Before we get deep into this week's 'Five Things I Think I Think' about the Giants, I have to say this. I tried, I really did, to find a way to avoid the subjects of Tom Coughlin, Jerry Reese and the future of the Giants in today's 'Five Things.' Can't do it. In truth, everything for the Giants is about Coughlin, Reese and the future.
So, I apologize is advance for covering some ground I know has been touched upon already and for venturing into territory where I know feelings are raw and, in many cases, people are already dug in -- deeply -- on who they believe is to blame and what they believe has to happen. Let's just try to respect each other's right to have an opinion.
With that said, let's get started.
I think John Mara has the only opinion that matters
Everyone has an opinion about who is to blame for the Giants' current plight, and what to do going forward. You do. I do. Every scribe with a laptop and a platform to express that opinion does. None of them matter. Not even a little bit. The only opinion that matters in the end belongs to Giants' co-owner John Mara.
What will Mara, the ultimate decision-maker in the Giants' hierarchy, do? The Giants have always been about stability, patience, hiring good people and believing that even when things go awry they will be smart enough and resourceful enough to get things back on track. That's why the Giants have had only three general managers since 1979. That's part of why Coughlin is still the head coach.
How much patience, how much restraint can Mara show after a third straight playoff-less season? After the number of times the Giants have embarrassed themselves this season and last? After too many games at MetLife Stadium the past two seasons where fans either left early or didn't show up at all, leaving fans of the opposing team to snatch those tickets?
After last year's 7-9 finish Mara said "I think our fans deserve better and we vow that we'll do everything that we have to do to improve the team for next season."
Well, after an uncharacteristic free-agent splurge and a complete purging of the offensive coaching staff the Giants are almost certainly going to finish worse than 7-9. Will Mara settle for purging the defensive coaching staff and, perhaps, shaking up the personnel department? Will he pin the blame on Coughlin and, reluctantly, force him out? After last season, Mara said of Reese that "I firmly believe that he is the right guy going forward." Does he still feel that way? Will he blow things up, get rid of both Coughlin and Reese, and start over?
Ultimately, Mara is the one who has to answer these questions. Nobody knows what he will do. At this point, my guess is he isn't certain, either.
I think the McAdoo factor is pivotal
When the Giants hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator last off-season he was considered a rising star in the coaching ranks. He had already had at least one head-coaching interview, and was immediately anointed by many as a possible successor to Coughlin, the league's oldest coach.
Do the Giants believe, after having seen his work up close for a season, that McAdoo is head coach material? Do they believe he is ready now, in which case they could give him the job after this season? Even if they think he isn't quite ready, would they give him the job and let him grow into it the way Bill Parcells did? Do they want to see him operate as offensive coordinator for one more year before deciding? In that case, Coughlin stays.
Do the Giants want to hire a new coach and force him to accept McAdoo as offensive coordinator? That's a tough sell, and maybe not good for anybody. Are they willing to cut bait and start over in 2015 with a new head coach and another new offense?
I think Monday is why the organization, and players, love Coughlin
Eli Manning tried to take Coughlin off the hook for the bumbling ineptitude of the Giants' players on Monday, but the head coach was having none of it.
"I am responsible. I accept the full responsibility," Coughlin said emphatically. "Whatever price has to be paid for that full responsibility it starts right here with me."
On Monday morning, Coughlin told players to have dignity, to take care of each other, to stand tall in the face of the storm brewing in the world around them. Then, he went and showed them exactly what he was talking about.
This is why the organization loves Coughlin. This is why players love the old man. This is why it kills everyone around the Giants that things are crumbling at Coughlin's feet, that his undisciplined, mistake-prone, soft team has become the antithesis of everything Coughlin has ever stood for as a coach.
Coughlin is a class act. He is a terrific leader. Beyond football, no one has ever represented the Giants' organization better. He cares about teaching the young men he stands in front of each week about how to be better people, not just better players.
All of which makes the fact that they might have to push him out the door when he doesn't want to go even more difficult.
I think the Giants are NOT in need of a major rebuild
Even while watching the Giants struggle for much of the season my view has been that the Giants are not that far away from being good. The view has been that with good health, a couple of key additions along the defensive front and offensive line and now the right hire to replace Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator, that 2015 can be a good year for the Giants.
In the aftermath of Sunday's shocking melt-down against the Jacksonville Jaguars I wrote that "The Giants are clearly going backwards" and that "you have to wonder if the Giants are farther away from being good than previously thought."
This is why you don't make critical decisions without stepping away from any emotional, traumatic event and giving yourself a chance to think clearly.
In the end, I STILL believe that as dark as things look right now this team is not that far away from being pretty good. Not Super Bowl-caliber, but pretty good. Without the massive number of injuries the Giants suffered this season this was probably a borderline playoff team. How much better would the offense look if Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham had been on the field together since Week 1? If Geoff Schwartz had been in the lineup all year? How much better would the defense be if Jon Beason and most of the secondary didn't land on IR?
There are holes in the roster for sure. Whether you believe that those are Reese's fault for either creating them or ignoring them, or Coughlin's fault for not developing enough young players isn't the point. The point is that whoever the coach is next season will have a pretty decent base to work from. The cupboard isn't bare.
I think injuries can't be explained
I understand that the number of Giants on injured reserve is ridiculous. I know it seems ridiculous that every week there are new injuries and several players who aren't available. I also think it's completely ridiculous, as people do every time there are injuries, to scream and yell and demand that the strength and conditioning coach or coaches be fired.
The Giants are way out in front of the curve when it comes to the monitoring equipment they use with players to judge their overall fitness. Coughlin has signed off on a revamped practice program including recovery stretches that have helped limit muscle pulls.
Look at that list of players on IR again. There is no conditioning that will prevent thumb injuries, torn biceps or pectoral muscles, leg fractures, toe injuries and blown-out knees.
This is football. Players get hurt. Sometimes a disproportionate number of players on one team, like what is happening to the Giants this season. There isn't, however, one explanation or person you can pin the responsibility on.