The past week has been one of the lowest for the New York Giants in a long, long time.
The team benched Eli Manning, lost Sunday to fall to 2-10, then fired its head coach and general manager on Monday. Manning was reportedly reinstated as starting quarterback, which means his streak of 210 straight starts ended for no reason whatsoever. There were many times during a 2-9 start in which it didn’t seem like it could get worse for the Giants. Then in Week 13 it got much worse.
However, unlike most two-win teams who just cleaned house like the Giants, this one should have some hope for a quick rebuild.
The Giants go into this offseason looking for a new GM, coach and quarterback (even if Manning returns, the team still needs a QB for the future), and is in an advantageous position to get prime picks for all three. It’s still a franchise that will attract strong candidates.
The Giants, despite many embarrassing events the past two seasons, aren’t a poorly run team. They pride themselves on stability. Ben McAdoo was the first coach fired during a Giants season since 1976. The only other Giants coach since 1979 to get fewer than four seasons was Ray Handley (1991-92), another terrible hire. Coaches know that as long as they’re not disasters on the McAdoo/Handley level, Giants ownership will give them time to turn things around. It’s even more ideal for general managers. Since 1979 the Giants have had just three full-time GMs: George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese. Reese was fired on Monday, in his 11th season on the job.
There are a lot of things top candidates at head coach and GM look for, and organizational stability probably tops the list. Nobody wants to make a career step that big and do it for an impatient owner. Giants ownership has perhaps been too patient at times, but that will pay off in their upcoming searches. Due to their reputation, the Giants have a good shot to land whichever coach they want — perhaps Josh McDaniels, Mike Smith, Matt Patricia, Jim Bob Cooter, or even Jon Gruden, David Shaw, Jim Harbaugh or Nick Saban if any of them wants to change jobs. The same goes for whoever the top GM candidate will be (Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf and Louis Riddick of ESPN are a few of the names you’ll hear if the team doesn’t give current interim GM Kevin Abrams the full-time job).
The only franchises that are held in higher regard than the Giants probably won’t be looking for a new head coach or GM. The Giants should get their top picks for each spot. That’s a great start.
The chance to work with a good, young franchise quarterback is a major selling point to any coaching candidate. Thankfully for the Giants, they have been so bad this season that they’ll land a top quarterback in the draft. The 2018 draft is a deep one for quarterbacks. The Browns will presumably draft first and pick the best prospect (though, it’s the Browns, so who knows). The Giants have a good chance to draft second or third overall – they’re currently tied for the second-worst record in the NFL with the 49ers – and they can land a top-tier quarterback prospect even if Cleveland takes one. If the Browns draft Josh Rosen, maybe the Giants take Lamar Jackson. If those two are off the board, maybe the Giants land Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. We have no idea which quarterbacks will separate themselves by late April, but the Giants should get a good one. Even if Manning is back, this is the Giants’ opportunity to get their quarterback for the next 10 years. That’s a big deal for any new coach or GM.
The Giants have plenty of roster deficiencies, but they also have some good players. They’re one season removed from going 11-5 and getting in the playoffs. With some additions, better coaching and a quick answer at quarterback, the downturn might last only a year or two. It’s not unreasonable. While the 2017 Los Angeles Rams are an extreme example, that team proves a team’s fortunes can turn fast with an upgraded coaching staff. The Rams went from the worst offense in the NFL to one of the top two or three after firing Jeff Fisher and hiring Sean McVay. McAdoo’s offense finished last or near last in almost every category you can imagine. A better offensive staff could lead to an immediate and significant improvement.
For most teams, needing answers at coach, general manager and quarterback in one offseason would be frightening. The Giants still need to make the right decisions at those three spots. But they’re in a better spot than most franchises facing a total upheaval.
Here are the power rankings following Week 13 of the NFL season:
32. Cleveland Browns (0-12, Last week: 32)
Josh Gordon had four catches for 85 yards in his return. That’s amazing considering it had been 1,078 days since his last NFL regular-season action. It speaks to his talent. He could emerge these last four weeks as a very nice piece for the Browns’ never-ending rebuild.
31. New York Giants (2-10, LW: 30)
It will be 25 years from now and people looking at the list of longest consecutive starts in NFL history will say, “Wait, tell me again, why exactly did Eli Manning’s streak end?” And there will be no good answer.
30. San Francisco 49ers (2-10, LW: 31)
Jimmy Garoppolo makes the 49ers infinitely more interesting to watch the rest of the season. Now the 49ers fans have to hope he’s good, just not good enough to screw up their draft position.
29. Chicago Bears (3-9, LW: 28)
Jordan Howard seems to be running out of steam. His last two games: 20 carries for 44 yards. That might be the product of facing too many stacked boxes because the Bears’ passing offense isn’t threatening anyone.
28. Indianapolis Colts (3-9, LW: 27)
One bright spot for the Colts has been rookie punter Rigoberto Sanchez. He is the best rookie punter in the NFL, and he is fifth in the NFL in net average. The Colts lost Pat McAfee to an unexpected retirement right after the season, and it didn’t cost them. In a bad season, take the positives where you can get them.
27. Denver Broncos (3-9, LW: 25)
You can’t blame Vance Joseph for not having a decent quarterback. You can blame him for the utter sloppiness, and not getting anything out of those quarterbacks. Denver fans are angry and it makes sense. The Broncos have lost 12 games in a season only once, and never more than 12. The Broncos seem to be on a straight path to 3-13, especially after how they rolled over against Miami on Sunday.
26. Houston Texans (4-8, LW: 29)
Tom Savage threw for 365 yards, albeit in a loss to the Titans. It was a step forward and should give the Texans some hope that they can be competitive the last quarter of the season.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8, LW: 24)
Jameis Winston’s awful fumble that was returned for a touchdown probably cost the Bucs a win and is symptomatic of Winston’s issues. He’s at the end of his third season and he’s still making reckless mistakes. It’s not too late for Winston to correct that, but you’d think it would have improved a bit by now.
24. Miami Dolphins (5-7, LW: 26)
Kenyan Drake gets thrust into a featured role due to Damien Williams’ injury, and has 120 yards rushing and a touchdown. It’s almost like he should have been getting all the snaps before Williams’ injury. Go figure.
23. New York Jets (4-8, LW: 23)
The Jets suspended linebacker Darron Lee for Sunday’s game for showing up late to Saturday’s practice, and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson for a quarter after he was late to a team meeting (far from the first time he has been disciplined by the team). Todd Bowles can do only so much. At some point these players have to act like professionals.
22. Arizona Cardinals (5-7, LW: 21)
And that’s why you don’t get too excited about Blaine Gabbert as your quarterback of the future, even if he has one good game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7, LW: 20)
The offense fell apart after taking a 17-0 lead against the Steelers. The defense couldn’t get a stop when it needed one at the end. The Bengals’ playoff chances look even bleaker after blowing a winnable game, and you have to wonder if that was the final blow for Marvin Lewis and his seemingly endless job security.
20. Green Bay Packers (6-6, LW: 22)
Jamaal Williams had 113 yards and a touchdown. This hasn’t been the most enjoyable season for the Packers, but at least they’ll come out of it with some quality young depth at running back between Williams, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery (who is on injured reserve the rest of this season).
19. Washington Redskins (5-7, LW: 15)
Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post wrote about the 20 Redskins who can become unrestricted free agents after this season. That list, of course, includes quarterback Kirk Cousins. Not only did this season slip away fast, there’s going to be major questions for the team in the offseason. Washington might look much different when it starts next season.
18. Buffalo Bills (6-6, LW: 18)
Nathan Peterman got another chance to play when Tyrod Taylor went out with a knee injury. Peterman completed six of 15 passes for 50 yards. At least he didn’t throw five interceptions.
17. Oakland Raiders (6-6, LW: 19)
I’m not sure the Raiders have the type of team that can win three or four more games and get a playoff spot. But if they win at the Chiefs on Sunday, they have a shot. Given how bad they were at times earlier this season, they can’t ask for any more than that.
16. Detroit Lions (6-6, LW: 13)
My guess is Matthew Stafford plays through a badly bruised throwing hand. He’s tough. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be effective. If Stafford isn’t close to himself, the Lions have little chance to beat anyone.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6, LW: 12)
The Chiefs got torched by the Jets receivers in a really bad 38-31 loss. Nothing is going right for the Chiefs. Kansas City is still in good shape to win the AFC West if it beats the Raiders and Chargers in home games the next two weeks, but I’m not sure it can win either game.
14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6, LW: 16)
The Falcons loss was good for the Cowboys’ playoff chances, but the Seahawks’ win over the Eagles was not. It’s looking less likely, with the Seahawks and Panthers at eight wins, that a 3-1 finish would get Dallas in the postseason. They might need to win out.
13. Tennessee Titans (8-4, LW: 14)
Hey, another close Titans win against a bad team. It’s almost like that’s a pattern or something.
12. Atlanta Falcons (7-5, LW: 8)
That was a crushing loss for the Falcons, especially when paired with the Seahawks’ big win over the Eagles. Now the Falcons trail the Panthers and Seahawks by a game in the wild-card race, and teams like the Packers and Cowboys won last week to pull within a game of Atlanta. The Falcons are now in a brutal fight for a playoff spot, and they have a rough remaining schedule.
11. Baltimore Ravens (7-5, LW: 17)
What can you say? The Ravens aren’t pretty but they pounded a Lions team that was over .500 coming in. The Ravens have a tough game at Pittsburgh on Sunday, then three they should win easily. They finish with the Browns, Colts and Bengals, the latter two at home.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6, LW: 11)
The last three weeks, Keenan Allen has 33 catches, 436 yards and four touchdowns. Don’t forget Allen as a major reason the Chargers are shaping up as the team nobody wants to see in January.
9. Carolina Panthers (8-4, LW: 7)
The Panthers made some silly mistakes and generally got outplayed by the Saints. Being a game back of New Orleans, with the Saints owning the tiebreaker, means winning the NFC South is a long shot. And all four NFC division leaders will be tough to beat on the road in January. The Panthers’ road to the playoffs is still clear, but their path once they get there seems practically impossible.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4, LW: 9)
Marqise Lee, a former second-round pick who had seven catches for 86 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, has emerged as a solid go-to receiver. Once the Jaguars find an upgrade at quarterback, he could really put up some nice numbers.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4, LW: 10)
Maybe you could dismiss the Seahawks’ fine defensive performance at San Francisco two weeks ago because the 49ers are bad on offense. But you can’t ignore the way Seattle held down the Eagles on Sunday night. Give defensive coordinator Kris Richard and the players who aren’t hurt a lot of credit. They’re playing great ball without some significant impact players.
6. New Orleans Saints (9-3, LW: 6)
It’s hard to imagine having a better draft than the Saints had this season. Their top four picks, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams and running back Alvin Kamara, are all starting and playing very well (a fifth, linebacker Alex Anzalone, was starting before he suffered a season-ending injury). Lattimore and Kamara are clear favorites to win offensive and defensive rookie of the year. The only team in NFL history to have offensive and defensive rookies of the year in the same season was the 1967 Detroit Lions. Kamara is part of perhaps the best 1-2 punch at running back in at least 30 years. That’s how you instantly change the trajectory of your franchise.
5. Los Angeles Rams (9-3, LW: 5)
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald could be the best player in football regardless of position. He had two sacks Sunday, and most weeks he’s practically unblockable. He was even a revelation to new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who was asked which player surprised him most (via Alden Gonzalez of ESPN): “Aaron Donald. Because he’s better than everybody, and I didn’t know he was better than everybody. I thought he was good, but I didn’t know he was better than everybody.”
4. Minnesota Vikings (10-2, LW: 4)
If Minnesota wins at Carolina on Sunday, a 14-2 season is looking like a strong possibility. The Vikings play vs. Cincinnati, at Green Bay and vs. Chicago in their final three games. My guess is most people haven’t yet thought of the Vikings as a possible 14-win team yet.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2, LW: 3)
I’m floored at how the Steelers could focus on football after Ryan Shazier’s injury and pull off a win on Monday night. It’s the kind of win that says a lot about this team’s mental toughness.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2, LW: 1)
This is how quick the NFL can turn: The Eagles were on top of the world before they kicked off against the Seahawks on Sunday night. In an eight-day stretch, they could go from leading the NFL to needing help over the last three weeks to get a bye. If the Eagles lose to the Rams on Sunday, the Vikings win and the Saints lose (avoiding a three-team tie), Philadelphia would be the No. 3 seed in the NFC after 14 weeks. It would be crushing to start 10-1 and not even end up with a first-round bye.
1. New England Patriots (10-2, LW: 2)
It took a while, but the Patriots are back in the top spot. Not that the Eagles losing at Seattle is a bad thing, but the Patriots haven’t lost since Oct. 1 and have won five of their last six games by double digits. The last time the Patriots gave up more than 17 points in a game was also Oct. 1. Back in the preseason most people expected the Patriots to dominate, and that team has been on display for the last two months.
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