Closing time. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t … coach … here.
It’s been a nightmare season for the Giants and Monday’s dual firings of head coach Ben McAdoo and long-time GM Jerry Reese certainly shined a light on that fact. Maybe I’m just punch-drunk after 13 weeks of long hours covering football, but in my head, I imagined Giants owner John Mara firing McAdoo by quoting Semisonic, and it was quite entertaining.
‘90s alt-rock references aside, McAdoo’s tenure as New York’s head coach was a brief one, lasting a mere 28 games. Tom Coughlin had served 12 YEARS as the head coach before McAdoo. Needless to say, McAdoo will not be remembered kindly in East Rutherford. A year after leading the Giants back to the postseason on the strength of an 11-5 record (their best since 2008), McAdoo imploded in spectacular fashion, losing the locker room and eventually his job after benching franchise cornerstone Eli Manning for … wait for it … Geno Smith.
McAdoo first arrived with the Giants as an offensive coordinator in 2014 and parlayed that into a head-coaching gig two years later. Yet even before star receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall were lost to season-ending injuries, McAdoo’s offense was one of the league’s worst, averaging 326.4 yards per game (248.6 passing, 77.8 rushing) in Weeks 1-5. When the Giants made the playoffs a year ago, it was their defense, led by All-Pros Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon, that did the heavy lifting. Even with a top-three receiver in Beckham, the best McAdoo’s offense could muster was 17th in passing yards (242.4), 25th in total yards (330.7) and 26th in points per game (19.4). The Giants’ ground attack was especially inept, ranking ahead of only the Rams, Lions and Vikings in rushing yards per game (88.3).
I hesitate to say the Giants quit on McAdoo because I know what a stinging accusation that would be, but I don’t know how else to put it. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended after storming out of a team meeting while Jenkins was banned for skipping the Giants’ first practice following their Week 8 bye. Jenkins didn’t seem too enthused upon his return, sleep-walking through an embarrassing performance against the Niners in Week 10.
New York’s 0-5 start put McAdoo on the hot seat but pulling the rug out from underneath Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and borderline Hall of Famer, proved to be the final nail in the coffin. It would have made some sense to sit Manning for the final stretch of a lost season, but only if the Giants used that time to evaluate third-round rookie Davis Webb. Instead, McAdoo announced that Smith would start Week 13 against the Raiders with Manning available as the backup. Webb, as usual, was a healthy scratch. Choosing Geno, who was predictably ineffective in Sunday’s defeat, served as both a head-scratching football decision and a gut punch to one of the most important players in franchise history.
Pulling the plug on Manning didn’t sit well with the Giants’ fan base (or Mike Francesa) and accelerated Mara’s timeline for firing McAdoo, who was joined on the chopping block by Jerry Reese. A mainstay in East Rutherford for over two decades, Reese won a pair of Super Bowl rings during his time as GM, but had failed to move the needle in recent years with poor drafts (though Beckham was a coup at 12th overall in 2014) and a losing record in four of his last five seasons.
You’ll hear plenty of names linked to New York’s coaching vacancy in the coming weeks—Jim Harbaugh, Jon Gruden and Josh McDaniels have already been suggested. But until the Giants decide on McAdoo’s replacement, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will reside as the team’s interim head coach. Spagnuolo does offer three years of head-coaching experience—he was the Rams’ head honcho from 2009 to 2011. But the Giants will probably be looking to hire from outside the organization following McAdoo’s unsuccessful transition from offensive coordinator to head coach.
Editor’s Note: FanDuel is hosting the Rotoworld Beat the Writers Series, where you can play against five Rotoworld football writers for your chance at cash prizes and free entry into their Sunday Million. Put your knowledge to the test!
New York will find a new coach in time but the more pressing question relates to Manning and his future in a Giants uniform. McAdoo’s departure means Manning will return to his starting job this week, but for how long? It would serve the Giants to see what they have in Webb at some point and New York will surely be tempted to select a quarterback in the upcoming draft with Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen among this year’s top choices. There have been whispers within the organization that Manning is on his last leg, though the veteran expects to play at least one more season.
If the Giants decide to move on this offseason, Denver and Jacksonville would make sense as landing spots for Manning. Both teams have deficiencies at quarterback—Blake Bortles is nearing the end of his rookie contract and has proven time and again that he’s not a franchise quarterback while the Broncos may be having similar doubts about Paxton Lynch. Manning is by no means a long-term solution, but he’d work well as a one-year stopgap similar to how the Jets have used Josh McCown this season.
There’s reason to think Manning would be hesitant to play outside New York. Cowboys lifer Tony Romo pivoted into a broadcasting career after Dallas showed him the door this offseason while Drew Brees has made clear that he’ll only play for the Saints. But if Manning was open to playing elsewhere, Denver and Jacksonville would be appealing destinations. Already stacked on defense, the ascendant Jaguars are a quarterback away from being a true contender in the AFC while the Manning name obviously carries plenty of weight in Denver. The Broncos’ roster is a bit of a fixer-upper, but at least Manning would be surrounded by a pair of perennial 1,000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas (assuming the Broncos don’t kick him to the curb because of his vegan diet) and Emmanuel Sanders.
Mike Francesa made an interesting point on WFAN Monday, noting that the Giants’ season was essentially doomed as soon as Odell Beckham injured his ankle in the second preseason game. The injury, though seemingly minor, set off a chain reaction with Beckham missing Week 1 and looking rusty in his return against the Lions in Week 2. Beckham got back to business with a pair of touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 3, but by then, the Giants were already in an 0-3 hole. Two weeks later, Beckham was done for the year and so were the Giants. There was no looking back.
Despite Beckham’s dominance, the Giants have yet to address his contract, which expires after the 2018 season. Beckham’s antics have worn thin at times—he ruffled feathers with a disgusting touchdown celebration earlier this year and was also front and center for last year’s BoatGate debacle. But we’ve seen what the Giants are without him and it’s not much to look at. Head-case or not, Beckham is the key to New York’s future and locking him up long-term should be No. 2 on the Giants’ to-do list this offseason—right behind finding him a new head coach.
Quick Hits: For the second time in as many weeks, Chris Boswell delivered a walk-off field goal as the Steelers came from behind for their 10th win of the season Monday night at Cincinnati. It was an extremely physical game with Ryan Shazier (spine), Joe Mixon (concussion) and Vontaze Burfict (head) all exiting with injuries. Antonio Brown notched eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown while playing through a sprained toe while Le’Veon Bell cruised to 182 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches. A.J. Green (7-77-2) and Giovani Bernard (96 yards from scrimmage) also had productive nights … Rob Gronkowski has been suspended one game for a cheap shot that concussed Bills CB Tre’Davious White in Week 13. Dwayne Allen will start at tight end Monday night in Miami if Gronk loses his appeal … Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted he’s concerned with Alex Collins, who struggled with migraines after Sunday’s win over the Lions. Collins has totaled 226 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns throughout Baltimore’s three-game winning streak … Desmond Trufant has cleared the concussion protocol. He’ll be good to go for Thursday night’s game against the Saints … Despite a rough outing Sunday at Miami, the Broncos will go back to Trevor Siemian in Week 14. Denver has lost eight straight and nine of its last 10 … Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Adrian Peterson’s status is up in the air for Week 14. He missed Sunday’s game with a neck injury. Kerwynn Williams did well in his place, handling 16 carries for a career-high 97 yards in a loss to the Rams … The Titans hope to have Rishard Matthews back for Sunday’s game in Arizona. He’s sat out the last two weeks with a nagging hamstring injury … Delanie Walker came out of Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and is day-to-day. He’s scored in back-to-back weeks after going his first 10 games without a touchdown. Walker’s teammate Logan Ryan left Week 13 with a concussion and is in the league’s protocol … Amari Cooper hopes to return this week after missing Sunday’s game with a concussion. The Raiders are also getting back Michael Crabtree, who has finished serving his one-game suspension for fighting Aqib Talib … Greg Olsen was held out of last week’s game in New Orleans due to concerns that the artificial surface would affect his injured foot. Olsen should be back this week with the Panthers set to kick off a three-game home-stand Sunday against Minnesota … Packers coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t said if Aaron Rodgers will return when first eligible in Week 15, though he did resume practicing on Saturday. Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone in Week 6 … Mark Ingram was limited by a toe injury at Monday’s practice. Ingram has averaged 110.3 yards from scrimmage with nine touchdowns in eight games since New Orleans traded Adrian Peterson to Arizona … Tyrod Taylor avoided ligament damage and was diagnosed with a patellar tendon bruise after exiting Sunday against the Patriots. His status for Week 14 has yet to be determined. Meanwhile two of Taylor’s teammates, Kelvin Benjamin (knee) and Mike Tolbert (hamstring) are both expected to resume practicing this week with an eye on playing Sunday against the Colts … According to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Chris Carson is “unbelievably ahead of schedule” in his recovery from a broken leg and is likely to return later in the year. The seventh-round rookie had been working as Seattle’s lead ball-carrier before his injury in Week 4 … For the second time this year, the Bears are making a change at kicker. Newly signed Mike Nugent will take over for Cairo Santos, who was placed on season-ending I.R. with a groin injury. Nugent made 7-of-9 field goals with a long of 48 yards over a four-game stint with Dallas earlier this year.