Just when the Giants thought the 2017 season couldn’t get worse, last week happened. The epitaph for Ben McAdoo’s ill-fated 28-game run as the fabled franchise’s head coach can be written in five words.
The Giants became the Jets.
The locker room had come undone, as evidenced by a string of early-season suspensions; the coach had lost control, which had become obvious through his handling of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. over the calendar year; the season was over before Thanksgiving; and then, on Nov. 28, the Giants benched two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning for, yup, Geno Smith.
That’s not to denigrate Smith, who was far from the train wreck many expected him to be on Sunday against Oakland. But almost anyone could have predicted how this move would be received by the fans; of course they remember how the Jets’ second-round pick became the face of the failed John Idzik administration and a punchline (no pun intended) over his four years in green.
That’s who you’re benching Eli for?
Image matters to the Giants, and it matters to the Mara family in general and John Mara in particular, so that move was the final straw for McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese, both of whom are now gone. The team’s brand was being dragged through the mud, again, and what was coming this weekend didn’t promise to be much better.
FOX’s Jay Glazer reported on Sunday that a group of Giants alumni was mulling the idea of wearing Eli Manning jerseys to this Sunday’s home game against the Cowboys. Elsewhere, there were rumors of a boycott by the public, where fans would come to MetLife Stadium to tailgate, without any plans to actually go into the game.
As I understand it, Mara’s anger over the damage being done to the Giants reputation was visible over the last few days. In fact, some believed that even a win on Sunday over the Raiders wouldn’t have granted McAdoo a stay of execution—notable, because in-season firings coming off wins are exceedingly rare.
(To be fair, Giants’ ownership deserves it’s share of the blame for public perception of the team changing, too, for putting the now-departed leadership in place, and its handling of the Josh Brown situation in 2016.)
So how’d we get here? Reese and McAdoo arrived at this point for very different reasons.
Reese inherited a strong roster when he succeeded Ernie Accorsi as GM in 2007, and he deserves credit for supplementing it with a draft class that put that year’s team, the eventual Super Bowl champion, over the top. He then added pieces like Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham that became integral to another championship four years later.
But in the time since, a series of failed draft classes cut the guts of the roster out as the championship teams aged, and the problems of 2017 weren’t much different than those of ’14 and ’15. The offensive line was no good, and the defense lacked depth. And while a good run of health in 2016 allowed for those to be covered up, they never went away. Firing Reese is far from a knee-jerk move.
McAdoo’s descent began back in January, when Beckham and the receivers traveled to Miami to ring in the New Year during a playoff week—and waved it in everyone’s faces on social media. Beckham’s absence from the offseason program was handled simiilarly by the star, mostly via Twitter and Instagram, and flaunted that he was playing by his own rules.
Then in September, McAdoo’s public effort to draw a disciplinary line by going at Manning after the team’s loss on Monday Night Football to the Lions rang hollow in the locker room six days later, when the coach reacted to Beckham’s dog-peeing celebration by saying he wishes everyone would focus on the touchdown catch he’d made seconds beforehand.
All of that made clear who was really in charge, and it wasn’t McAdoo. The suspensions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins—both openly disrespected the coach—and the drama involving Eli Apple became about as predictable as it was that this day was coming.
Reese had to go, because the roster wasn’t getting better. McAdoo had to go, because he’d lost the team. And now the Giants start over, turning the page while avoiding what could’ve been a pretty ugly series of home game to come.
First order of business? Restoring the team’s good name.