The first half of Pat Shurmur’s first season as Giants head coach could not have gone worse. Yet it was at that dire time general manager Dave Gettleman was most impressed with the work of the guy he hired.
“We were 1-7 and we had two practices during the bye week that, it just was kind of amazing,’’ Gettleman said Wednesday in his first public comments since training camp. “Just the way he kept them, the way Pat and the coaches kept everybody on task, going in the right direction, understanding that, to a certain degree, we were the little engine that could and kept pushing that thing up the hill. There is no doubt in my mind he’s the right guy.’’
What Gettleman saw in what could have been dreary late October practices was “focus, there was energy, there were things getting accomplished. And the proof was in the pudding by what we did the last eight games. That’s what encourages me, that’s why I think the foundation is right.’’
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“You didn’t have any of the crap going on in the locker room that happened last year,’’ Gettleman said. “There’s nobody in this room that can argue with me on one point: This team did not quit. It was competitive as hell. And that’s the start.’’
Several moves Gettleman made, especially in free agency, did not work out. His signings of guard Patrick Omameh and running back Jonathan Stewart were busts on the field, but Gettleman is adamant there was more to those additions than what can be measured by rushing yards or run-blocking ratings.
“One of the biggest issues we had last year that we had to fix was what? The locker room,’’ Gettleman said. “And both Jonathan Stewart and Patrick Omameh are true professionals, and they were brought here … for other reasons than their play. So just understand that. We feel like we’ve turned that corner, especially with this rookie class.’’
The most significant move in Gettleman’s first year was using the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft on running back Saquon Barkley and not a quarterback — with Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen all available.
“Us taking Saquon was not a referendum on the quarterbacks, it was a referendum on Saquon,’’ Gettleman said. “On the player he is and the person he is. If I was in that situation 100 times, I would draft him 100 times.’’
The main thrust of last year’s offseason was upgrading the offensive line. Bringing in Omameh was a swing and miss. Gettleman signed Nate Solder to play left tackle and took Will Hernandez in the second round of the draft. Hernandez did not miss a snap and started all 16 games at left guard. The loss of center Jon Halapio after two games to a fractured ankle was a blow, as Gettleman said Halapio “was probably the best of anybody, so don’t forget about ’Pio.’’
Gettleman will not call this a rebuilding process — “I always hate the word rebuild,’’ he said — but the way he overhauled the roster defines this as a task that will not be complete in one year.
“Well, the message is, we’re going in the right direction,’’ he said. “We had a lot of competitive games. And we’re getting better, and we’re gonna continue to fix this.
“We’re going to continue and get it right. We’re gonna fix it. We’re gonna fix it.”