Fennelly: Hollow Feeling At MetLife As Giants Play Out String

The New York Giants, formerly known as the New York Football Giants, have been officially eliminated from NFC Playoff contention for some weeks now but effectively, they were never really in it. In a year that began with fervent expectations and hopes of a trip to the Super Bowl this coming February in Minneapolis, this storied franchise has experienced almost unprecedented turmoil and lackluster results sending them cascading down the NFC standings. As of this morning they are the worst team in the conference at 2-11.

The culprits are, and have been for a while now, poor foresight by ownership and management along with a glut of injuries to key starters. Throw in multiple disappointing seasons from some well-paid veterans and high draft picks and the combination has sunk the franchise to uncommon depths.

The Giants have three games left and are in jeopardy of setting a new franchise record for losses in a single season, The current mark is 12, which was set 1966 and matched four times since (74, ’80, ’83 and ’03). They have a pair of home games (Philadelphia this week and Washington in Week 17) sandwiched around a Week 16 trip to Arizona. Three possible losses loom as those teams are all better staffed than the Giants at this juncture of the season.

The fans have been appeased by the reinstatement of Eli Manning at quarterback, although even he is in over his head with this group. The Giants went toe-to-toe with Dallas last week for three quarters before the wheels fell off and a 10-10 game became 30-10 in what seemed like a heartbeat.

To their credit, CEO John Mara and Chairman Steve Tisch listened to the outcry over the handling of Manning’s benching and fired GM Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo in-season, something the organization hadn’t done since 1976, when they dumped Bill Arnsparger and replaced him with John McVay. They heard their fanbase loud and clear but it was more likely the 2-10 start (now 2-11) that served as the clarion call to make what Mara said were “wholesale changes”.

“Of course I’m embarrassed,” said Mara at his presser last week. “2-10. There’s no defense for that. Particularly when expectations were so high, and I understand that – listen, we had a ridiculous number of injuries. It’s the first time in my life that I think I sat at a game having to constantly look at the flip card to try and determine who we were playing. But, that being said, we still started out 0-5 with a relatively healthy roster up until that fifth game when all of our wide receivers got hurt. So, yeah, I’m embarrassed about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m standing here.”

Mara pays attention. Always has. He is not as passionate as his father, Wellington, was, but he is still a fan first at heart. But business is business. Reese was well past his expiration date and McAdoo should have never been hired. He had never been a head coach anywhere along the way during his career. The head coaching job of the New York Giants is not an entry-level one.

McAdoo’s poor communications skills along with his horrific offensive scheme eventually did him in. He employed a version of the West Coast offense, which run without the proper personnel, can be disastrous. The main ingredients are a mobile quarterback, which the Giants do not have and a blocking method that is now illegal in the NFL. The objective, according to its inventor, Bill Walsh, is to offset the lack of a running game with short passes and screens.

As we know, Manning is a downfield thrower and Reese had been supplying the roster with vertical passing weapons such as Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram and Roger Lewis. McAdoo forced this group to run a truncated route tree which assisted opponents in holding the Giants to 15.3 points per game this season. But Mara sees the problems as a converging plethora of ills that hit them all at once.

“I just think it ended up being a perfect storm for us,” he said. “We got off to a bad start this year, particularly on offense. Our defense didn’t play as well as they played last year. We had leads in a few games and last year they would have held them and we would have won the game. They didn’t do that early on and then everybody got hurt. Listen, there were certain guys that on this roster that aren’t playing as well as they should be playing.”

That is true, and with a head coach that was ill-equipped to handle such adversities, the situation was compounded beyond repair. 22 players have been sent to the injured reserve list and many more have missed playing time. Last year’s first round draft pick, CB Eli Apple, has gone rogue on social media and is listed as injured but its clear he’s in the doghouse.

Giant fans are still circling the wagons. They want more changes. A new GM and head coach will be hired and if the standings hold true, they will have the second overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. With the 0-13 Cleveland Browns already stating they intend to select a quarterback, the Giants may have to swap with them if they are to get the biggest prize in this quarterback-rich class, Sam Darnold of USC. The rumors are Darnold wants nothing to do with Cleveland, so he will be there for the Giants’ taking one way or another.

That could mean Manning will be playing his last three games at QB for the Giants. They will likely ask him to waive his no-trade clause and ship him to a more suitable destination such as Denver, Arizona or Jacksonville. That means ripping off the band-aid completely here at 1925 Giants Drive, and with this hollow feeling that will be permeating the building the rest of the season, everyone will realize it’s for the better.

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