If there was a singular moment from Sunday’s jarring 51–17 Giants’ loss to the visiting Los Angeles Rams that would challenge team ownership to depart from their long history of pragmatism at the head coaching position, it was the vision of a seemingly defiant and unapologetic Ben McAdoo at the podium afterward.
“Well? When you play a talented football team and you handle the ball the way we handled the ball, you tackled the way we tackled today, we had a blocked punt and we struggled to cover a punt, unfortunately that’s what the scoreboard is going to look like,” he said.
This, before he opted not to say what he told the team at halftime.
It would have been suitable behavior for a narrow loss to a better team, but right now, McAdoo’s house is on fire. After suspending two of his top three corners over the last month, the secondary inexplicably quit against Jared Goff and Sean McVay, allowing a touchdown on a third-and-33, and a 60-plus yard bomb to Sammy Watkins. Both were routine breakdowns that featured a Pro Bowl safety with no interest in participating.
Three different players didn’t show up on time following last week’s bye and Janoris Jenkins, the second suspended cornerback, didn’t even notify the club until 24 hours later. The first, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, grew so frustrated with McAdoo in a meeting a few weeks back that he stormed out of the facility.
Eli Manning is under constant duress and, when he finds moments of respite, cannot make deep throws to open receivers. McAdoo mitigated that disaster by opening the door to playing backup Davis Webb, which will cause more problems down the road.
An unending line of backs, slot receivers and tight ends are dropping passes. Fans Sunday chanted “We Want Coughlin,” begging for the return of a man that they spent a decade trying to push out the door. McAdoo was already encouraged to hand off play calling duty. It feels like one of the darkest moments in franchise history.
This is the attitude—a mix of smug and cornered—of a coach who sees the NFL’s most coveted job slipping away from his grasp. The question is whether or not Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch will give it the final tug. In the past, they have earned well-deserved praise for their patience, opting to work with a hardened Tom Coughlin before changing course. That led to a pair of Super Bowl victories in 2007 and ’11.
McAdoo does not have the same cache. His only experience as a play-caller came under Coughlin. During McAdoo’s playoff run in 2016, eight of their 11 wins were by a touchdown or less and, in 10 games, the team scored 20 points or fewer despite having the league’s second-best wide receiver. He was always a gamble, having come into the Giant organization with the sturdy façade of being a Packer assistant. After a year and a half, it has not translated.
For at least another hiring cycle, this will be one of the most desirable jobs in football. The team will almost certainly have a top five pick. Manning can at least be a serviceable quarterback who already has chemistry with a returning Odell Beckham. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul will be 27 and 29, respectively. Mara and Tisch are non-intrusive and financially supportive.
But it seems like ownership is, for now, standing at the brink of what could be a much larger chasm if they allow an underwhelming, almost passive-aggressive style to penetrate the facility. Making a change before the end of McAdoo’s contract would challenge every instinct the team has to meditate on a decision and largely err on the side of the incumbent. Then again, the mark of a good owner is to also recognize that his team is on a potentially dangerous course.