The New York Football Giants came into the 2017 season with high hopes and grand dreams. They were coming off an 11-5 campaign in which they found themselves in the post season for the first time since Super Bowl.XLIV. Fourteen weeks later, instead of fighting the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East crown, these Giants are in a shambles, ravaged again by injuries and confusion in a season that has gone so horribly wrong in so many ways.
After their 24-17 loss to the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday, the Giants’ record stands at 2-10. It is their worst 12-game record since going 2-10 back in 1976 and their worst since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Speaking of 1978, that was the last time the club fired a head coach during the season. John McVay was relieved of his duties after the famous ‘fumble’ game that November and the fans revolted, leading to a season-ticket holder to sponsor a small plane to fly a banner over the stadium that read, “15 Years of lousy Football…We’ve Had Enough”. Fans burned their tickets outside the stadium and many boycotted the remaining home games.
Co-owners Wellington Mara and his nephew Tim were in the deep throes of their schism that had driven the team apart. They were diametrically and philosophically opposed when it came to running the football operations. The result was disastrous on the field and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had to step in and forged a detente. He suggested they hire George Young, a veteran NFL coach and executive to run their operations and keep the peace. We all know the result. The Giants returned to the top of the NFL standings and have won four Super Bowls under that organizational structure.
This season feels a lot like 1978 to many and the same type of intervention might be needed to save this Giants’ ownership group from itself. Since John Mara and Steve Tisch took over the stewardship of this proud franchise nearly a decade ago from their late fathers, they have made more poor decisions than wise ones. Young is long gone as is his very capable deputy, Ernie Accorsi, and the franchise has been entrusted to one their disciples, Jerry Reese, for the past ten seasons. Ten years is a long tenure for a general manager in this business. Success is fleeting and Reese, although he had two Super Bowl wins under his belt, is being lionized for his failures more these days as those championships get smaller in the review mirror.
To rescue this team from it’s recent demise, one which has shown them not only to be incompetent but classless as well, the Giants might want to pull a page out of 1979 and bring someone in from the outside to run things again. Mara and Tisch cannot be trusted to make the big decisions when it comes to their football operations. Reese is also out of his depth. He is basically a laid back guy who is uncomfortable speaking in public There is no question he that can evaluate talent, but as a general manager in his own skin, he has exhibited passiveness way too often, reclassifying it as ‘patience’.
Reese is best when he is given direction. When Mara mandated him to ‘fix the defense’ two winters ago, he did. He signed big ticket free agents and drafted well. When he gets aggressive in the draft, it pays of, too. He traded up to get safety Landon Collins, who became an All-Pro in his second season. This past offseason, he was directed to ‘fix the offense’ and he made moves to do so by signing WR Brandon Marshall, TE Rhett Ellison and drafting TE Evan Engram and RB Wayne Gallman.
That has not worked out so well. Season-ending injuries to Marshall and star WR Odell Beckham, Jr. along with the decimation of an already shaky offensive line have reduced the Giants’ offense to one of the league’s worst. To Reese’s credit, offensive line help is few an far between in this day and age. It would have been impossible for him to address the line in one single offseason.
The real culprit of the Giants’ dismal dive is the lack of communication between ownership, Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo. The recent bumbling episode in which QB Eli Manning was benched after starting 210 games exposed the Giants disconnects for the whole world to see. Many have called them dysfunctional but that would suggest that they were functional at one time. McAdoo is all wrong fro the Giants. they knew it two years ago when they hired him and they certainly know it now. He had no experience as a head man on any level before the Giants settled on him after Hue Jackson decided to take the Cleveland job, cancel his interview with the Giants and get back on the plane at the airport.
Giant fans are likely pleased that Jackson didn’t accept the team’s offer. So far in Cleveland, Jackson is 1-27 in his first 28 games. Bu that is not the crux of the issue here. After jettisoning Tom Coughlin in what many felt was an unprofessional and classless manner, they narrowed the search for his successor down to three candidates: Jackson, McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. So what, you ask? All three are terrible head coaches. You know McAdoo’s story (don’t let the 11-5 record from last year fool you) and Jackson’s but Spagnuolo has been a failure as a head coach in this league as well. As head coach of the Rams from 2009-11, Spagnuolo went 10-38 and was shown the door.
The fact that ownership, and Reese, had these three on the top of their list to run their vaunted franchise is troubling. It speaks to their competency and ability to make the right decisions in the future. I personally do not trust them to hire the next head coach. The Giants may have won a championship without the assistance of the prior leadership team, but it was the infrastructure left to them that supported that effort. Since that Super Bowl, things have not gone very well for this franchise. And that, folks, is on the owners.
It started with the building of MetLife Stadium and the reshuffling of the old guard. Loyal fans who had showed up through thick and thin were displaced, forced out by rising ticket prices and the introduction of personal seat licenses. Then, they told us that Coughlin was stepping down as head coach. That turned out to be not true. In his press conference, Coughlin pretty much said he was relieved of his duties. In the midst of all of that was the mishandling of their off-the-rails superstar, Beckham, who has acted like a jackass with impunity, providing way too many moments of un-Giant-like behavior that appeared to be tolerated by ownership.
Now comes the bungling of one of the most delicate situations the franchise has been forced to make – the end of Eli Manning’s Giant career. Let’s face it, this wasn’t going to be simple business no matter how it was handled. Eli had started every game for thirteen and a half seasons and had no intention of taking a seat on the bench. Had the situation been presented to him by Mara and Tisch themselves rather than the likes of McAdoo and Reese, he would have been able to accept it. McAdoo, who makes Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles seem garrulous and loquatious with his cagey responses, has perhaps the worst communications skills of any coach or manager in the history of New York sports. He wasn’t about to get any help for Reese, who only speaks to the media twice a year.
The Eli thing was long overdue. The Giants needed to get their rookie quarterback, Davis Webb, up to speed before deciding to ask Eli to give way to his backups. Instead, they gave Eli the option to start and continue his streak of 210 games and then come out at halftime to give the others some reps so they the team could see what they have behind him. The Giants will be drafting very high next spring and with this being a quarterback-rich draft, they want want to know where they stand at the position. But as this group would have it, they fouled up the conversation with Eli, who was not about to adhere to the ridiculous plantains ended up starting Geno Smith, of al players, in Eli’s place against the Raiders.
The problem is that Webb has not been active all year. If the Giants were going to do this to Eli, they should have had Webb ready. Instead, they had Geno Smith, the face of many a Jet failure on and off the field, in there at QB. The situation is emblematic of the poor decision-making and communication that has surrounded the Giants since the scions took over the operation.
My suggestion is that they look long and hard at finding themselves someone who can run an organization and set clear lines of communication. Accorsi should be brought in to consult. Reese should be retained but not as general manager but first, they must rid themselves of McAdoo, a man who should have never been elevated to his current position. Mara and Tisch have to start tapping into and investing in executives who come winning situations and have track records of success. This is New York and you are the Giants. It’s time they started acting like it.