"We didn't sign Odell to trade him," general manager Dave Gettleman said, as recently as the NFL Scouting Combine just a few weeks ago.
Another thing he has said: You don't give up on talent.
On Tuesday night, the G-Men effectively blew up their franchise, trading Beckham to the Cleveland Browns less than a year after giving him a massive contract extension. It sent the organization into the most awkward and nonsensical kind of rebuild -- a nearly complete one, but one that will, apparently, still feature 38-year-old Eli Manning.
It's frankly hard to see what the Giants' plan is, unless they have one more dramatic move in their future. In the space of a handful of days, they have given up on three of the most talented players on their team -- Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon and now Beckham -- and for their troubles, they got a starting guard (Kevin Zeitler), the Browns' first-round draft pick (No. 17 overall), a late third-round pick (No. 95) and safety Jabrill Peppers, a former first-rounder.
There is plenty of time to question whether that is adequate compensation -- and for that matter, why they didn't trade Collins last season rather than letting him go for nothing. What is unquestionable is that the Giants' attempt at a competitive rebuild should be over. These moves make a modicum of sense only if the next one is the one they dread most of all. What is the point of keeping Manning -- no matter how much better the offensive line should be at protecting him -- if you just took out of his arsenal one of the most dangerous receivers in the game?
The mess is wholly of the Giants' creation and it goes back a few years. They botched a chance to see a possible heir apparent on the field when Ben McAdoo was still the coach in 2017, even as Manning struggled on a sub-par team. When Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur arrived last year, they convinced themselves the Giants could again be Super Bowl contenders with just a few moves. So instead of selecting a quarterback from a loaded draft class in 2018, they took running back Saquon Barkley -- a superb, dynamic player, but a running back nonetheless. They gave Beckham the extension, which at least suggested that he and Barkley would be the cornerstones of some future incarnation and, perhaps, enough to push the Giants out of mediocrity immediately. Their other moves did not turn out as well, and the Giants floundered again. And now this cratering of an offseason.
Point to Beckham's sometimes-immature theatrics off the field all you like. He is a transcendent player, a hard worker and a well-liked teammate who was never in any actual legal trouble. He is a superstar and the kind of player who keeps opposing defensive coordinators awake at night. The Giants were willing to forsake that kind of threat in a league that continues to tilt toward scoring to relieve themselves of what appeared on the outside to be merely a headache.
That is a failure of the entire organization: obviously of the talent evaluators, who have not been able to keep the Giants competitive; but also of the coaches going all the way back even to Tom Coughlin, who could not figure out a way to manage Beckham in a way that would get the best out of him while minimizing the occasional flare-ups.
It is time to stop pretending. This would seem to be an unspoken admission that the current regime underestimated just how much of a rebuild was needed and this is now the unsightly but necessary course correction. The Giants are not a few tweaks away from contention. They are perhaps a few years away. They now have significant draft capital to rebuild, but that assumes they hit on all those picks, the ones they will have to use on a pass rusher and perhaps -- yes, finally -- a young quarterback. Barkley is a building block, but he is just one, and the Giants now need many more, including, alas, at wide receiver.
What they need even more urgently is a direction.
The Giants have more troubling questions to answer than who they will draft. They have to ask if they have the right people in place to forge that direction. It is ironic that Gettleman made this deal with Cleveland, a team that had collected draft picks while scuffling along in fits and starts of failed decisions. The Browns, with general manager John Dorsey in place, have finally put the pieces together to assemble a young, talented roster.
Maybe the Giants will be that kind of hopeful team again, too. They are assembling the draft picks they need for an overhaul. But they are also making head-scratching decisions, stumbling through seasons, searching for steadiness. They look, in short, much less like the new Browns than the old ones.