Ben McAdoo

Savoring the truly awful 2017 New York Giants season

USAT Images

Savoring the truly awful 2017 New York Giants season

Every week this season we’ve taken a look at how the Eagles NFC East rivals have been doing… and for the most part, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, like listening to a great love song or eating a box of Cheez-Its. Alas, like that box of delicious cheesy crackers, our time enjoying the demise of the Giants, Cowboys, and Washington has come to an end. At least for this season.

Without further ado, here’s a look back at what happened, and what’ll be happening, in the NFC East. Up first, the G-Men.

New York Giants (3-13)

2017 Headline: “Welp, That Was Unexpected”

What Happened: Y’know how in a cheeky comedy movie when everything seems to be going wrong, one of the characters will throw up their hands and yells “WELP, IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!,” which promptly triggers a thunderstorm or a vehicle malfunction or a flock of pigeons delivering digestional deposits everywhere? That was essentially the 2017 New York Giants, with each calamity seemingly one-upping the next for eighteen consecutive weeks.

After an off-season that was inexplicably filled with Super Bowl expectations, the Giants dropped their first two games by a combined score of 43 to 13. Both the teams they lost to would end up missing the playoffs, and that was pretty much the high-water mark on the year, all things considered.

The Giants then went into Philly and ended up losing on a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, a guy who at the time at the time might as well have been a Temple undergrad. The G-Men ended up losing their first five games, and it was that fifth defeat that saw Odell Beckham Jr. carted off with a leg injury that would end his (and essentially, the Giants) season.

That’s when the fun really started.

Following a Week 12 loss to NFC East rival Washington that dropped the deflated GMen to 2-9, then-Head Coach Ben McAdoo announced he would be benching longtime-mediocrity Eli Manning, ending his consecutive start streak at 210 games. McAdoo, presumably in an effort to save his own job, turned to Geno Smith, which was about as thought-out as Daniel Hillard thinking that cross-dressing and pretending to be a British nanny was the best way to win his family’s trust back. 

John Mara (who lets not forget, wouldn’t even cut suspended domestic-abusing kicker Josh Brown until there was massive fan backlash) fired McAdoo the week after in the wake of massive fan backlash. That was the second-least surprising moment of the season, the first being the whole Geno-Couldn’t-Save-His-Coaches-Job thing. Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo promptly put the 37-year-old Eli (it’s actually his birthday today!) back in the starting line-up, and the Giants would go on to lose three of their remaining four. #TrustTheProcess.

Through it all, the New York locker-room had more palace intrigue than the Trump White House, as seemingly every member of the Giants secondary got suspended at one point or another. The teams 2015 second-round pick Landon Collins even called 2016 first-round pick Eli Apple a cancer, then backtracked a few days later, which presumably makes everything hunky-dory. This is fine

After a short search, the Giants hired former Giants employee Dave Gettleman to be the next General Manager of the Giants, a team he worked for for over fifteen years but never got a chance to run previously. Gettleman has already come out and said he expects Eli to be with the team in 2018, and he plans to pair the 37-year-old ManBoy with some head coaching re-tread like Jim Schwartz or Pat Shurmur. CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT: Gettleman is only interviewing Schwartz this week to take his time away from game-planning for the Birds playoff game. FIRE SCHWARTZ, HE’S A DOUBLE AGENT!!!

One last quick note on Eli’s streak; it was the second-longest streak in NFL history, to Brett Favre’s of 297. Favre’s Packers, meanwhile, went 4-12 in 2005, a season just as miserable as this last one for Big Blue. They also went 6-10 in 2008. At no point did they even think of benching the Wrangler Jean Man, and they had Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings both those seasons. Ritchie Kotite couldn’t have bungled this thing as badly as McAdoo did, even if rain had gotten on the play chart.

Eli (who lets never forgot, pouted his way to New York when the Chargers drafted him in 2004) may have the charisma of a dried-up starfish and be more overrated than the the new Star Wars movie (91% on Rotten Tomatoes!?), but the way his streak ended was about as poetic as that screaming goat in the Taylor Swift video…. just ten times funnier.

Positive Spin: It’s hard to imagine many Giants fans were clamoring for change before the season started, considering half of Jersey was booking flights to Minnesota before Week 1. However any Giants fan who can be honest with themselves will admit this team has been heading in a bad direction for awhile.

Remember when Ruben Amaro Jr. hired Ryne Sandberg to hang-out-with-but-eventually replace Charlie Manuel, and it was super-awkward and resulted in a situation as uncomfortable as a wet sock? That’s essentially what GM Jerry Reese tried to do with Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin, and unfortunately for Reese, the NFL doesn’t have an equivalent of the First Base Coach job for him to fall back on. The results, perhaps predictably, haven’t panned out, with the biggest bummer being we didn’t get any photos of Coughlin taking his hoagie and going home

I wrote last week about the compiling mistakes under Reese’s leadership, the example given being a first-round pick being spent on Apple because previous first-round pick Prince Amukamara hadn’t worked out (and as a result, over $25 million being invested in veterans Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins). Reese has also spent heavily in free agency with mixed results (Jenkins and Olivier Vernon weren’t so hot in year two, and Brandon Marshall was a complete waste), and the complete neglect of the offensive line would make Chip Kelly blush. Despite two Super Bowl wins that almost seem accidental in hindsight and a QB he could consistently trot out for the past 14-years, Reese never built a roster that was truly feared throughout the NFL. Not once.

The Reese Era is over now, and even though Gettleman comes from the same tree, he’s a leaf of his own. Expect the Giants to head in a different direction in 2018, even if the new boss is saying publicly he intends to take the same route as the old boss.

Negative Spin: Here’s my take on the team two weeks ago:

“This team has no head coach, no general manager, no long-term answer at quarterback, no offensive line, no healthy wide receivers, no running backs, and no one outside of Landon Collins that’s young and exciting on defense. The only good thing that came out of this season is tight end Evan Engram and the exodus of Jerry Reese and the coach he hired. Odell Beckham’s return next year alone should put them over two wins, but they still have a huge number of over-priced veterans on defense who are about as interested in being a part of a rebuild as I am in an all-male reboot of HBO’s “‘Girls.’”

The only thing that’s changed is now they have a general manager. Oh, and both Collins and Engram got hurt.

What’s Next: Unless Gettleman is full of it, it’ll be up to Eli to decide whether he wants to come back or not in 2018. Remember, it was Peyton who asked out of Indy, and seeing Eli do the same  (which seemed a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago) is almost guaranteed if the GMen use the second overall draft pick on a QB. 

However the bigger story in 2018 will be Odell Beckham, coming off a major injury but playing on the final year of his deal. Couple that with the fact that Dallas may be looking to part ways with Dez Bryant (and potentially sign a big-money upgrade to pair with Dak and Zeke), and there could be some very intense inter-division tampering over the next calendar year.

Check back tomorrow for Washington and Friday for Dallas.

Dysfunctional Giants hire new GM

USA Today Images

Dysfunctional Giants hire new GM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have hired former Carolina Panthers executive Dave Gettleman as their general manager.

The Giants (2-13) announced the hiring of the 66-year-old Gettleman on Thursday and planned to introduce him at a news conference Friday.

Gettleman has a history with the Giants. He spent 15 seasons with the franchise before becoming Carolina's general manager from 2013-2016, a span in which the Panthers played in the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. He was fired after the following season when Carolina missed the playoffs.

Gettleman will be the Giants' fourth general manager since 1979, following George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese, who held the job for 11 seasons before he was dismissed on Dec. 4 along with coach Ben McAdoo (see full story).

Cardinals: Ageless Fitzgerald mum on future
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald might well be the most popular athlete in the history of the state of Arizona.

The wide receiver's resume is packed with Hall of Fame-caliber statistics accumulated over 14 seasons with the Cardinals team that drafted him third overall in 2004. Add to that his easy-going personality combined with a remarkable durability -- he's missed six games of his 224 since joining the league -- and off-the-field contributions.

A year ago, Fitzgerald and the Giants' Eli Manning shared the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

And impressively, at age 34, he's still playing at a high level, all while staying mum on whether he will return for another season.

Last week, he said he would take some time off when the season ends to figure it out.

His uncertainty matches big questions with other Cardinals, including whether coach Bruce Arians will stick around for a sixth season, and whether quarterback Carson Palmer will be back with a mended broken arm at age 38 (see full story).​

Cowboys: Bryant talks struggles, nixes pay cut idea
FRISCO, Texas -- Dez Bryant didn't seem sure how to respond when asked if he would be willing to take a pay cut after perhaps the most difficult season of the Dallas receiver's career.

Once the 2014 All-Pro came to his senses, he was emphatic.

"Hell no, man," Bryant said Wednesday, three days after the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Seattle. "I believe in me."

Bryant opened up in his first lengthy session with reporters in weeks, taking responsibility for a subpar season by saying he let frustrations affect him during games. But he also said some of those frustrations were rooted in the offensive scheme, which he said he would probably address with owner Jerry Jones and coaches in the offseason.

The eighth-year pro also blamed some of his struggles on knee tendinitis, something that hadn't been revealed. Bryant was listed on the injury report for three weeks earlier in the season, including one week when he missed two practices when an ankle injury also was listed (see full story).

Giants fire head coach Ben McAdoo, GM Jerry Reese

USA Today Images

Giants fire head coach Ben McAdoo, GM Jerry Reese

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Believing the team was spiraling out of control, the New York Giants went out of character by making two major in-season moves, firing coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.

With the team reeling at 2-10 in a season where most felt it was capable of challenging for a Super Bowl, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch reached the decision Monday morning. It came less than a day after the Giants lost in Oakland, with quarterback Eli Manning benched and the offensively inept team performing poorly again.

"We agreed that wholesale changes to this organization needed to be made to get us back to the team we expect it to be," Mara said at a hastily called news conference. "We also agreed it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes."

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will take over as interim coach for the final four games. He coached the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.

Mara did not know whether Manning will return as the starter this weekend against Dallas, saying the decision will be made by Spagnuolo.

In a radio interview on WFAN, Manning said he told Spagnuolo that he wants to start the last four games.

"I want to be out there and help us go win these four games," Manning said. "I hope I'm out there on Sunday playing against the Cowboys."

Mara said neither McAdoo nor Reese was surprised by the decision, saying they were both professionals. He said his meeting with Reese was more emotional because the two had worked together since 1994.

"I don't think there was any one final straw," Mara said. "I just think that where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we're 2-10. We've kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul. I don't think there was any one event or one final act to precipitate that."

Many felt the benching earlier last week of the well-liked Manning, the face of the franchise and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was the deciding factor.

McAdoo also would have been subjected to howls from fans with three of the final four games at home, starting this weekend.

The moves come less than a year after the 40-year-old McAdoo ended a four-year Giants playoff drought in his first season, going 11-6. That record was aided in large part by Reese's outstanding work in the free agent market that rebuilt the defense.

While the 2016 season ended in a loss to Green Bay in the wild-card game, this year was supposed to be better. Much better.

The offense was bolstered by signing free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round. The defense was back with the major exception of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

A fifth Super Bowl was in everyone's sights if the offensive line could improve.

It fizzled from the start. The Giants lost their first five games. The line was inept. The defense underperformed, then the injury bug decimated the roster.

"This has been the perfect storm this season," Mara said. "Everything that could have gone wrong this season has gone wrong."

Assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will take over on an interim basis for Reese, who became GM in 2007 and had two Super Bowl wins on his resume. But the Giants missed the playoffs four times in the past five years, and his failure to address those offensive line problems this past offseason played a major role in a horrible season.

Mara said Abrams and Spagnuolo will be offered the chance to continue in their interim jobs. Former general manager Ernie Accorsi will be a consultant in hiring a new GM, whom Mara wants in place before a coach.

Mara has candidates in mind for general manager and said it's possible a new GM could be in place before the season ends.

The moves came less than a week after McAdoo made one of the biggest mistakes of his short tenure, mishandling the decision to bench Manning. Mara was forced to address the matter the following day and said he wished the decision had been handled better.

McAdoo had a 13-16 record, and his firing is the first midseason head coaching move by the Giants since Bill Arnsparger was replaced seven games into the 1976 season by John McVay. The 2-10 mark is the Giants' worst since they were 2-10 in 1976, and their worst since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.

With the losses, word started to emerge that McAdoo was losing the team. His one-game suspensions of popular cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins heightened the problem.

Mara and Tisch came to McAdoo's defense after an embarrassing loss to the then-winless 49ers on Nov. 12, saying his job was safe until the end of the season.

"To be honest with you, 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 game and again this morning about why prolong it any longer?" Mara said Monday. "Why not just get it done now?"

The Giants hired McAdoo away from Green Bay in 2014 to serve as Tom Coughlin's offensive coordinator. He was elevated to head coach on Jan. 14, 2016, less than two weeks after Coughlin was forced out after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

McAdoo's first season was exceptional. His second was a fiasco.

"Our team is not good enough," Mara said.