NFC East

Giants fire head coach Ben McAdoo, GM Jerry Reese

usa-ben-mcadoo-jerry-reese-giants.jpg
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.

Cowboys rout Redskins, prevent Eagles from clinching NFC East

ap-cowboys-dez-bryant.jpg
AP Images

Cowboys rout Redskins, prevent Eagles from clinching NFC East

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott was getting X-rays on his swollen right hand when rookie Ryan Switzer scored his first career touchdown on an 83-yard punt return.

The extra time with the Dallas offense on the sideline kept Prescott from missing any plays, and last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year led the Cowboys to their first win after three straight losses without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott threw two touchdown passes, including a franchise record-breaker to Dez Bryant, in the Cowboys' 38-14 victory over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

The injury happened in the second quarter when Prescott's right hand was hit by linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons just as he made an option pitch to Rod Smith. Thanks to Switzer's dash to the end zone, Prescott never left the game.

"I don't know if I've ever broken my hand," Prescott said. "I couldn't grip initially right after because the (hand) swelled up on me so bad. As I said, they wrapped it up, got the swelling down and I was fine."

Bryant's leaping 13-yard leaping in the end zone was the 2014 All-Pro's first score in six games and 72nd of his career, one more than Hall of Famer Bob Hayes.

The Cowboys (6-6) never trailed despite a sluggish start to the offense, thanks to three first-half turnovers and four overall by the Redskins (5-7). Dallas kept it going after halftime with a 21-7 scoring edge after getting outscored 72-6 in the second half of three straight losses without Elliott.

Alfred Morris, Elliott's replacement during the six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence, had 127 yards rushing and a clinching touchdown.

The Cowboys forced NFL-leading Philadelphia to wait until at least Sunday to clinch the division title. But Dallas still faces a steep climb to playoff contention, and two more games without Elliott.

The Redskins had already been eliminated in the division race and are virtually out of the postseason picture after Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while throwing two touchdown passes.

Jamison Crowder let the pass go through his hands on Cousins' first interception and fumbled on a Dallas punt a few plays later in the Redskins' fourth straight loss to the Cowboys, the longest such streak in the series since 2003-04.

"It was just miscues," Cousins said. "A dropped ball here, we had a nice drive down the field the second drive, just a tough turnover, and then it was one thing after another that were just mistakes. They happen, and we have to correct them."

By the time the Redskins answered Switzer's punt return with a 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins' 20-yard scoring pass to Ryan Grant, Prescott was ready to return. He had been holding his right hand in his helmet once he returned to the sideline.

Rookie backup Cooper Rush had his helmet on when the Redskins punted.

"If we didn't have the return by Switz, Cooper Rush would have got in the ballgame at that point," coach Jason Garrett said. "We got the return, Dak was able to come back out."

Prescott only threw for 102 yards, but didn't have a turnover after throwing five interceptions and losing three fumbles without a touchdown pass during the losing streak.

And the Cowboys looked more like the offense they have when Elliott is around, with Morris picking up big yardage on clock-killing drives with the Cowboys in front.

Cousins moved the Washington offensive sporadically because he was consistently harassed behind a patchwork offensive line that had to shuffle some more because of injuries. Cousins, who was 26 of 37 for 251 yards, was replaced by Colt McCoy late in the fourth quarter.

DeMarcus Lawrence, the NFL sacks leader most of the first half of the season, had two of Dallas' four sacks, ending a two-game drought and extending his career high to 13 1/2. Cousins was hit hard by David Irving on a sack in the fourth quarter.

Bryant's impact
Bryant still hasn't had a 100-yard game, his longest drought to start a season since his second year in 2011. But the 61-yard effort included a 24-yarder that set up his record-setting TD on the first play of the fourth quarter. "I was talking about that demeanor and that attitude that we carried," Prescott said. "I give him credit. He kind of brought it this week and pretty much tonight and you kind of felt it early."

More OL shuffling
Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses didn't return after injuring an ankle in the first half, forcing Ty Nsekhe to that spot after he was a fill-in starter at left guard on a patchwork line that's been dealing with injuries all season.

Left tackle Trent Williams left the field briefly in the third quarter. He's been inactive three of the past six games because a knee injury that will require surgery. Washington was already missing center Chase Roullier because of a hand injury.

Up next
Redskins: At Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 10.

Cowboys: At New York Giants on Dec. 10 to start a season-ending stretch of three of four on the road.

Eagles can clinch NFC East while watching TV tonight

usa-doug-pederson-howie-roseman-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles can clinch NFC East while watching TV tonight

By the end of tonight, the Eagles might be NFC East champions. 

If the Cowboys lose to Washington (or tie) on Thursday Night Football, the Eagles will officially clinch the division title for the first time since 2013. 

If the Cowboys win, the Eagles can still clinch the division this weekend with a win (or tie) in Seattle. 

The Eagles are the only team in the NFL that can clinch a playoff berth this weekend. If they do, it will be the earliest any team has clinched the NFC East since ... 2004.

But even if it doesn't happen this weekend, barring a complete meltdown from the Eagles and resurgence from the Cowboys, the Eagles are going to win the division. In order for them to miss the NFC East title, the Eagles would need to lose out and the Cowboys would need to win out. Not gonna happen. 

"Obviously it's one of our goals to win the NFC East, but the bigger message is you're still playing and fighting for home field," head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday. "You're fighting for that first-round bye if possible. I mean, there's a lot of things that you're still playing for, even though you've checked the box for your first goal. It's great, love it, but the Eagles have also won a bunch of NFC East titles here, too. We're proud of it. It's a tribute obviously to the players, but there's something bigger out there that we strive for."

At 10-1, the Eagles have the best record in the NFC and would be the No. 1 seed if the playoffs began tomorrow. But the Vikings (9-2), Rams (8-3), Saints (8-3) and Panthers (8-3) are all on their heels. 

While the Eagles have won nine straight, the Vikings are tied for the second-longest winning streak in the NFL at seven games. 

Getting back to the NFC East title, the Eagles haven't won it since Chip Kelly's first season as head coach and no team has won the division in back-to-back seasons since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04. With Carson Wentz entering his prime, the Eagles have a chance to duplicate that success in coming years.