The New York Giants have made a move Monday they hope will sweep their grossest season in living memory under the rug. The franchise fired embattled head coach Ben McAdoo and longtime general manager Jerry Reese, the first step toward an organizational reset heading into 2018.
McAdoo’s fate was sealed after he benched franchise icon Eli Manning on Sunday (Strike 1) for Geno Smith, a former New York Jet (Strike 2) best known for an incident in which a teammate punched him in the face (You’re out). Giants co-owner John Mara was also involved in the decision to bench Manning, and was surprised that Eli declined the opportunity to start and be pulled later in the game. As easy as it is to blame McAdoo, who reportedly did not communicate with Eli the way Mara expected, he’s still the fall guy for an organizational decision.
The McAdoo era ends unceremoniously with 13 wins, 15 losses, one playoff appearance and one rock-bottom season that could leave scars on the franchise for years to come. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will replace McAdoo as interim head coach while assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will take over as interim GM, and they’re already fixing the mistakes that Reese and McAdoo (and Mara) made.
Giants are going back to Eli Manning as their starting quarterback, per @JordanRaanan.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 4, 2017
It’s the first time in more than 40 years the Giants didn’t let their head coach finish the season. McAdoo earned that distinction by finding ways to frustrate players and fans alike nearly every week of his tenure. In addition to the Manning debacle, he introduced the world to the Cheesecake Factory menu that he called plays from, wielding the largest play-call sheet in the league despite having the most predictable offense. In 2016, the Giants featured three wide receivers, a running back, and a tight end more than 90 percent of the time, by far the highest in the league.
But as maligned as McAdoo’s offense was last year, the McAdoo experience reached new lows in 2017. He publicly bashed Manning after the Giants lost to the Lions in Week 2 and suspended cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins earlier this season. The Giants’ season seemingly hit rock bottom during a 51-17 beating from the Los Angeles Rams, including a 52-yard touchdown that came on third-and-33, and then the next week they gave the hapless 49ers their first win of the season. Now at 2-10, the team is in free fall.
A man billed as an offensive guru has led the team to be 31st in points scored, 28th in yards, and 30th in first downs. The last time the Giants scored 30 points in a game, Marco Rubio was still running for president. Even the defense, which finished 2016 as the second-best unit by DVOA, is 22nd this season. Under McAdoo, every facet of the team has become diseased.
The Giants decided to cure that sickness by removing the heart of the team. Manning is often criticized because he looks like he’d pet a rabbit too hard, but to Giants fans he is the constant rock amid 14 years of football that included two Super Bowl runs, and it wasn’t his fault the offense tanked this season. Receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris all went down for the year in the same game against the Chargers in Week 5, and Sterling Shepard has missed a few contests with migraines. Blaming Manning for this season, with this roster, is stupefying. Benching Eli was a genuinely heart-shattering experience for much of the fan base, and it made McAdoo’s departure both inevitable and delicious.
McAdoo did everything he could to lose the locker room and the fan base before he lost his job, but beneath the surface of his goofy caricature are systemic failures, and that is why general manager Jerry Reese is out too. Reese, hired in 2007, immediately won a Super Bowl with a roster of players he inherited. Four years later, the team had a déjà-vu dream against the Patriots, and suddenly Giants fans wanted “In Reese We Trust” to be printed on money. But since 2012, the team struggled to develop draft picks along the offensive line or in the secondary, or squeeze value out of mid-round picks. Reese had to spend $106 million guaranteed to fix the defense last offseason by bringing in defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, which worked, but was also extremely desperate and historically lucky. He had no such magic fix with an offensive line that’s been a laughing stock for three years. McAdoo came to New York as the offensive coordinator in 2014 with a game plan to account for a shoddy roster that Reese couldn’t fix. It didn’t work. Now they’re both out.
It’s shocking to see an organization fire a general manager who won two Super Bowls, but the shadow of that 2007 run is still influencing this team. Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator in 2007, and now gets a shot to coach the team. Abrams has been assistant GM for 16 seasons. And Manning will start against Dallas in Week 14. For now, order has been restored in New York.