So much has already taken place in season that has gone shockingly wrong for a team that believed only three months ago that it would an elite team in the NFC, not one with a chance at first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
A stunning seven losses in eight games; the Odell Beckham Jr. celebration controversy; a season-ending injury to Beckham; Coach Ben McAdoo, under mounting pressure with his offense struggling, finally surrendering play-calling; a defense expected to dominate instead disintegrating; the suspensions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins; players looking like they had given up during an awful 51-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams; strife between McAdoo and the players breaking into the open with a couple of players anonymously going to the media to complain about the coach and claim he had lost the team.
All of that and the season is only at its halfway point. There are still eight games to play, a full half season. They won’t have anything to do with taking the Giants where they thought they would be headed this season, to the playoffs. They will, however, have an awful lot to do with setting the course of the franchise for 2018, and perhaps beyond.
There are so many unanswered questions.
The biggest questions, of course, revolve around the futures of McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.
Many fans and media members have already decided that McAdoo needs to pay for the embarrassment of the first half, the chaos, the dysfunction, the poor and lethargic play, for too often appearing to drop blame at everyone’s doorstep but his own.
The Giants, though, obviously haven’t made that decision. If they had, he wouldn’t still have the job. Giants’ ownership is by nature conservative and loyal, believing in continuity. That philosophy has helped the Giants win four Super Bowl titles, and even with the current struggles you can bet ownership would rather not go through a house-cleaning.
Beginning Sunday, the Mara and Tisch families will be looking for reasons NOT to make dramatic changes.
Victories will help, but won’t be the only factor. They will look to see if the dysfunction and disciplinary issues between McAdoo and the players continue. They will be looking to see if players give effort, if they loaf, or if they use minor injuries as an excuse not to play at all as it gets deeper and deeper into an ugly season. They will be looking to see if a defense that has vastly under-performed expectations improves.
All of those things, what we have seen and have yet to see, will go into the hopper and be part of the mix when a decision is ultimately made about McAdoo.
As for Reese, there is little he can do at this point in the season — either about the 2017 product being put on the field or whether or not he becomes the first general manager to be fired by the Giants.
Reese has done his work. His failings have been well-chronicled. So, too, have his successes. Reese has to hope that continued excellent play by rookies Evan Engram and Dalvin Tomlinson helps his standing in the eyes of management. He has to hope the offensive line he chose not to address with any significant additions shows improvement. Finally, he also has to hope that ownership doesn’t look at the last six years, which will end up including just one playoff game, and pin the lack of achievement on him.
What about the players?
Let’s start with the rats, the guys who went anonymously to Josina Anderson of ESPN. Will the Giants find out who those players were? My gut feeling is they may already know, though they will do what they can to keep that in-house. Question is, whoever those guys are can they have futures with the Giants? That is regardless of whether McAdoo is the coach, and how far up the chain of importance the players are on the field. Players who spoke last week made it absolutely clear how they feel about guys who would anonymously feed a story like that to the media.
Beyond that, and again regardless of who is coaching or making the personnel decisions, the Giants are likely significantly overhaul the roster heading into next season. More than a dozen players can be unrestricted free agents, and several others are restricted or exclusive rights free agents. All of those guys are playing for jobs in 2018.
In fact, up and down the roster guys have eight games to show whether they can be part of the solution for the Giants going forward.
There is the Eli Manning question. Truthfully, that seems to be a question in the minds of the fan base and the media, but not in the eyes of the organization.
The eight-game stretch that begins Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium won’t be part of a playoff push. Those games will, however, be important ones for the future of the franchise.