Monday Musings | 49ers 31 – Giants 21: A Lot of Ugly

Just when you think things can’t get any worse for the New York Giants, they prove everyone wrong.

Despite what some of the players might have said after losing 31-21 to the San Francisco 49ers, that loss was just as bad as the 51-17 blowout by the Los Angeles Rams the week before, and the losses prior to that.

There’s no sugar-coating this. The Giants are bad. Their problems run far deeper than the product that’s on the field, and whether head coach Ben McAdoo wants to agree or not, this is an embarrassment that reflects everyone’s effort (or lack thereof in some cases).

As we wait to see if McAdoo will make his scheduled 5:05 pm conference call with the Giants media, here are a few musings from what has been a season that has gone so horribly wrong.

So Much for the Defense

The Giants defense was supposed to be even better than last year what with this being the second season most of the players had together in the same system.

Yet the performance has gone backwards and horribly wrong.

Why? Well, injuries are certainly a part of things, but I think back to earlier in the year when defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo quipped that this year would be more like graduate school for the defense.

Here is the exact quote Spagnuolo made before the Giants faced the Cowboys in Week 1.

I feel good about knowing what we can and can’t do and I think the players feel the same way. I think I made this statement to them the other day. I’m skipping years when you say freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior. In the third year in the system and not all the guys have been here three years, but I expect them to think as if they were in graduate school with the scheme. I believe that they think that way – allows you to do a little bit more. It put the pressure on all of us to make sure we get it right. There’s no margin for error now.

Unfortunately, Spagnuolo’s attempt to skip his players ahead several grades is coming back to haunt him. While some can jump grades ahead, you have to go with the majority as a coach, and what Spagnuolo has seemingly done here is the equivalent of taking someone who has had one year of freshman physics and moving them to a doctorate program, which is only setting the person up for failure.

Evan Engram is a Stud

If you were in the “throw the remote” crowd when the Giants drafted tight end Evan Engram in the first round, so far, the rookie has more than delivered the goods.

Engram is currently eighth among NFL tight ends in receiving yards with 443 and is tied for third in his position group with 6 touchdowns and for most 20_ yard receptions (7).

Interestingly, Engram has caught at least one touchdown in every game since the Giants lost receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall in Week 5. If nothing else, he’s proven himself to be a strong core piece to the puzzle moving forward.

Tread Lightly with Justin Pugh’s Next Contract

Pound for pound, Justin Pugh is still the best offensive lineman the Giants have and it’s not even close.

However, with Pugh’s contract ending after this year, if I’m the Giants, I would be very careful about the kind of deal I give him.

Pugh, as we know, has been battling a back issue these last few weeks, (though we don’t know if it’s a muscular or structural issue).

If he needs surgery—and to be clear that hasn’t been determined that we know of–that means he’s looking at a significant offseason recovery period.

As we wait to see what happens with Pugh, if I’m the Giants, I include a per-game roster bonus for Pugh, who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year (2013), in at least the first year of his next contract.

Janoris Jenkins Needs to Be Benched  

Losing certainly brings out the worst in people sometimes, but cornerback Janoris Jenkins has taken “bad attitude” to a whole new plateau.

You can start with his poor judgement to not call ahead to let his employer know he’d be late returning from the bye week, a decision that cost him a one-game suspension without pay.

You can also point to his lack of remorse when asked last week if he had any regrets, how he nonchalantly said, “I ain’t going to say I got regrets, I ain’t going to say I don’t have regrets.”

But his lack of effort in the game, such as this gem, was the last straw.

People aren’t always going to like or get along with everyone they work with—that’s reality. When one person tries to sabotage the person they don’t like, they’re hurting the team and need to be removed from inflicting further damage with a poor attitude.

If I’m the Giants, I look to trade Jenkins for a Day 3 pick as soon as the NFL trading period opens for business next March.

McAdoo Has Run Out of Magic

Last year, rookie head coach Ben McAdoo could do very little wrong in taking this team to an 11-5 record.

Whatever magic McAdoo had last year, it’s gone, and the deeper into the hole this team falls, the worse it looks for McAdoo.

When a head coach stands before the media and says repeatedly that he has to go back and watch the tape of what happened. that’s usually a sign that he’s not paying as close attention on the sideline as he probably should be.

“I’m not going to grade any players up here today. I’m going to make sure we go take a long look at the tape,” McAdoo said.

No one was asking McAdoo to provide detailed grade the players off memory–that would have been unrealistic. But it doesn’t take a review of the tape to see that some players fell short in delivering effort, that the starting quarterback made a bad decision on his turnover, that the kicker is struggling, and that teams are making a mockery of the run defense.

The real kicker came when McAdoo was asked by a reporter how he keeps the players motivated, McAdoo said, “They’re pro-football players. They need to be self-motivated. Everybody gets a paycheck this week and we need to go out and play that way.”

Sorry Ben, but it doesn’t work that way. When employee morale is down—and make no mistake, its down in that locker room no matter what is said—it doesn’t matter who is getting a paycheck or how much they’re making.

Boosting the morale is part of what a leader does, and it’s something that McAdoo has struggled to do this year.

The Giants Need to Re-think the Kicking Situation

Aldrick Rosas is a hard-working young man who just so happens to be in a kicking slump after missing at least one field goal attempts in his last five games (he didn’t have an attempt in the loss to the Chargers).

That’s simply not acceptable, and with most teams, that would certainly result in a kicker being cut. Yet for some reason, at least as of now, the Giants seem to be hoping that Rosas pulls himself out of this slump just as hard as they seem to be hoping the team snaps itself out of its funk.

And while on the subject of kickers, punter Brad Wing, who was just so good last year, has struggled as well. Last year, he placed 28 of his 93 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

This year, he’s managed to place just eight (out of 48 punts) inside the 20. The last time Wing put a punt inside the 20 was against the Seahawks, when he dropped one of his seven punts in that game in the promised land.