The Giants were a cocky group in training camp four months ago, and no one typified the self-assurance more than the team’s robotic coach, Ben McAdoo, and his aloof boss, the general manager Jerry Reese.
The 2017 Giants were coming off a stellar 11-5 record from the previous year and were widely lauded as Super Bowl contenders. But when this season started, a series of debilitating injuries, lethargic play and glaring missteps exposed the Giants’ manifold weaknesses, many that could be traced to years of poor draft selections by Reese.
As the team’s losses mounted this season, the Giants, N.F.L. standard bearers since 1925, were humiliated and mocked, never more so than last week when McAdoo benched the popular longtime quarterback, Eli Manning.
The furious outcry over the treatment of Manning rattled the normally stoic Giants ownership, and on Monday they abruptly fired McAdoo and Reese with four games remaining in the season. On Sunday, the Giants had been defeated by the Oakland Raiders to drop their dismal record to 2-10, the second worst in the league.
It was the first time the Giants had fired a coach in the midst of a season since 1976, when the team, with a 0-7 record, dismissed Bill Arnsparger. And since 1978, there had been only two predecessors to Reese as the Giants general manager – both departed via voluntary retirement.
Steve Spagnuolo, the team’s defensive coordinator and a former head coach of the St. Louis Rams, was expected to be named the interim Giants head coach, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
McAdoo, who had a 13-15 record with the Giants, had always been a risky choice, since he had no head coaching experience at any level. But in two years as the offensive coordinator under Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, McAdoo, 40, had elevated a moribund Giants attack. When Coughlin was fired after the 2015 season, Manning had personally lobbied Giants ownership on behalf of McAdoo’s candidacy for the head coaching job.
The Giants were impressed with McAdoo’s organizational skills, work ethic, almost fanatical attention to detail and seasoned football acumen. After the Giants bolstered their defense with a free agent spending spree, the Giants surprisingly qualified for the playoffs in McAdoo’s first season at the helm. They lost a first-round playoff game to the Green Bay Packers.
But from the beginning, McAdoo seemed an ill fit for the public aspects of his job. He was stiff, humorless and obsessively guarded at news conferences. His communication skills – with the news media and eventually with many of his players – never developed into a strength. Increasingly this season, it appeared that McAdoo had lost the ear, or respect, of many of his players.
Two cornerbacks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, were suspended after violating basic team rules, like showing up for practice on time.
Then, last week, McAdoo announced that Manning, the team’s revered, two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who had started a mind-boggling 210 straight games, would no longer be the team’s starter. Columnists and talk radio callers blasted the move and how it was handled, saying Manning had earned the right to finish out the season at least. Manning was near tears discussing his benching.
Equally galling to Big Blue faithful was that Manning’s replacement was not a heralded rookie who might bring hope for the future, but the journeyman Geno Smith, who had washed out as a starter with, of all teams, the Jets. Smith was a competent 21-for-34 for 212 yards in his debut as starter Sunday.
A few days after the announcement about Manning, McAdoo’s communication abilities were called into question again by one of the Giants co-owners, John Mara, who had signed off on the move but told reporters a slightly different story about how he thought Manning’s benching was going to play out.
McAdoo’s version was that he had offered Manning a chance to start Sunday’s game with the understanding that he would come out for Smith at halftime regardless of the game’s score. Manning blanched, and said McAdoo should start Smith.
But Mara said it was his understanding that Smith, and the rookie quarterback Davis Webb, would gradually be eased into the lineup rather than the halftime arrangement Sunday.
Quizzed about the discrepancy a day later, McAdoo stood firm and in essence contradicted Mara by saying that Mara knew of the stated plan all along.
It was an embarrassing episode for the team and appeared to lay bare the fractions and dysfunction within the organization.
It seems unlikely that fans will protest McAdoo’s dismissal too loudly. Many have criticized the Giants players’ effort. Other fans have simply been lethargic; there have been many empty seats at Met Life Stadium this season, especially in the second half of games. The fans’ torpidity sometimes seems to be drawn from the coach’s; McAdoo was rarely a demonstrative or passionate presence on the sidelines.
McAdoo’s dismissal came even though the Giants said last month that he would remain for the rest of the season.
The Giants have four more games to play and are in danger of putting up a historically terrible record. Some fans have already surrendered to this, or are even rooting for it, hoping for a high draft pick that will turn the team’s fortunes around.
Reese, meanwhile, had been considered on the hot seat for at least two years. Mara had put Reese on notice after the 2015 season, saying he was foremost responsible for a quick revival when Coughlin was fired after four consecutive seasons without a playoff game.
Reese’s 11 years as the Giants general manager began impressively in his first season as the team he inherited from retired Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi won the Super Bowl after the 2007 season. Four years later, a Giants team that was 9-7 in the regular season, barely made the playoffs but charged to another Super Bowl victory. But overall in Reese’s tenure, the Giants have made the playoffs four times. Moreover, Reese’s draft record was among the worst in the N.F.L. Only six players he drafted in his 11 years have become Pro Bowlers.
When the Giants’ young offensive line struggled mightily early this season and was directly responsible for the team’s 0-2 start, Reese’s puzzling decision not to sign a veteran free agent in the off-season to reinforce the line was oft-criticized.
In the end, perhaps most damning for Reese, the Giants record since their last Super Bowl appearance is 41-52.
Published at Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:55:40 +0000