New York Giants co-owner John Mara approved of the team spending more money this offseason as it handed out more than $100 million in guaranteed money. But without saying general manager Dave Gettleman's job is in jeopardy, Mara also made it clear what he expects in return.
"It's time for us to start winning," Mara told reporters via videoconference after the conclusion of the NFL owners meetings Wednesday. "That's one of the reasons we spent the money we did."
To that end, Mara and the Giants re-signed defensive lineman Leonard Williams and signed receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree' Jackson. All totaled, New York committed $110 million in guaranteed money to this trio. It represents a pivot for a team that had not spent big in free agency in recent years.
But Mara said the Giants wanted to surround quarterback Daniel Jones with more talent. Mostly, though, he wants to do something they haven't done recently: win. The Giants have posted losing seasons in seven of the past eight years. After going 11-5 in 2016, New York has gone a combined 18-46. That ties them with the New York Jets for the NFL's worst record during this span.
"It's been a very difficult four- or five-year period for us," Mara said. "I'm tired of the losing and having a postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we're making progress.
"I think we're moving in the right direction, but it's been brutal the last few years. We're looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven't done it."
New York hopes Golladay, new tight end Kyle Rudolph ($12 million) and speedy receiver John Ross ($2.5 million) can help invigorate the offense. The return of running back Saquon Barkley should help, as well.
But the additional help means Jones needs to produce. He threw 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 14 games last year. In two seasons, he has thrown a combined 35 touchdowns and 22 picks while the Giants are 8-18 with him as a starter. Mara said he wouldn't put any benchmarks on Jones to measure his improvement -- or to gauge his team's desire to keep him around.
"We think the world of Daniel," Mara said. "We want to see him take the next step. I don't have any specific benchmarks other than, let's win some more games. He'll have a better team around him this year than he's had in previous years, so we certainly expect him to take that next step. I want to see him continue to improve because I do think he has what it takes to be a long-term winner in this league."
Mara pointed to coach Joe Judge as one reason he's optimistic. New York finished 6-10 in Judge's first year, a two-game improvement over 2019. But Mara said it's "definitely" a better locker room than it has been in a while and that players believe in Judge.
"We won only six games last year, but I sensed just a different feeling from the players. They believe in his message. You could see that in team meetings. You could see that on the practice field and you could see in their effort. Now is the time to start winning more games," he said.
That's partly why Mara wasn't about to put Gettleman on the so-called hot seat in March, despite a 15-33 record since his hiring in 2018.
"I'm not going to speculate on that right now," Mara said. "Let's see how the season plays out. I have more confidence going into this season than I've had in previous years. Hopefully the money that we spent and given the draft we expect to have, we'll have a better team on the field this year.
Mara said the Giants didn't plan on spending so much money this offseason, but said the right opportunities presented themselves with Golladay and Jackson. He said he talked to Golladay before he signed, trying to sell him on doing so, but added by that time the receiver's mind was probably made up.
It also mattered that Golladay, 27, and Jackson, 25, were both young and played positions of need. Williams is 26.
"You can't do that every year, but when the opportunity presents itself you have to seize it," Mara said. "That's what we did this year. We think it will pay off. We're certainly not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like the direction that we're going."
One thing the spending did prevent: an extension for Barkley, who is coming off a torn ACL. But he's entering his fourth season and New York can pick up his fifth-year option, so there's time for an extension to happen. Mara said he does want to get one done eventually.
"We fully expect him to be as good as new," Mara said. "If anybody is going to spend 100% of his efforts to rehab it will be Saquon. But we're not in any hurry to do that particularly after the money we just spent. But I said it at the end of the season and I'll say it again: We hope he's going to be a Giant for life. At the appropriate time we'll start those discussions."