General manager Dave Gettleman came to the New York Giants with the goal in mind to improve the lines and clean out the locker room. The jury is out on the never-ending quest to fortify the lines, but he has unequivocally succeeded in cleaning out the locker room, to the point that the names and faces are almost unrecognizable.
Only 14 players remain from the roster Gettleman inherited at the end of the 2017 season. Gone are the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison and Eli Apple. All quality starters -- some stars -- and part of the upheaval, perhaps with a purpose beyond their level of play.
Make no mistake, Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur mean business.
"Part of the responsibility of the general manager is to eliminate distractions," Gettleman said at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Gettleman made that comment when talking about whether to use the franchise tag on Collins and subsequently create an unhappy safety. But it can likely be applied to a lot of his moves.
Beckham had his issues this past season. Vernon had a run-in with Shurmur during a team meeting last season when he took offense to the coach's public criticism; it occurred in front of the entire team. Pierre-Paul and Harrison had a confrontation late in 2017, right around the time Gettleman arrived. Harrison then wasn't around for most of the new regime's first offseason, which didn't seem to sit well. Apple, meanwhile, was suspended right after Gettleman was hired.
In just over a year, the players -- who had combined for 88.5 sacks, 47 touchdowns and made nine Pro Bowls with the Giants -- were gone. Surely there were other contributing factors (their play, salaries, trade value, overall state of the franchise), but it's probably not purely a coincidence that all were exiled not long after incidents that can be deemed distractions.
The Giants spent the past few weeks insisting the trade of Beckham was a "football decision" and "business," which in part, it was. Except it would be irresponsible to think all the other stuff wasn't a factor.
There were issues with Beckham that admittedly irked ownership and coaches. Shurmur expressed his public discontent after Beckham sat down for an interview last season with ESPN's Josina Anderson and Lil Wayne. Co-owner John Mara was publicly disturbed by the Josh Norman incident, the pretending to pee on the field like a dog during a celebration in 2017 and the troubling video that surfaced last offseason during a trip Beckham took to France.
There always seemed to be something, although it was never something Giants ownership considered unmanageable.
"Honestly, there were times when it did bother me, yeah. And I had conversations with him about it," Mara said last week. "But it was never to the point where we said to Dave, 'You have to get rid of this guy.' It never reached that point.
"Is it a factor in the final decision [to trade Beckham]? Yeah, it's a factor."
This has created a perception that you don't mess with the current Giants regime. If you do, you might be next with a ticket out of town.
Some players admitted they have noticed. The team's decision-makers have cleaned house with what they believe is a purpose. It appears in an era in which players need more coddling than ever, the Giants are drawing lines in the sand.
Shurmur doesn't seem to think the perception is true.
"I don't know what you are talking about, no-nonsense [regime]," Shurmur said. "I learned a lot from my time in Cleveland, and it is about the players. It is about getting to know the players and having them be the best they can be. There is a certain way they have to act. In terms of the contracts, I don't deal with it."
Shurmur also downplayed the idea that any of the incidents led to the moves.
"I don't know that. I think when those things come up, we answer the questions and move on," he said. "How I feel about it? It is important that our team functions and is healthy. None of this narrative that we got rid of players -- I had a strong appreciation for [Vernon] and for Odell. I had a strong appreciation for Landon as a player. We develop relationships. This is the business of our sport.
"Unfortunately, some of the players move on and are playing for different teams. I would love to have 100 players. That is just the reality of it."
The Giants right now just appear a bit stricter than most. It's hardly a surprise from an organization that is considered old school with a general manager who is admittedly the same. Shurmur seems to share a lot of Gettleman's core values.
It will be interesting to see if their approach pays dividends in the end. Ultimately, they will all be judged by the results.
There is little doubt the Giants have rid themselves of some talented players over the past 16 months. But they're looking to create a better team on which 11 is considered better than one. This is the approach they've taken. Only time will tell if it's the right one.