Chargers 27, Giants 22: Hits, Misses & Musings

“Sound, tough and smart and committed to discipline and poise.”

Those were the words, the vision of Ben McAdoo, then the newly minted head coach of the New York Giants. They were words that encompassed all the basic traits a fan could want in his or her football team—words that stirred up memories of the Bill Parcells era Giants and the Tom Coughlin Giants of 2007 and 2011.

Despite McAdoo’s vision, the 40-year-old head coach, who is now only in his second season as the CEO of a 53-man roster and a 10-man practice squad, has struggled to deliver a team that lives up to that impressive-sounding mantra—and yes, that would include last year’s 11-5 team, which began to show signs of problems that were masked by winning games.

Where did it all go wrong for McAdoo and his lofty expectations?

We can start with his surprising willingness to admit that he and his staff are consistent about treating everyone differently.

While McAdoo has done his best to keep discipline-related issues in-house, such as receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s dog urinating celebration, receiver Janoris Jenkins’ leaving the field early Sunday, or, dating back to last year, his handling of Ereck Flowers’ shoving match with a reporter, where McAdoo has come up woefully short is in his outward treatment of players.

For example, why is it that right tackle Bobby Hart gets a pass, despite struggling, yet cornerback Eli Apple, who has also struggled this year, received a benching?

Maybe quarterback Eli Manning can handle open criticism about how poorly he’s played at times, but what about left tackle Ereck Flowers? Shouldn’t he be subject to “constructive” criticism?

The surprising thing about McAdoo’s approach is his failure to realize a basic teaching concept: When you show favoritism or a softer hand toward some but not the others, that promotes not only complacency with the “favored” child, but resentment from the other. And, as resentment grows, both caring and taking pride usually decline.

If you’re going to ask your players to be committed to discipline and poise, shouldn’t that example start at the top?

Former Giants safety Antrel Rolle, in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last week, was asked about how the coaching staff fixes tackling issues. Rolle’s answer resonates more loudly now than it did back then.

“How do you fix will?” Rolle asked. “Tackling is attitude. It’s all about will. We all know how to tackle—we all go through the same tackling drills. When you go in there and you’re throwing shoulder pads and not coming with enough force, you’re not securing the tackle, and you’re not wrapping up, you’re playing sloppy ball.”

Although Rolle’s response was about tackling, it might as well apply to the rest of the game’s fundamentals, because the point is that despite the effort of the team—and yes, some guys are putting forth effort—the will of the team as a whole seems to have been compromised.

The question is whether this head coach can fix the will of the team.

Yes, they’re professionals being paid handsomely to perform, but they’re also human beings who, just like the rest of the world, face the temptation of going through the motions and phoning it in if they detect that the environment is not a healthy one or their efforts aren’t being fully appreciated.

If McAdoo wants to fix what ails this team, he needs to start with eliminating the class system that has seemingly developed under his watch, because if he truly thinks this will inspire those who aren’t superstars to up their game to earn special treatment, his logic is flawed.

Like his team, he needs to go back to the basics—in his case, the coaching fundamentals—and reset the tone of a program that has developed soft spots and has quickly lost its way.

There will be no “Hits and Misses” this week.  Although the Giants did have some bright spots in Sunday’s game–hello Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa–when a team is 0-5, there are no “hits;” only a bunch of misses.

Instead, I’m jumping right into the musings. I’ve had a couple of days to think about these thoughts, so here goes.

What Now? 

It’s human nature that in times of distress, we cling to what we know to get us through it.

This reflex, if you will, goes back to our childhood. Think about the times when as a child you were scared and unsettled and clung to a favorite toy or a blanket.

If you’re second-year head coach Ben McAdoo, what do you cling to now to save your program, already in the toilet, from going down the drain to the sewer? Do you stick with what you know or do you throw everything out the window and start from scratch?

He’s been asked that question a few times since this whole season has gone south. Here is his most recent response:

“You have to flush those emotions before you get to that Wednesday practice and really after you correct the game on Tuesday, you have to flush the emotions and you have to move on to the next opponent.”

“You have to keep your chin up and you got to be full speed ahead on the next one. That’s the most important thing for us. Be all in on the next one.”

The problem with this thinking is that being all in on the next one has gotten the team nowhere this year. And what’s begun to be worrisome is that the locker room is starting to show splintering.

You had cornerback Eli Apple’s rather telling postgame comments when asked about his benching: “It’s not just one guy, it’s the whole culture, it’s everything. We’ve got to fix that.”

Then there was cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ leaving the field early, an act that was followed by him leaving the locker room early and then by a frantic defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo bursting out of the locker room while reporters were waiting to go in, asking reporters if they had seen Jackrabbit before he sprinted down the hallway to find his cornerback.

These incidents could very well be the tip of the iceberg if the losing doesn’t stop. And if that happens, if you think things are ugly now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Something tells me that if I were to conduct a poll now asking readers if the Giants should clean house, the overwhelming response would be yes.

Well, not to rain on your parade, but I am not sure if it will be that easy because of one reason: Eli Manning.

If team co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch decide enough is enough, that both Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese must go, such a decision could open a new can of works if quarterback Eli Manning is allowed to stay.

Let’s start with McAdoo. He brought in a new offensive system when he arrived here in 2014. Would it really behoove Manning to have to learn a new system all over again at this point in his career?

And what if that new coach decides Davis Webb isn’t the quarterback of the future for this team? Now you’ve wasted a high draft pick on a guy who might never see the field for you.

And let’s say the Giants dump Reese but not McAdoo. So now you have a new general manager who no doubt is going to want his coach in place, who is going to have to start from the bottom up in rebuilding this roster, and who is working with a head coach in McAdoo who may or may not be the long-term leader of this team and who might want a different type of player than say the next coach.

The most logical answer, as harsh as it sounds, is to start from scratch across the board—general manager, head coach and quarterback, and then from there weeding out the dead weight across the roster.

There should be no more slapping bandages on gaping wounds, because sad to say, this Giants team’s current configuration matches only that of the eye sore that is Xanadu or whatever it is that monstrosity across the street from MetLife Stadium is called these days—it ain’t pretty.

Sure, it means a few years of struggles for the franchise, but if the rebuild is done right, the new parts should all come together simultaneously, and boy, wouldn’t that be nice to see everything click naturally?

But absent that–and I would be surprised if the Giants ownership makes such a dramatic move–at the very least I believe Reese’s footing is shakiest if this program continues to fall apart at the seams. Since 2013, the Giants have replaced both offensive and defensive coordinators and the head coach, the result being one playoff berth (against a soft scheduled) in that time span.

It shouldn’t take a billboard in Times Square to shed light on what the common denominator.

The Final Word

I recognize and respect Ben McAdoo’s right to call plays as he is the head coach. But I don’t agree with his insistence of doing so, and the last two weeks have done nothing to convince me that McAdoo is doing right by this team in clinging to the play calling.

We’ve seen evidence of that, most recently last week when he failed to notice the clock winding down on the two-point conversion, a play in which had he not had his face in his menu, maybe he would have seen the clock winding down and gotten a time out to the officials before the team took a penalty.

But the icing on the cake came this week when star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was lying on the ground writhing in pain.

That’s right, with Beckham, the heart and soul of this team, of McAdoo’s offense, was lying on the field, his career no doubt flashing before his eyes after he suffered a broken ankle, his head was on the sideline trying to figure out the next play.

McAdoo still had a job to do. But this is your team’s star player. Didn’t he deserve a pat on the shoulder as he was being loaded onto the cart from his head coach?