnuolo, who will be on the other sideline as defensive coordinator when the Giants (2-5) try to upset the Kansas City Chiefs (3-4) on Monday night (8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN), was New York's interim coach when Gettleman was hired.
Seems like an eternity ago.
There have been big signings (receiver Kenny Golladay, linebacker Blake Martinez, cornerback James Bradberry), big trades (receiver Odell Beckham Jr., defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and Leonard Williams), two coaching changes and four drafts since. Gettleman has had ample time to get the Giants right, but has three straight seasons of double-digit losses and another ugly start in 2021 to show for his work, even if the roster has made incremental gains.
The Giants are 17-38 since he was hired, and with Monday night road trips against last season's Super Bowl participants in their next three games (they play 6-2 Tampa Bay on Nov. 22), they seem destined for a fourth straight losing season under their embattled GM.
To put all the losing into perspective, the Giants could put together an undefeated season and their record since his arrival would still be under .500.
'Nobody should feel comfortable'
The list of recent general managers (or those with final say over personnel) to survive four straight losing seasons to begin their tenure is short.
Since 2000, Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead has been the biggest success story. The Rams had five straight losing seasons to start his tenure from 2012 to 2016, but have three postseason appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl since.
Dave Caldwell in Jacksonville, Reggie McKenzie in Oakland and Matt Millen in Detroit are the only others to be afforded the opportunity, and their overall results (two winning records in a combined 23 seasons) don't make a strong argument for Gettleman.
"Look, you can make all the excuses you want, but the NFL is the ultimate bottom-line business. And Bill Parcells, who is revered around there, said it best of anyone. 'You are what your record says you are,'" ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said last week on the Breaking Big Blue podcast. "You can get mad at people who are critical of the organization. You can get mad at people who are critical of your play on the football field, whether it be as a team or individuals overall. But the fact is their record is what they are.
"They're a 2-5 football team that hasn't been to the playoffs in years. And that is a problem for a team with that history that they have there. ... Nobody should feel comfortable and nobody does, because there are nothing but professionals over there in that building."
The reality is if things keep heading in this direction, changes are inevitable. Losing comes with consequences.
Executives around the league are under the impression the Giants are quietly looking at general manager possibilities, according to multiple sources.
Another ominous sign: The Giants and owner John Mara declined an opportunity to provide a public vote of confidence for Gettleman this week after doing so for head coach Joe Judge with a New York Post reporter several days earlier.
All potential, no production
"We got to fix the O-line, let's be honest. Let's not kid each other," Gettleman said when he was hired.
Four seasons later, it hasn't happened. The Giants have left tackle Andrew Thomas (the No. 4 overall pick in 2020 who is on injured reserve) and a bunch of question marks on their line beyond this season. Thomas has played much better in his second season, but was still ranked 38th with a pass block win rate of 86.7% prior to the injury. Not exactly the "Hog Mollies" Gettleman promised.
And all the offensive firepower he has drafted and signed (running back Saquon Barkley, receivers Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton and John Ross and tight end Kyle Rudolph) to support quarterback Daniel Jones, drafted No. 6 overall in 2019, doesn't mean anything if the results don't improve.
"Potential doesn't mean squat in the NFL. Wins mean something in the NFL," Riddick said. "Potential doesn't do anything but get people to buy tickets in the offseason and buy jerseys in the offseason and get excited about the coming season, and it allows ownership groups to always sell what's coming next down the line. Sell the future.
"And that is kind of like this cycle the Giants have been in."
The injuries have been a crushing problem this season with six offensive line combinations in seven games and every starter at the skill positions missing at least two games. But that can't be the job-saving excuse for Gettleman in Year 4 when players like Golladay, Barkley, Ross, receiver Sterling Shepard, and safety Jabrill Peppers are among those losses. All had missed at least six games over the previous two seasons.
As Gettleman said several years back: "Hurt guys get hurt. That is a phrase we have in scouting. It's just the truth."
It's his job to provide depth and contingency plans, and if this season continues heading south, the injuries and lack of depth could be the final straw.
If the Giants are indeed looking for his replacement, it seems unlikely they would stay in-house given their eight losing records over the past nine seasons.
Riddick, Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, New England Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler and Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen are expected to be in the mix should there be an opening. Internally there are assistant GM Kevin Abrams and director of college scouting Chris Pettit. Seattle Seahawks VP of player personnel Trent Kirchner is also highly regarded around the league.
Riddick interviewed for the job when Gettleman was hired. He impressed and remains highly regarded by Mara and the Giants. Ossenfort and Ziegler have preexisting relationships with Judge, which would philosophically align the organization. Schoen is expected by multiple league sources to be a hot name this offseason.
Still, a lot can happen in 10 weeks. If there were an organization that could convince itself to go down the Gettleman path for a fifth straight year, it would be the Giants. Mara is on record saying they never seriously contemplated moving on from him last year, no matter how hard that is to believe after a 6-10 campaign -- the best of the Gettleman era. Mara cited the way the 70-year-old GM worked with Judge and the gains the team had made in its behind-the-scenes operations.
There is also evidence the Giants (cue the injury excuses) are headed in the right direction with their personnel, no matter how slow the progress. Keeping things intact has its benefits.
"The teams that have repeated success are the ones that have continuity," said ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum, a big fan of Jones and Judge. "The easy thing is to make the change. But I think long term where the best franchises have been rewarded is to stay the course.
"I think this team has gotten better."
This is why Judge is expected to be safe barring an absolute disaster down the stretch. He is in his second year, and Mara has admitted publicly and to those close to him that he gave up on former coach Ben McAdoo too quickly during a rough 2017 season.
McAdoo went 11-5 as a rookie head coach and was fired before his second season was over. Pat Shurmur followed and was out after two seasons working with subpar rosters as well.
The Giants want to avoid firing another coach after two seasons. This traditionally patient and loyal ownership group seems intent on sticking with Judge, a young head coach (38 years old when hired) who has earned respect with his process, poise and ability to handle the locker room through tough times.
Judge didn't seem to be concerned about his future when asked about the trade deadline last week.
"I always think long-term. ... I've said this from the beginning," he said. "I'm not about taking shortcuts into anything. I've made it very clear in terms of my vision of the team and where I want to build it. It's being built for long-term success."
If Judge achieves that success, signs point to it happening alongside a different general manager.