The Giants were without superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. They were also without Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Dwayne Harris. Roger Lewis Jr. is the only receiver who has been on the roster all season. The Giants are using a collection of undrafted players and cast-offs to catch passes.
An offensive line that wasn’t all that good to begin with was missing Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker. Starting right guard Jon Halapio had nine snaps of NFL experience before Thursday. Right tackle Chad Wheeler had one NFL start.
There was really no chance the Giants were going to look like a well-oiled machine on offense Thursday night.
The problem is that this was not an isolated incident. The offense has been an abomination for two years now.
GM Jerry Reese said before the 2015 season that “If you don't score 28 points in this league it's hard to win.”
Well, if you have been paying attention you know the Giants have never scored 28 points in a game with Ben McAdoo as head coach. They haven’t scored more than 24 since beating the Cleveland Browns, 27-13, Week 12 of the 2016 season.
The Giants haven’t reached 30 points since the final game of the 2015 season, a 35-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. That season the Giants scored 30 or more points seven times, were sixth in the league with an average of 26.8 points per game and eighth in total yards.
This season? They are 31st in the NFL with an average 15.6 points per game, have gone without a touchdown twice and have only amassed 400 or more yards once.
Injuries are part of it, sure. The Giants have averaged a puny 13.3 points per game without Beckham in the lineup this year. Injuries, though, cannot be a crutch. The Giants have been bad offensively for two seasons now. They were 27th in the league in points per game last season at 19.0, with Beckham and Sterling Shepard each playing 16 games and Victor Cruz playing in 15. The Giants averaged 19.75 points in the four games Beckham played in this season — with Brandon Marshall, Shepard and Evan Engram all also in the lineup. That, bluntly, is unacceptable with those kinds of players available.
The Giants have really had only that one good offensive season in four with McAdoo designing the offense. In his first year as offensive coordinator, the Giants were 28th in the league at 18.4 points per game.
The Giants have 172 points for the season. At their current pace of 15.6 per game they would end up with 250 points for the season. Only four times since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 have the Giants scored less than 250 points. The Giants have only broken the 20-point barrier once in their last five games, and look like a lock to go below the 250-point mark for a fifth time.
It’s instructive to think about the Green Bay Packers.
McAdoo, of course, learned offense at the feet of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. He brought that quick-passing, ‘11’ personnel-based attack to New York. Look, though, at what is going on in Green Bay.
In four games since quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone the Packers are 1-3, got shut out last Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens and are averaging 14.3 points per game. When Rodgers missed seven games in 2013 the Packers went 2-4-1, though they did average 21.7 points per game.
Rodgers is a player who makes throws with his arm and plays with his feet that no one else makes Before Rodgers, McCarthy had Hall of Fame gunslinger Brett Favre under center. It’s fair to wonder if those two legendary quarterbacks have made the Green Bay system, thus the system McAdoo brought to the Giants, better than it is.
A quick word about Manning.
Manning might be a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback, but he is not on the level of either Rodgers nor Favre.
I’ve supported Manning for a long time. Still will. That said, some of the throws he has missed this season are inexcusable. When the margin for error is razor-thin and you are only going to get a couple of chances in a game, you have to hit them. Manning didn’t do that Thursday against the Redskins or a couple of weeks ago against the Rams.
The Giants, though, have done the quarterback no favors. With the system, or the personnel around him that hasn’t been named Beckham. And maybe now, Engram.
The system requires precision throws that enable yards after catch, and while Manning has been a gutty play-maker during his career he’s never been a precision passer who could consistently put the ball exactly where it needed to be. The Giants have also not given him the consistent running game or pass protection his lack of mobility demands.
Forget rescuing this season. The Giants are what they are, the personnel and the system aren’t going to get any better over the next five games. Any success they have over the final five games will be just as much about their opposition — they play one team with a winning record the rest of the way — as anything they do themselves.
If McAdoo, and by extension Reese, lose their jobs at the end of the season it won’t necessarily be because of the Giants’ locker room strife.
It will be because McAdoo has been unable to deliver the offense he was hired to deliver, and because Reese has been unable to deliver the personnel to help his coach and his quarterback.