First Ben McAdoo lost games. Then he lost his locker room. Then, just days after a Thanksgiving loss to Washington, McAdoo made his most controversial move yet — benching starting quarterback Eli Manning in a desperate attempt to save his job.
After that, there was no going back.
The Giants fired their second-year head coach on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, ending his tenure halfway through one of the worst seasons in franchise history. His Week 13 loss to the Raiders leaves the Giants at 2-10, tied for the second-worst record in the NFL.
“Steve Tisch and I met after the game yesterday and agreed to talk this morning, which we did,” owner John Mara told the media on Monday. “We agreed that wholesale changes needed to be made to this organization to get us back to the team that we expect to be. We also agreed that it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes.”
General manager Jerry Reese was fired Monday too as part of the organizational house cleaning.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will take over as the interim head coach. “I met with Steve Spagnuolo after these meetings,” Mara said. “I asked him to serve as the interim head coach and to also be a candidate to be the head coach after the season if he chooses to do so. He agreed to do that.”
Why fire him now?
With just four games left in the season, the Giants could have easily waited to make the move after Week 17. Firing McAdoo won’t fundamentally alter their season now, but it might appease fans fed up with the team’s direction — especially Manning’s benching — this season.
“But, maybe a change attracts a bigger crowd for the last few home games. Could be a show of goodwill to the fans,” a Giants source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Monday morning.
So how did it get to this point for McAdoo and the Giants? What happens next?
Losing the locker room
Suspensions to key starters Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had raised suspicions about McAdoo’s status among the team and whether he could still command the respect of his players. ESPN’s Josina Anderson confirmed his strained relationships with a damning report that ultimately spelled the end of his time in New York.
“McAdoo has lost this team,” an unnamed player told Anderson Wednesday. “He’s got us going 80 percent on Saturdays before we get on a plane to play a game, it’s wild. Changed our off day. He’s dishing out fines like crazy. Suspended two of our stars when we need them most. Throws us under the bus all the time. He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got.”
Even after a historic 51-17 loss to the Rams in Week 9, McAdoo maintained that everything was fine. After and a humiliating defeat at the hands of the previously winless 49ers in Week 10, he said he wasn’t embarrassed by the loss. McAdoo refused to acknowledge that his team — particularly the defense — appeared to quit on him.
Things got better briefly with an upset win over the Chiefs in Week 11, but the Giants were humiliated again a week later. And that’s when the move that will come to define the Giants 2017 season happened.
Benching Eli Manning
There was the face of the franchise on Tuesday, Nov. 28, choking back tears as he explained why he wasn’t going to accept an offer to start and be replaced by halftime just to keep his 210-game starting streak going. Eli Manning, who’s been the cornerstone of the Giants since choosing them in the 2004 draft, and his team were effectively done, broken up.
The decision to bench Manning was pinned squarely on McAdoo, and his handling of it couldn’t have been worse. It was a bad look for the franchise publicly and widened the rifts internally.
"I have a ton of respect for Eli not agreeing to play just halves of football to keep his consecutive game streak going," an NFC East general manager told SB Nation’s Thomas George. "They should have let him finish the season. You’re 2-9 and you’re not going anywhere. Let him finish with some honor.”
It was done because McAdoo thought he could do better with Geno Smith and Davis Webb, who wasn’t even active for the team’s Week 13 game. The head coach thought he could perhaps salvage his job. However, on Monday in announcing McAdoo’s firing, Mara admitted to signing off on Manning’s benching.
But even that was a stretch inside the Giants organization.
"Ben wasn’t ready to be a head coach," a Giants front office executive said. "Let’s be straight about that. He didn’t have the confidence. He didn’t know how to deal with all of the players. He wasn’t ready for New York. When had he really led before? If he gets to 7-9, that will be a surprise. That would be one heck of a Christmas considering everything."
Sources: Some members of the #Giants ownership did not agree with how Eli Manning was handled this week and there was intense and serious internal debate. They are trying to figure out the fallout, leading to John Mara not guaranteeing Ben McAdoo would finish the season.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 3, 2017
Smith was OK against the Raiders in Week 13 — about the same as Manning this season — but the Giants still lost, falling to 2-10.
Now McAdoo won’t be back with the Giants, but Eli Manning probably won’t be either.
What this means for the Giants
McAdoo had a successful first year with the club, going 11-5 and leading New York to the playoffs after two seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator. However, whatever success he had in 2016 seemed to just be a holdover from the Tom Coughlin era, as the Giants quickly fell apart in 2017. Injuries played a major role — key starters Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Weston Richburg have all landed on injured reserve this season — but McAdoo’s inability to command his defense ultimately led to his demise.
However, McAdoo was hired for his offensive work with the Packers and then as the Giants offensive coordinator in 2014. Under his leadership, the Giants never scored more than 28 points in a game.
Steve Spagnuolo, the team’s defensive coordinator, will be left to pick up the pieces. The longtime NFL veteran served as the Rams head coach from 2009 to 2011, but went just 10-38 over that span. He’s also the man who oversaw Week 9’s 51-17 spanking at the hands of a revitalized Los Angeles team. While his players may rally around him after the change in management, New York is probably looking at a top-five draft pick next spring.
This is only the third time in the history of the team that a head coach has been fired during the season. The last time it happened was in 1976 when Bill Arnsparger was let go seven games into the year.
What this means for Ben McAdoo
McAdoo is an offensively driven coach who lost his top wideouts in 2017 and spiraled out from there. Without Beckham and Marshall, the Giants were forced to rely on a below-average group of running backs, which allowed the losses to pile up. Once that happened, his personnel struggles with players and inability to manage a team introduced a new set of problems that flooded his locker room like a sinking ship.
That’s bad news for a head coach, but the good news is it shouldn’t affect his viability as an assistant or coordinator. McAdoo will get another chance — it just won’t be at the top level.
How did the players react?
DT Snacks Harrison
Thank you Mr. Reese & Coach McAdoo for all that you’ve done for this organization, my family, & for me. My family is very grateful for you guys believing in me and bringing me on board. Tough day for me. Loyalty is everything to me.— Damon Harrison (@BigDame900) December 4, 2017
DT Jay Bromley
#Giants DT Jay Bromley to me: '"I was a big fan of Ben McAdoo. He did what he could do with what he had. He made his mistakes too. If he suspended players, he had a reason...We're all grown men...I don't think no one's hands are clean in this. We all played a part."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 4, 2017
S Landon Collins
#Giants S Landon Collins told me earlier he would not like decision to fire Ben McAdoo: "He is a good man and a good person. Even with all of our injuries, all of our downfalls--no matter what the outcome, he kept a team together that was breaking apart and that was losing guys."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 4, 2017
LB Devon Kennard
Last season was my first time making the playoffs and your leadership helped us get there so thank you Coach Mcadoo. I know you will bounce back strong with whatever comes next!— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard) December 4, 2017
WR Roger Lewis
#Giants WR Roger Lewis to me: "I love coach McAdoo. It hurts w/ him leaving. He taught me a lot about the technique of football & w/t situation I went through over the summer--abt staying strong w/ life & not taking stuff for granted..I've never been through something like this."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 4, 2017