Now ex-Giants coach Ben McAdoo didn’t lose the team on the field or at sea. Instead, the beginning of the end came at the podium in September.
EAST RUTHERFORD—Judgment day has hit New York, and a certain New York Yankees outfielder is nowhere to be seen.
Head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese are no longer employed by the New York Giants, fired in the midst of a disastrous 2-10 season that hit a whole new level of silliness upon the benching of Eli Manning for New York Jets castaway Geno Smith prior to the team’s latest loss, a 24-17 decision against the Oakland Raiders. Despite releasing a statement several weeks prior that seemingly guaranteed safety to any management jobs until the end of Dec. 31st’s season finale, Giants President and principal owner John Mara no longer felt the team could delay “the inevitable”.
“It became more and more apparent that we were going to have to do something at the end of the season, so we talked after the (Raiders) game and again this morning about, why prolong it any longer?” Mara explained. “(I) met with Ben McAdoo and thanked him for everything he has done for us, for all of his hard work, for the professional matter in which he’s conducted himself. I also feel that he will be a successful head coach at some point in the future. I think he’s going to learn from his experience here and he’ll go on to be a successful head coach.”
So, Giants fans, it’s time to put on your Sherlock Holmes caps, tape some headlines and labels to your wall, connecting them via thread and rubber bands and figure out where this all went wrong. McAdoo, after all, guided the Giants to an 11-5 season in his rookie year, complete with a brief playoff appearance that served as the team’s first since the trip to Super Bowl XLVI.
The answer, however, lies right before your very eyes … or, in this case, ears.
Sure the visuals have been there, on the field and off. Could McAdoo have lost the team when didn’t come down harder on the receivers who embarked on a Miami yacht trip less than a week before the Giants’ playoff cameo in Green Bay? Surely his failure to publicly speak out against Odell Beckham Jr.’s urination antics in the Philadelphia end zone didn’t help matters. His lasting legacy, however, will perhaps be his botching of the quarterback situation, which is likely how Giants fans will forever remember his term (Mara did publicly deny on Monday that the quarterback situation played a role in McAdoo’s firing).
But McAdoo’s fatal flaw didn’t occur on the field or at sea … it occurred at the podium.
September was a time of hope and joy for Giants fans, a good number of whom expected to see their team represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII. A season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a lifeless 19-3 showing, should’ve been a sign of things to come, but hope was still high entering a Week 2 showdown with the Detroit Lions, a Monday night matchup that served as the Giants’ home opener.Of course, the Giants put out another lifeless performance that was surprising at the time, but has become all too familiar now.
Despite the score, the Giants were actually in a position to make the game interesting in the third quarter. Trailing 17-7, the Giants embarked on a 10-play, 68-yard drive that took them to Detroit’s 2. Despite the Giants needing to guarantee a one-score game in the latter stages, McAdoo opted to go for it, but a delay of game penalty made the idea moot, sending Aldrick Rosas out for a slightly deeper field goal, which sailed through to create a 17-10 score. The Giants were unable to close the gap further, falling in a 24-10 final.
In the podium room, McAdoo defended the decision and began what went on to become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the season … throwing Eli Manning under the bus.
Asked to explain the error, McAdoo bluntly called it “sloppy quarterback play.”
“We have a veteran quarterback who has played a lot of football,” he said. “I expect us to get the ball snapped.”
Making the bizarre statement all the more shocking was that McAdoo went on to quickly defend the maligned offensive line. While the line showed improvement in recent weeks (mainly thanks to the addition of tackle DJ Fluker into the line, though it has since regressed since his season-ending toe injury), it was blown away by the Lions, who wound up with five sacks on the evening. Three alone came from defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who got the best of tackle Ereck Flowers, often the scapegoat for the Giants’ line struggles.
McAdoo, however, was quick to defend Flowers and his comrades.
“Ereck is a young player, he did some good things in the ballgame,” McAdoo said o on a conference call the day after the Detroit game. “He gave up a couple sacks, had some pressures in there, but again it’s not all Ereck. You can’t point all at one guy.”
There’s no way to definitively confirm that it was McAdoo’s words that led to the Giants’ continuing downfall, but they certainly didn’t help. The Giants ever so briefly got back full reinforcements, over the next few weeks against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Chargers, but more losses dropped them into an irredeemable 0-5 hole.
Even in McAdoo’s last stand, his choice to play Smith … the same Smith who went 12-18 as a starter of the Jets…served as a final insult to Manning. Had he instead chosen to insert Davis Webb, likely the closest thing the Giants have ever had to an heir apparent to the Manning throne, the public reception to Manning sitting could’ve been bypassed entirely … and maybe, just maybe, saved McAdoo his job for at least the remainder of the season.
Ever the consummate professional, Manning refused to fire back, constantly only acknowledging his own play had to improve for the Giants to succeed. Manning did not speak to reporters on Monday afternoon, but he insisted he didn’t want anyone to get fired after the loss in Oakland. While Mara would not confirm or deny it, leaving the decision to interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, Manning is expected to start Sunday’s return to MetLife Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys (1:00 PM, FOX).
Manning has since insisted that he plans on playing in the future, be it with the Giants or elsewhere. Fans can only hope that McAdoo’s comments won’t mar the final years of a tri-state area icon.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490