The New York Giants are coming off a 5-11 campaign in 2018, their fifth losing season in six years, their longest drought since the dreadful Wilderness Years of the 1970s.
General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are not concerned with the past, however. They’re all about the future and creating a winning culture.
Over the course of their nine-and-a-half decade existence, the Giants have been known for their austerity and patience. In the new-age NFL, those traits are not always valued as most fans expect instant gratification and results.
As the pair enter their second season with the Giants, the roster is more conducive in assisting them towards what they aim to achieve. The defense has been remolded to fit defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s system and the offense is going through similar changes.
One of the hallmarks of the Gettleman-Shurmur era has been the pinpoint focus on special teams. Gettleman is unlike his predecessor, Jerry Reese, in that he brings in players instead of projects. The roster has more flexibility and depth as it contains more players that can play a wide array of roles. Last season, the Giants showed marked improvement on special teams under new coordinator Thomas McGaughey.
Perhaps one of the major differences that will be noticed in this year’s upcoming training camp is there are currently no veterans with contract issues. Gettleman has solved all of that. The only players remaining to be signed at this moment in time are first round pick Daniel Jones and linebacker Oshane Ximines, the team’s third-round selection.
Another noticeable difference will be the unity and team-first attitude among the rank and file. Gettleman has cleared the deck of all ingrates and drama-seekers and only added players who are willing to put the team above their own interests.
Shurmur and Gettleman both wanted to change the culture from the one they inherited. It’s happening quickly and both men aren’t shy when it comes to making that point clear.
"“It’s about accumulating really good football players, who are also really good folks,” Gettleman said before the NFL Draft in April. “The culture is important, I have said it a million times, you guys know that…I have this crazy idea that age doesn’t bother me. I better because my age doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, it’s about a good football player. Antoine Bethea is still a hell of a football player, so is Kevin Zeitler, those guys can flat play. Plus, we have 12 draft picks, we are going to be really young. It’s about building a team, it’s not about individual players in silos.”"
Shurmur is pleased with what he and Gettleman have been able to do thus far. They are using the rebuilding model to augment their real goal, which is to eliminate the negatives and promote the positives.
"“I think every year you have to re-establish your culture because you don’t always play the next year with all the same guys from the previous year,” Shurmur said at minicamp in June. “That’s always the challenge. I think more was made of it this year probably because we made so many changes. That’s really what the process involved.”"
Bethea and Zeitler are two veterans that still have plenty of football left in them and are going to be leaned upon to help guide this young roster. The Giants are sure to have at least a dozen rookies on the team this year, meaning that more than half of their roster will contain players with three or fewer years of NFL experience.
One of those players will be Jones, who has done nothing but answer the critics’ cries since he arrived. Every expert worth their salt questioned Gettleman’s sanity when he chose Jones with the sixth overall pick this year.
How could they bypass all of that defensive talent with the sixth pick to take Jones, who many felt could have been had much later in the round – or beyond.
But now, the tune’s changed. The question has gone from what did the Giants take Jones so high to how soon he can replace the incumbent, Eli Manning. Jones has conducted himself most professionally and fans and pundits are suddenly realizing the Giants have a succession plan for Manning and it just might be a really good one.
Last year at this time, not many were buying in on the future of the Giants. Gettleman was considered to be a old school retread and Shurmur, although a strong assistant coach, was not head coaching material.
Both are out to prove those stereotypes wrong. Gettleman is certain he stocked the team with enough talent to compete and Shurmur has a better feel for the job these days and has the collective respect of the locker room, management and the fans. There are no more sideshows and dumpster fires for him to deal with. Everyone coming to camp is there for a reason – to play football for the New York Giants.