John Mara has made no secret of how embarrassed he has been by the New York Giants’ dismal 2-10 season.
And so the son of the late Wellington Mara, who like his father is a picture of patience, a man who somehow resists the no doubt alluring temptation to micromanage his employees when he senses that they are so far off the rails in what they’re doing, has, along with his business partner Steven Tisch, finally did the extreme.
He pulled the plugs on general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo after 12 games of complete and utter misery, a “perfect storm” of an unbelievable amount of injuries that claimed key players such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall, offensive linemen Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, just to name a few of the 17 players currently listed on the team’s injured report list, but a list that actually was much larger prior to the team having reached injury settlements with others who have since been released.
Why now, especially after issuing a joint statement to the contrary just a few short weeks ago?
“I changed my mind, we changed our minds,” Mara said Monday. “Given all the events that occurred, where we are as a franchise right now. 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? Why not just get it done now?”
Perhaps the fact that three of their last four games are at home might have had something to do with the timing—Mara did acknowledge he was aware of the schedule and he might have likely been aware of the possibility of his paying customers revolting in some way, shape or form over the state of the team had McAdoo and Reese, replaced for the interim by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams respectively, been allowed to continue in their respective roles.
Hence the decision was made, though still pending in the land of the Giants, however, is the decision as to what to do with franchise quarterback Eli Manning, who last week abruptly had the rug pulled out from under him by his now former head coach who presented a hard and fast plan that would have allowed Manning to continue his consecutive games started streak in return for coming out of the game after the half in favor of one of Geno Smith or, eventually, Davis Webb.
Manning, the competitor who has brought two Super Bowl championships to this franchise, declined the offer, his impressive streak snapped at 210 games while the collective psyches of a Giants fan base that included former players and which was already fragile enough as it was given the team’s ineptness, snapped right along with it.
Mara stood before the dozens of reporters and television camera crews where he said that the Manning decision “really had no effect” on the decision to start the housecleaning early. While some will likely find that hard to believe, there is no denying that the backlash of that decision combined with the team’s continued inability to win games all brought this situation to a head.
He also disputed numerous reports claiming that the decision to reinstate Manning as the team’s starter had already been made.
“There’s no decision, to my knowledge, that’s been made on that yet. I’d assume [Spagnuolo] will run it by me before he makes that decision,” he said.
With the damage done, now comes the hard part for Mara, Tisch and the rest of the Giants organization, which night now faces some uncertain and unsettling times. Ownership has retained former general manager Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to help them find their new general manager.
That new general manager will be faced with making decisions on the contracts for Beckham, Justin Pugh, Landon Collins and others; who will be tasked with trying to undo years of poor drafts that have left the cupboard bare to the point where the Giants have had to reach back into their training camp roster to fill the gaping holes that currently exist on this roster; and who will also have a significant say in who his business partner, the head coach, will be for the next several years.
It’s a Giant task anyway you slice it and one that as the Mara and Tisch families enter must do so with extreme caution and eyes wide open to not be swept up by a smooth talker who puts on a good front but who in reality lacks the necessary social traits to make it all come together.
As that process plays out, Mara will long be haunted by a season gone astray, one in which he said he was “very confident” about the roster and the team’s chances of building on an 11-5 campaign the year prior.
“It’s really–and I’ve used this expression–it was the perfect storm,” he said. “Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong so far this season. It’s just one of those things you have to live through and suck it up and make whatever changes you have to make and go on.”
But perhaps the biggest challenge for Mara and Tisch will be getting the franchise back to the “Giants Way,” that for years was so highly thought of by the league community. The Giants Way, as it was once known, looked out for its players, past and present; it empowered and nurtured its employees, bringing them along the food chain as they acquired experience and proved their worthiness.
“We’ve had an embarrassing season,” Mara said. “I think most people that know me know how painful that is to me and know how committed I am in trying to put a winning team back on the field. I know our fans are suffering, but I’m suffering more, I guarantee it.”