Of all the teams in the NFL, the New York Football Giants stand out in one way. And it’s not a good way.
There’s a not-so-subtle attitude that permeates the organization. And it seems to be directed at everyone — opponents, media, neutral parties, paying customers.
The media is, regardless of periodic efforts to undermine this reality by those on the wrong side of negative coverage, the conduit between team and fan. So when a member of the team is available to be questioned and when a reporter asks a question, the reporter is (or at least should be) asking the question on behalf of the fans.
For Giants fans, the biggest question in the aftermath of the decision to keep Eli Manning and to trade Odell Beckham Jr. is this: What is the team’s plan? It was obvious that G.M. Dave Gettleman would be asked that question on a Monday conference call, so he should have had an answer ready. Presumably, he did.
Here’s the question that was asked: “Can you best articulate what the plan is, and how letting Landon Collins go, trading Odell Beckham, trading Olivier Vernon, but bringing back Eli Manning factors into your plan, and what that plan is?”
Here’s the answer from Gettleman: “Really and truly, very honestly, it’s not my responsibility to tell you guys what I’m doing. Just like it’s not my responsibility to respond to every rumor that comes down the pike. That’s not my job. It’s not my responsibility. Trust me, we’ve got a plan. Over time, you’ve got to be patient. Everybody wants answers now in this instant-gratification society, instant-gratification world, and everybody wants answers now. Over time, you’ll see it. You’ve got to trust it.”
Presumably, someone came up with that “instant-gratification” talking point. Presumably, it was deemed to be a good approach.
It wasn’t. It isn’t. It comes off as smug and arrogant. It comes off as tone deaf to the fact that, at the end of the day, the Giants are in an entertainment business, requiring them to continuously persuade fans to part with their money and their time.
The Giants surely know that. Why else would they be clinging to Eli Manning a year and a half after the fans launched a near-mutiny after Ben McAdoo clumsily tried to bench the best quarterback in franchise history? But when it comes to explaining to these same fans why the team has done what it’s done and where it’s all leading, the answer is, basically, “None of your damn business.”
There’s a better way to answer questions like this, without tipping the hand or otherwise spilling the secrets. Gettleman could have said something like this: “In today’s NFL, there’s a constant effort to win as many games as possible in the next season, with an eye toward the seasons that will follow it. So when putting a roster together, we have to think about how to get the best 53 players on the roster now and in the future, and ultimately how to get the best 11 on the field at any given time. Along the way, we’ll have opportunities to acquire other players, through free agency, trades, and the draft. Every decision we make has in mind the goal of winning now, and winning later. Ultimately, though, everything we do is about winning.”
It’s easy. It’s simple. It sounds like he’s saying something while ultimately saying nothing — and while also not saying something that could be regarded as disrespectful to those who are reasonably curious about what the Giants are doing. The Giants, and every team, should embrace that curiosity, not brush it off as nosiness or meddling. That curiosity helps pay the bills, because people care enough to pay attention.
And when the team says “don’t pay attention,” the team ignores the basic reality of what it takes to fill a stadium and drive ratings.
This isn’t a knock on Gettleman, who I’ve interviewed during his time as G.M. of the Panthers. But there’s something about being G.M. of the Giants that has made him act and talk a certain way, and it’s really not the best way for the Giants to connect with the fans, or with the people who essentially represent the fans when the opportunity arises to ask specific questions about what the Giants are doing.