NFL – THE 2017 GIANTS: An Example of How NOT To Run a Football team
I’m not necessarily a fan of the New York Giants. But, I’m fascinated by what happened to this team in 2017.
I find myself trying to understand how a team with legitimate Super Bowl ambitions ended up in a struggle for dignity.
So, I did some digging and discovered that Big Blue’s management botched things so badly, their 2017 season provides an example to other teams of how NOT to run an NFL franchise.
BREAKING DOWN THE DOWNFALL – JERRY REESE
Before this season started, expectations were reasonably high for this organization.
The team finished 2016 with an 11-5 record and went to the playoffs during their first season under head coach Ben McAdoo. They also brought back their above-average defense and added more offensive weapons for veteran QB Eli Manning (WR Brandon Marshall & TE Evan Engram).
Collectively, it seemed the Giants had a somewhat balanced team that could possibly win the division this year, or at least contend for a wild card in the NFC.
That’s not how things turned out, though.
Not even close.
Through the first 14 weeks, NY has had one of its worst years in franchise history (currently 2-11), and both McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese were fired 4 games before season’s end.
The main reason for the downfall?
This team was set up for disaster by Reese going back several years when the team’s roster was in his hands during his tenure (2007-2017).
It is true that some of the draftees he brought in during his 1st year helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2007. In subsequent years, the Giants also put together decent teams under head coach Tom Coughlin and won another SB in 2011.
But, since then, the Giants have gone 41-52, have had losing seasons in 4 of the last 5 years and not made the playoffs in 5 of the last 6.
This downfall and ensuing crash and burn in 2017 can be blamed on Reese’s repeated failures in diagnosing the team’s deficiencies properly, his blunders in securing long-term quality talent, and the lack of depth in his rosters particularly during the latter part of his career.
Outside of drafting arguably the team’s best players in recent times (WR Odell Beckham Jr., TE Evan Ingram, and S Landon Collins), Reese only selected 6 Pro Bowlers in 11 years of draft classes and only 1 member from the Giants’ draft classes from 2011-13 are currently still on the roster.
In addition, Reese’s lavish spending on undrafted free agents to fill in the gaps (that he created) have not always panned out.
While he retooled the defense in 2016 with his expenditures and made them championship-caliber, Reese’s worst botches to date may be his decision to go all-in on the passing game for 2017 and disregard the running game and offensive line.
The end result was the offense that was afflicted with the same struggles last season was passed on to this season, the defense did not play as well as last year, and widespread injuries exposed the deficiencies in the roster.
On top of it all, the head coach lost control of this team and broke their spirit.
BREAKING DOWN THE DOWNFALL – BEN MCADOO
When former head coach Tom Coughlin was unjustly fired at the end of the 2015 season, the Giants elevated McAdoo from his position as offensive coordinator (2014-5) and gave him the reigns to run this team.
Coughlin had struggled to take Reese’s contrived rosters after 2011 and make them work. But, one thing he always did was to hold the team together despite adversity and make the players respect him.
This is where McAdoo failed miserably in 2017. He did not handle frustrations in the locker room well when the season was going down the drain.
And, instead of trying to bring the men together and inspire them when they needed him the most, McAdoo pointed fingers and blamed the players for not showing up and playing hard.
In turn, several players got into disagreements with him and incidents unfolded all season long:
- After a reported “altercation” with McAdoo on the sidelines during Week 5’s game, veteran cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) met with coach 2 days later to discuss. During that meeting, DRC was told he would be inactive Week 6 and left the team facility in frustration before practice. For this was, DRC was suspended for several days and was upset by the circumstances, saying it was all “BS”.
- During Week 5’s game, McAdoo benched cornerback Eli Apple for the first three series and said it was because Apple disagreed with him about his performance in previous games. But, an NFL Network report revealed that Apple was really benched “for disciplinary reasons”. Unhappy, Apple said the whole thing was “kind of weird” and insinuated that he was targeted for the blame of losing games.
- After the Week 8 Bye, 3 players did not show up at practice unexplicably. One was veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins who was suspended for 1 week. The other players, CB Eli Apple and RB Paul Perkins, were punished internally with fines.
- Prior to Week 10’s game, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that an “anonymous” Giants players told her “unsolicited” that “McAdoo has lost this team” and “He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got”. Another told her: “Guys are giving up on the season and nothing’s being done. Guys just don’t care anymore.”
- Things got really ugly when it appeared that the defense did indeed quit during bad losses on Week 9 (Rams 51, NYG 17) and Week 10 (SF 31, NYG 21). Effort seemed to lack particularly in the secondary.
- On Nov 28, before Week 13’s game, McAdoo announced that the popular 2x Super Bowl winning veteran QB Eli Manning was to be benched so they could see what they had in their backup QBs. He claimed, “It’s what’s best for the organization moving forward”. But, according to some experts, it was McAdoo’s last-ditch attempt at saving himself. By sitting the 36-year-old QB who had been struggling and playing what he categorized as more “mobile QBs”, McAdoo made it appear that Manning was to blame for the issues on offense. The football community was stunned and touched by Eli’s tearful interview. An outcry of support for him exploded league-wide.
- Days later, a discrepancy was exposed about McAdoo’s account of the plan to sit Manning and team president John Mara’s understanding of the situation. Mara said he thought the backups would be eased into the roster, rather than replacing Manning outright. It suggested that communication was broken within the organization.
- On Dec 4, with 4 games left in the season, the Giants fired McAdoo and Reese. Mara said in a press conference, “We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul.”
THE RIGHT COACH COULD HAVE HELD IT TOGETHER
It’s worth speculating that if a more instinctive head coach was at the helm of this team this year, the NY Giants could have had more than 2 wins.
Maybe it would not have been a winning record, but perhaps the season wouldn’t have been such a disaster.
Reese may have mishandled the roster and the lack of depth exposed by injuries, but a great coach would have gone to that locker room and tried to inspire the players instead of publicly shaming them with suspensions and throwing them under the bus at press conferences.
What Reese hoped to accomplish by calling out their quality of play publicly, actually backfired on him.
If we go back to the Giants locker room after Week 4, when the team just lost their 4th straight, Eli Apple said something very revealing: “Feels like a dark cloud over us at times.”
I wonder: Did McAdoo ever hear that coming from Apple? Did he care? Did he know this meant that his players were losing faith in their abilities and this team?
I’m guessing not. Less than a week after Apple made that statement to reporters, McAdoo benched him for insubordination.
That says a lot about why McAdoo never connected with his players. He certainly had his chances, and he blew it.
In the end, the death spiral that was the NY Giants 2017 season did not have to happen.
Let it be a lesson to other organizations watching from afar.
(Hint: my 49ers…)
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