Stating the obvious, the New York Football Giants are well on their way to their 8th losing season in the last nine years, and possibly matching the futility of the 2017 (3-13) and 2019 (4-12) seasons. Those two campaigns cost Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur their jobs, respectively, after just their second seasons. Joe Judge now potentially finds himself in the same boat.
As I mentioned in last week’s game preview, it’s hard to see the team winning a game before Thanksgiving. That said, while the Carolina Panthers are a much improved team, they are still a .500 club. If the Giants were not in the midst of a 1-5 tailspin and encumbered with significant injury issues at running back, wide receiver, tight end, and the offensive line, they normally would have a decent shot at the upset here. Possibly they will still surprise us. But to do so, the inexplicably bad defense would have to dramatically change course and perform at the level expected of it entering this season. That doesn’t seem likely.
What the hell is happening to this once-proud franchise?
Let’s take a few steps back and revisit the recent past.
In January 2016, John Mara decided that problem with this franchise was not Jerry Reese and Marc Ross, but Tom Coughlin. Mara fired Coughlin and quickly promoted Ben McAdoo from offensive coordinator to head coach when he falsely was led to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles were about to pilfer him from New York. The aging Tom Coughlin was coming off his third consecutive 3rd-place finish in the NFC East, with a number of questionable in-game decisions in 2015. Nevertheless, in hindsight, New York never really recovered from the loss of stability that Coughlin brought to the team. One thing is clear, Mara erroneously came to the conclusion that Coughlin was the primary problem, and not those “buying the groceries” as Bill Parcells so fondly used to call it. The other head coaching candidates Mara interviewed included Steve Spagnuolo, Teryl Austin, Adam Gase, Doug Marrone, and Mike Smith.
In early December 2017, after a 2-10 start, Mara fired Reese and McAdoo with four games left play. At the the time, the removal of a general manager and the firing of head coach in-season was not something expected of the staid New York Giants franchise. Fans applauded the dramatic moves, believing that Mara had finally come to the conclusion that the organization had become too stagnate in its old ways. However, those hopes quickly evaporated when it was revealed that Ernie Accorsi had been hired as a consultant for the new general manager search. Dave Gettleman, who had worked under Accorsi from 1999-2012, was on the market as he had been fired as general manager of the Carolina Panthers in July. When Accorsi stepped down as New York’s general manager after the 2006 season, he had recommended to Mara that the team promote Reese to general manager. Gettleman was his second choice. Most Giants fans realized that as soon as Accorsi was picked as consultant, it was merely to rubber stamp Gettleman as the team’s new general manager. Three weeks after Reese was let go, Gettleman was hired before the 2017 regular-season was even over. It’s doubtful that anyone else was seriously considered. One of Gettleman’s first moves was to fire Ross. Mara and Gettleman then hired Shurmur as the new head coach in January 2018. The other candidates considered were Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Steve Spagnuolo, Steve Wilks, and Eric Studesville.
Shurmur won just nine games over the course of the next two seasons. With the team clearly not improving, Mara chose to retain the almost 70-year old Gettleman and fire Shurmur. It seemed like an odd decision at the time. Gettleman was past retirement age, his first head coaching hire as New York GM had failed miserably, and his free agency/draft player acquisition had not improved the team. Most importantly and damning, Mara decided Gettleman was going to be intimately involved in hiring a head coach who potentially would have to work with a new general manager in the not-so-distant future who did not hire him. It was an odd decision to say the least.
In January 2020, Mara and Gettleman hired 38-year old special teams coordinator Joe Judge as the franchise’s next head coach. It was a surprise move given that Judge had never served as head coach at any level. The other candidates at the time where Matt Rhule, Kris Richard, Mike McCarthy, Eric Bieniemy, Don “Wink” Martindale, and Josh McDaniels. Originally, Rhule was believed to be New York’s #1 choice. “We weren’t going with a seven-year deal with anybody,” said Mara about Rhule, who received a 7-year contract from the Panthers. “But more importantly, we had somebody we were excited about. So, we went ahead and made Joe the coach.” One wonders what may be floating around Mara’s head if Rhule’s team beats the crap out of New York on Sunday.
What’s the point of revisiting all of this painful history? In a nutshell, it is to strongly indicate that John Mara is terrible at making strategic decisions that affect the fate the team that he owns. Indeed, one has to ask what has Mara done right? His supporters may point to 2007 and 2011, but the foundation of that team was largely established outside of his control. It’s pretty clear that he was motivated to re-establish something similar to the Ernie Accorsi management team, that included Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman, in order to replicate the environment that produced two NFL Championships. That attempt failed miserably.
In Mara’s head, Coughlin was the problem, not Reese/Ross. But then they were fired along with the new head coach. Accorsi rubber stamps the post-retirement age GM who was the runner-up to Reese in 2006. Two years later, his head coach is fired. Instead of cleaning house, Gettleman helps to select the new head coach. The team is arguably the worst in the NFL. Nothing has improved. It’s also important to note that head coaching candidates selected to be interviewed in 2016, 2018, and 2020 were far from impressive. One looks around with envy at some of the other head coaches who were hired during the same time period.
Which brings us to December 2021 and January 2022. Mara will be making the decisions again. And that is not comforting. The expectation is that Gettleman will finally be fired. Does Mara, who must be painfully aware of the biennial instability, force Judge on the new GM? Does he stick with Gettlemen’s groomed replacement, Kevin Abrams, who would be more likely to accept retaining Judge? Does the Tisch family just sit back and continue to watch this incompetence from the sideline?
All in all, it’s astounding to see how far this team has fallen in a decade. And there is no end in sight.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
- WR Kenny Golladay (knee – out)
- WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
- WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – out)
- WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – questionable)
- WR John Ross (hamstring – questionable)
- TE Evan Engram (calf – questionable)
- TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
- OG Ben Bredeson (hand – probable)
- NT Danny Shelton (pectoral – doubtful)
- CB Sam Beal (hamstring – probable)
THE FINAL WORD:
“The fish stinks from the head down.” – Joe Judge, October 21, 2021
Not exactly what you want to hear from your favorite sports team.