Blame whomever single individual you’d like. What you can’t claim is that the New York Giants football culture has improved over time.
Blame Eli Manning if you’d like. Get on the horrid offensive line. Even raise the issue of the non-existent pass rush, something that’s never been cause for concern on the blue side of Northern Jersey for the better part of the last four decades.
Whichever culprit you decide to label as “the problem,” go for it. It may just make you breathe and feel a little easier.
Once you’re done, make sure you arrive at the heart of the issue.
The New York Football Giants culture as a whole has fully and officially evaporated.
Falling by the final of 34-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles in primetime only scratches the surface of the story. This offensive line—despite wholesale changes via Dave Gettleman—once again let down the entire offense. Aside from a couple of Olivier Vernon sightings, the pass rush continued to place the second level and the secondary in a terrible situation.
Most importantly, however, the effort and attitude are candidly askew for an organization rich with pride and dignity.
Odell Beckham Jr., of course, has gone back to being Odell Beckham Jr. Apparently, the kicking net called it quits after the 2017 season. It’s now time for the air conditioner to get in on the action.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 12, 2018
Small potatoes. While keeping composure is part of the leadership gig, getting in on a fantastical dose of domestic violence with a kicking net prior to make-up sex weeks later is all good fodder. It’s what bleeds into the rest of the locker room that’s troubling.
Eli Apple needing to be restrained by the sideline after a terrible call?
Ereck Flowers losing his mind for a brief moment while still anchoring down that sinking ship of a five-man unit?
Sterling Shepard now playing the role of OBJ mini-me while showcasing incredible moments of self-consumed frustration?
The players are running this show and have been for several seasons. The perceived “wanting to succeed” is there. The talk, the words, the outer-crust of the ambition pie is all present. What lacks is the substance. What’s missing is the actual apples that make up the deliciousness of such a desert with coffee.
Rationalization has led to a sense of entitlement accompanied by no accountability.
The Moment Everything Changed
After 9-7 and 7-9 seasons, the Giants brass decided to search for that next young offensive mind. They looked to Green Bay and plucked the west coast mind of Ben McAdoo out from under Aaron Rodgers and company.
Run-and-shoot man Kevin Gilbride was turned into the scapegoat while, seemingly, Tom Coughlin had no say over his own staff.
Undercutting a two-time Super Bowl champion like Tom Coughlin is never a good idea.
In this case, it took power away from the sideline, the staff, while evening out the playing field just a tad more towards the players. Coughlin never deserved such treatment.
Though Manning’s numbers were solid during the McAdoo offensive coordinator era, he simply did not play to the offense as well as he did with Gilbride. Jerry Reese and company were wrong in attempting to transition a long-winded, slow-footed, veteran QB who loved to attack downfield in Gilbride’s run-and-shoot principle offense to a west-coast system that rewards releasing the ball quickly.
Manning had always thrived on making plays downfield. Why mess with this formula?
While this one feels completely strategic, it’s not. The boneheaded move sent a terrible message to the players. They were, in essence, choosing an unproven McAdoo over the established Coughlin and Manning.
The gates of unaccountability had then officially opened up.
The Moment Everything Changed on the Field
Whether you love him or not, Tom Coughlin was wrong for not reprimanding Odell Beckham Jr. on that infamous day in New Jersey when he and Josh Norman took a personal feud and placed it over the team.
It was Coughlin’s last season as head man in New Jersey. Despite whatever strategy the front office and sideline decided to take with the controversial OBJ, the head coach needed to make a statement on this day. It was necessary. It was crucial.
The old-school football coach who’d never tolerate such actions bit the bullet and allowed a wide receiver to take over the game in a selfish manner. Other players see this. Teammates see it. The entire NFL sees it.
Long story short, Coughlin gets fired, Reese finally enjoys an offseason with money to burn after failed signings cleared up and the Giants fix the defense just in time for the new head coach. Manning comes out in Green Bay humming the ball around while guys like Beckham and Shepard drop the ball, literally, in the biggest game of each’s football life.
Now, Tom Coughlin presides over one of the powerhouse football squads in the land in the Jacksonville Jaguars—a squad that represents everything the Giants have always been about (offensive line and defensive front in winning in the trenches).
The Moment That Confirmed Everything has Changed
Effort. Leadership. Forget strategy for a moment. When effort and leadership are lacking, it’s as plain as day to spot.
Unfortunately, Dave Gettleman simply cannot be judged just yet.
Gettleman came in and knew what he had to do. He understood the offensive line needed to be solved. The Jints GM made wholesale changes, but, unfortunately for Eli Manning and the entire offense, it hasn’t worked out.
Pat Shurmur is another story. To witness this head coach actually say, out loud, that he liked his team’s effort on Thursday night against the champs puts the clinching stamp on a changed environment.
Coach Shurmur: I'm not concerned about our effort. I'm concerned about how we executed and how we didn't get in the end zone. #PHIvsNYG
— New York Giants (@Giants) October 12, 2018
This is a serious red flag. Janoris Jenkins was beaten badly by Zach Ertz for a score on the slant-corner. Everybody can live with a touchdown there. Nobody can live with just how “in space” and lackadaisical Jenkins acted on that particular play.
We saw it far too often a year ago. Jenkins, Apple and even Landon Collins got into the lazy act to the point it looked like the entire team quit.
No, it wasn’t Shurmur a season ago, but how is the culture going to improve if he’s not willing to roll a few heads in the public from time-to-time and especially after such a lousy effort against the champs?
Where does it come from? Where did this attitude plant its troubling seed? How could such a stellar, prideful organization have gotten to this level in just a few short seasons?
You are correct. Not one person will explicitly receive the blame today. Even if you are one who believes Odell Beckham Jr. plays a Carmelo Anthony-type role within the locker room, the organization is also at fault for allowing such “me first” behavior to spread like a disease.
What the diehard OBJ backers don’t realize is quite simple on the surface. Beckham’s a good kid. He’s a good friend. He’s a good teammate in the sense that his teammates like him. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good teammate or good employee by way of winning ball games. Sometimes having a teammate hate you reach the goal of winning in much more of a hurry (as long as you’re face-to-face with that teammate and not sitting next to Lil’ John while speaking in half codes and truths).
Think about it. OBJ clearly leaves the field early out of frustration, yet the organization is claiming he did so due to hydration (and that he needed an IV). Are we serious? Do the Giants think of their fandom as all paying-customer idiots?
Odell Beckham Jr. leaves the field with two seconds left in the first half, while the rest of the #Giants offense stays on the field for one last snap. Beckham had two catches for 12 yards in the first half pic.twitter.com/KdQ7kTNWLf
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) October 12, 2018
Jeremy Shockey, another me-first guy who was sent packing just prior to a Super Bowl title. Tiki Barner, while not a me-first guy per se, caused much trouble via the media. Again, no Super Bowl was had until he was also gone.
Not until a real leader steps up within that locker room and on that sideline, will New York Football Giants culture starts to swing towards the level of normalcy we’re all familiar with.
Rationalization leads to unaccountability. Unaccountability leads to chaos. Right now (and seemingly for the last four seasons), the inmates have been running the asylum.
Talk all the strategy and Eli Manning you’d like (if it makes you feel like a better fan). This organization must start from the very core of the problem. The franchise must retake its identity as a football culture rich with pride and tradition.
That doesn’t start until all 53 stick by his brothers through the good and, more importantly, bad times.