The New York Giants have been touted as one of the NFL's steadiest franchises, with only four head coaches serving the team since the start of the 1993 season and three general managers since 1979.
But principle owner John Mara also once swore he’d not make the same mistakes that his father, Hall of Famer Wellington Mara, once did — namely, sticking too long with respected men in the franchise’s key leadership positions — in years past.
Mara, along with co-owner Steve Tisch, now is staring through the crosshairs and wondering what shots he might have to take. And when to take them.
Would Mara consider firing head coach Ben McAdoo before the end of the season? It would be an extreme measure, and a very un-Giants-like one. And would GM Jerry Reese be the next to go? These are the loyalty-challenging questions that are being put to the test following the Giants’ 1-7 start.
The Giants had the bye week to ponder their course and they returned to action Sunday in historic fashion. As in allowing the most points (51, to the Los Angeles Rams) the Giants had at home since 1964.
That season saw the Giants follow up three straight championship-game appearances with a miserable 2-10-2 season. The fall in 2017 isn’t nearly as far, but going from 11-5 and a playoff appearance with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and a pricey defense to this start is precipitous nonetheless.
After the 1-5 start, Mara indicated that fans have let him know just how fed up they are.
“It’s not my first time dealing with an issue like that,” Mara said on Oct. 18. “I do hear what they have to stay, but at the end of the day, we’re still in the middle of the season. We’re trying to win games and do the best we can.”
Imagine what they’re saying now. McAdoo has had to suspend two of his top three cornerbacks and watch the third — Eli Apple — give an embarrassingly bad effort, along with the other 10 defenders on the field, as the Rams not only converted a 3rd-and-33 but also turned it into a catch-and-run through the heart of that overpaid and underachieving unit.
That play might sum up exactly where the Giants are at right now. Their one win at Denver was a shocking result, but it feels like ancient history at this point.
Right now, it would be stunning if Mara did not fire McAdoo — and perhaps Reese — at season’s end. But might something happen sooner? Mara is riding that fine line right now, and sources have indicated that the tension in the organization is similar to what it experienced in the final two seasons of the Tom Coughlin era.
Mara nearly fired Coughlin at the end of the 2014 season but gave him one more shot in 2015. That didn’t work out, and we’ve consistently heard from our sources there the past few years that the decision not to make a change ate at Mara for a long time.
McAdoo took over in 2016, and led that unexpected playoff run. But the wheels have fallen completely off, and him floating the idea of benching QB Eli Manning down the stretch — without giving much in the way of specifics — could lead Mara to step in. Manning has been one of Mara’s favorite players, and the Giants didn’t even really consider trading him at the Halloween deadline.
If McAdoo actually made overtures to replace Manning — who has started 207 consecutive games — with Geno Smith or Davis Webb, it certainly could cause Mara to step in. What might happen at that point would be anyone’s guess, but right now it’s feeling like McAdoo is walking the proverbial plank. Now the question is: How long is it?