The New York Giants’ rebuild started at the moment it gave up a touchdown on third-and-33.
There are plenty of moments to encapsulate how bad it has gotten for the 1-7 Giants, but third-and-33 was truly rock bottom. Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods took a short pass that seemed like an attempt to pick up only a few yards and improve field position, and Woods ran practically untouched for a 52-yard touchdown. The whole 51-17 loss was a debacle, but that was the moment it was obvious the Giants are broken.
Just watch cornerback Eli Apple (No. 24, the team’s first-round pick last season) on that play, looking like he had no interest in making the tackle.
The Giants haven’t had a start this bad since 1980. Coach Ben McAdoo has to go. General manager Jerry Reese has to go. And yes, quarterback Eli Manning has to go, too.
For the first time, McAdoo acknowledged the possibility of benching Manning.
“You really can’t look from my chair too far ahead,” McAdoo said, according to the New York Post. “But you also have to look at getting some players some reps in the game. So we’ll take a look and see if there’s any players that we can give reps to that have a chance to be a part of our future.”
McAdoo was asked if that includes Manning.
“That includes everybody,” McAdoo said.
Manning will probably play out the season, for many reasons. Manning has earned that, given all he has done for the franchise. The Giants don’t really have anyone else. Geno Smith is their backup, and he’s not their future. Rookie Davis Webb is on the roster too and he has some raw skills, but benching Manning for a rookie third-round pick would be a dramatic move. If Manning were to get benched, it would be for the Giants to take a look at what they have for the future, not because anyone can turn this season around. But McAdoo has to know that he better win big in the second half to save his job, and that’s not happening with Smith or Webb at quarterback. Benching Manning would equate to McAdoo writing his own pink slip.
Even if Manning finishes the season as the starter, the offseason will be interesting.
There are plenty of good excuses for why Manning hasn’t played great the past two seasons. The offensive line is awful. There’s no running game. This season, Odell Beckham is done for the year with a broken ankle, and the Giants were desperately thin at receiver due to injuries to Beckham and others. Still, Manning hasn’t played well. He missed some big plays Sunday. Those passes weren’t going to change the final outcome, but they were concerning. He missed Sterling Shepard open deep down the middle. He had Tavarres King wide open for an easy touchdown and threw it out of the end zone. Manning turns 37 on Jan. 3, and he’s not making the throws he needs to make. He has become an erratic quarterback.
In a better situation, however, Manning could still have a productive year or two left. He probably doesn’t have enough good seasons left to make it matter for the Giants. This group isn’t going to have a championship rebound next season. Many teams could use a good veteran quarterback (Denver Broncos general manager John Elway is on line one). If someone was willing to give up a second- and third-round pick for AJ McCarron, the Giants can get something for Manning. The rub is that Manning has a no-trade clause, and he might not want to move his family or start over. Though, it’s also hard to believe he wants to spend another year in this terrible offense, likely for a new coach.
Maybe the Giants need a clean break and should cut Manning. They’ll have a high draft pick next spring, and there are a lot of good quarterbacks in next year’s class. There’s the possibility of Manning being a bridge for the next quarterback, but big-time rookie quarterbacks don’t sit anymore. And the Giants would save about $9.8 million on the salary cap by cutting Manning. It’s hard to imagine Manning playing anywhere else, but he’s declining and the Giants aren’t close to being a contender. And Manning could perhaps follow his brother’s footsteps and have a successful final chapter with another team. It might be best for everyone involved.
A Giants rebuild is going to be tough. They were in the playoffs last season after spending a ton of money in free agency, but the roster as a whole isn’t good enough. That falls on Reese, even though he’s done some good things in his tenure. McAdoo seems in over his head, with internal player punishments becoming a weekly thing. The players didn’t seem to be playing very hard for McAdoo on Sunday. On NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” former NFL safety Rodney Harrison said the Giants quit on McAdoo.
There will be major changes coming for the Giants. They can’t run back the same players, coaches and front office next season. McAdoo seems to be in the most trouble, barring a strong second-half turnaround. Reese is a tougher call because he is in his 11th season as GM and has overseen two Super Bowl-winning teams. New York will have to make some interesting decisions with players young and old who have disappointed this season.
But the toughest call will be Manning. He’s a legend for the franchise after his two Super Bowl runs, and quietly became the seventh player to reach 50,000 yards for his career on Sunday. It’ll be tough to part ways, but it’s hard to envision any more Giants glory days with Manning at quarterback. The best way for the Giants to get back to the top is to clean house. Completely clean house.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers for Week 9 of the NFL season:
Josh Doctson: One of the signature moments of the Washington Redskins’ season came when they were on the verge of pulling off an upset at the Kansas City Chiefs, but Josh Doctson dropped what would have been a tough catch in the end zone late in the game. The Redskins went on to lose. That also summed up most of the brief career for Doctson, a 2016 first-round pick.
On Sunday, Doctson made the tough catch and Washington got its upset.
After it looked like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson pulled another win out of his hat on a touchdown with 1:34 left, which gave the Seahawks the lead, Kirk Cousins answered. Cousins hit a 31-yard pass to start the drive, then threw deep to Doctson. Doctson dove and made a great 38-yard grab to the 1-yard line. The Redskins punched it in on the next play, the deciding points in a 17-14 win. It was a fairly stunning upset given all the injuries the Redskins have suffered.
Doctson didn’t do much as a rookie last year due to injuries, and had more injury issues come up in training camp this year. Washington signed Terrelle Pryor, in part, because it couldn’t trust Doctson. After Sunday’s heroics, maybe that trust is growing.
Jacoby Brissett: Every Tom Brady backup gets hyped up until you’d think they’re on the doorstep of Canton, only to disappoint when they finally get a shot to start. It’s humorous that Brissett, who got very little attention in his one season backing up Brady, has ended up as a nice success story.
Brissett was 20-of-30 for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-14 Indianapolis Colts win over the Houston Texans. The Texans’ defense has turned to mush in a hurry, but it was still a positive day for Brissett. He’s not polished, but he’s still very young and there are some positives in his play. And he’ll get the rest of the season to start since Andrew Luck is officially done for the year.
Brissett came over to the Colts in a baffling trade right before the season. The Patriots could seemingly use him, especially after trading away Jimmy Garoppolo. Not much has gone right for the Colts this season, or for a few seasons, but the Brissett trade looks like a winner.
Jay Ajayi: As promised, Ajayi had a limited role in his Philadelphia Eagles debut. He made the most of it.
Ajayi had 77 yards on eight carries, and a bulk of that came on a nice 46-yard touchdown run. He was acquired in a trade with the Dolphins on Tuesday, and he looks like another nice piece for an offense that put up 51 points on Sunday without injured tight end Zach Ertz. He can give the Eagles a big-play dimension in the run game, as his long touchdown showed.
The Eagles are cruising. Carson Wentz threw four touchdowns against a fantastic secondary (he was the first quarterback with three first-half touchdowns on the Broncos since Andrew Luck in 2013), including two scores to a thawing Alshon Jeffery. Running back Corey Clement, probably Philadelphia’s fourth tailback option with Ajayi’s addition, had 51 yards and two touchdown runs. The Eagles are 8-1 and look like the best team in the NFL. Ajayi might make them even better.
Doug Marrone: Had the Jacksonville Jaguars lost on Sunday, Marrone would have been second-guessed for a while. He benched star rookie running back Leonard Fournette for violating a team rule. Details are scarce, though ESPN reported that one reason was Fournette missed the team photo.
But the Jaguars got a win and Marrone sent quite the message to his team. If he’ll bench Fournette, the fourth pick of the draft and the star of the offense, he’ll bench anyone who isn’t on board with his program.
Jacksonville was fine without Fournette. It beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7. The defense was fantastic, as it has been most of the season, and the special teams got a touchdown. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon combined for 111 rushing yards in Fournette’s place. Jacksonville is 5-3, tied with a Tennessee Titans team that beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday but still hasn’t looked too impressive. The Texans seem to be finished without Deshaun Watson and the Colts aren’t going anywhere. The Jaguars came into this week with the NFL’s easiest remaining schedule, according to Football Outsiders.
The door is wide open for the Jaguars to win a division title. And Marrone sent a message to everyone that if you’re not on board, he’ll leave you behind.
Vance Joseph: If you saw any of the Denver Broncos’ loss on Sunday, you’ll know Joseph’s statement about quarterback Brock Osweiler is fairly ridiculous.
“I thought Brock did a fine job,” Joseph said, via Nicki Jbahvala of the Denver Post. “Brock had a great week. I was proud of the week he had. He did a fine job.”
Joseph, a first-year coach, doesn’t want to get in the business of ripping his players. Still, there’s a lack of direction for these Broncos. Osweiler was terrible, and the Broncos have no quarterback. Their running game and offensive line have disappeared. And even their defense, the one thing the Broncos could count on, gave up 51 points in an embarrassing loss.
This all puts Joseph in a bad place. He’s not like Kyle Shanahan, who is 0-9 but is given a pass because everyone figured San Francisco would struggle. The Broncos aren’t used to losing. John Elway fired John Fox a few years ago after winning four straight AFC West titles. Joseph probably isn’t in any danger of being one-and-done, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea to avoid more horrendous losses like the one Philadelphia hung on Denver.
Julio Jones and the surprisingly mediocre Falcons: Last season, everything went right for the Falcons. This season, Jones runs a great route for a sure touchdown on fourth down … and one of the best receivers on the planet dropped a perfect pass.
When we talk about Super Bowl hangovers, sometimes it’s tangible. The 2016 Carolina Panthers couldn’t keep quarterback Cam Newton or linebacker Luke Kuechly healthy, for example. Sometimes it’s not so easy to pinpoint. It’s a superstar receiver, in a big moment in a huge NFC South game, having a drop you wouldn’t expect from an undrafted rookie.
Jones’ drop was shocking because he’s the last player you’d expect that from. It came in the fourth quarter and was a large factor in Atlanta’s 20-17 loss to the Panthers. The Saints are 6-2 and lead the South. The Panthers improved to 6-3. The Falcons are 4-4 and getting back to the playoffs isn’t guaranteed, much less making another Super Bowl.
Mike Evans: At least credit Evans for understanding his incredibly dirty hit on New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was inexcusable. Lattimore and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston were having words, there were two small shoves and Evans came flying in and blindsided Lattimore from behind. Evans called it “malicious” and “childish,” according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
“It was something I shouldn’t have [done]. It was very childish,” Evans said after the game, Laine reported. “Unprofessional. I just saw the shove, and I thought he was going after Jameis.”
Evans is lucky Lattimore wasn’t hurt because he’d definitely be facing suspension. As is, the NFL would be entirely justified to suspend him. It’s another sign of the Buccaneers’ falling apart.
Tampa Bay has lost five in a row. Winston injured his shoulder again Sunday. The offense is lost and the defense is bad. Coach Dirk Koetter must be feeling a lot of pressure. And then Evans took a cheap shot on an opponent when frustration boiled over. There’s nothing positive to say about the Bucs right now, and if they’re lucky they won’t have to deal with Evans being suspended for their next game.
The Seattle Seahawks and their chances to win the NFC West: Every year we see a team come from nowhere to win a division title, and the Rams took a nice step toward that on Sunday.
The Giants deserve a lot of blame for what happened Sunday, but the Rams deserve credit too. That’s the type of game good teams win. The Rams are clearly a good team. Los Angeles has the highest point differential in the NFL, at plus-108. Philadelphia is second at plus-104.
It wasn’t just the win for the Rams. The Seahawks’ loss to Washington could end up being a big one for the Rams. Seattle was expected to win but did not play well and lost in the final two minutes. That gives the 6-2 Rams a game lead over the 5-3 Seahawks.
There’s no reason to doubt the Rams anymore. Jared Goff is playing well and found open receivers everywhere on Sunday. The defense is coming on after a slow start. By the time the Rams play at Seattle on Dec. 17, they might go into that game as the better team.
– – – – – – –