GIANTS APPOINT STEVE SPAGNUOLO AS INTERIM HEAD COACH
Even the most passionate Giants fans or detractors could not have foreseen the decline in a team that many creditable observers predicted would win the NFC East and challenge for the NFC title.
But here we are. Big Blue is 2-10 and trapped deep into the pit of misery.
Facing the idea of hosting their top rivals – The Eagles and The Cowboys – at home over the final weeks in a stadium and that surely would have been as hostile an environment that MetLife Stadium has ever witnessed, ownership decided to make changes now by firing head coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was named interim head coach, and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams is the interim G.M.
Three weeks ago, after a loss to the then-winless 49ers in San Francisco, the owners released a statement saying they would evaluate the operation after the season. But the 24-17 loss yesterday in Oakland dropped the Giants to 2-10 this season, and John Mara and Steve Tisch decided it was time to accelerate the process and begin making changes.
“We changed our mind, given all the events that occurred, where we are as a franchise right now,” Mara said at a 20-minute news conference today. “To be honest with you, it became more and more apparent that we were going to have to do something at the end of the season, so we talked after the game and again this morning about, why prolong it any longer? Why not just get it done now? I’m very conscious of the fact that three of our last four games are at home. I’m conscious, having lived through it before, of what the reaction was going to be. Also, this is somewhat of a tactical advantage, allowing us to start looking at general managers right now rather than waiting until the end of the season.”
Mara did not name any candidates for either position, except to say Spagnuolo and Abrams will be considered if they so choose.
The Oakland game, of course, was the first in which Eli Manning did not play after 13 years and 210 consecutive regular-season games as the Giants’ starting quarterback. Geno Smith started in his place. But Mara said neither that decision, nor anything else, triggered today’s announcement.
“I don’t think there was any one final straw,” Mara said. “I just think that where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we’re 2-10. We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul. I don’t think there was any one event or one final act to precipitate that.”
The Manning situation, “really had no effect whatsoever – 2-10 is 2-10, and obviously the public reaction to that was not pleasant, but that really didn’t have any effect on our decision.”
It is possible Spagnuolo might choose to start Manning on Sunday, when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys.
“I’ve spoken to Steve and he’s still trying to come to grips with this whole thing,” Mara said. “He wants to talk to his offensive staff and he’s going to talk to Kevin (Abrams) and myself. Ultimately, it’s going to be his decision as to who to play at quarterback.”
Mara and Tisch discussed the possibilities of what to do with Reese and McAdoo in the Giants’ dank postgame locker room in Oakland. The two men spoke again this morning, when, Mara said, “we agreed that wholesale changes needed to be made to this organization to get us back to the team that we expect to be. And we also agreed that it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes.”
Mara met first this morning with Reese, who has been with the Giants organization since coming here as a scout 23 years ago.
“That’s as difficult a meeting as I’ve ever had,” Mara said. “Jerry has been here since 1994. He is homegrown. Started out as a part-time scout and rose all the way through the ranks to become our general manager and to become the general manager for two Super Bowl teams. I thanked him on behalf of Steve and myself for everything he’s done for this organization. I told him that I have no doubt that he will get another shot with another franchise and that at some point in time, I’m going to be answering questions from people about why I got rid of him in the first place.
“In terms of our general manager search – that starts right away. I have asked (Reese’s predecessor) Ernie Accorsi to serve as a consultant in this process. He’s agreed to do that. So, we expect to get started right away on that. Ideally, you like to have the general manager in place first before the head coach. That’s not always going to be the case, but that would be the ideal scenario.”
After sitting down with Abrams to settle the general manager side of the equation, Mara then went to meet with McAdoo. On Jan. 14, 2016, McAdoo was named the Giants’ 17th head coach, replacing Tom Coughlin after his 12 years in the coach’s chair. In his first season, McAdoo guised the team to an 11-5 record and a wild card playoff berth, the Giants’ first postseason appearance in five years.
The team was expected to build on that success this season, but lost its first five games. Injuries to important contributors like Odell Beckham, Jr., Weston Richburg, and now Janoris Jenkins and Justin Pugh weakened the team. McAdoo’s record now starts at 13-16, including a postseason loss.
“(I) met with Ben McAdoo and thanked him for everything he has done for us, for all of his hard work, for the professional matter in which he’s conducted himself,” Mara said. “I also feel that he will be a successful head coach at some point in the future. I think he’s going to learn from his experience here, and he’ll go on to be a successful head coach. Both of these men – contrary to what their public persona is sometimes – have been complete professionals here. They always make decisions looking out for what they believe is in the best long term interest of the franchise. They never complain about anything. They don’t politic around the office. They communicate well with one another and that’s something that I’m very grateful to both of them for.”
Mara’s fourth meeting of the day was with Spagnuolo, who was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. He then moved on to the assistant coaches.
“I told them that my expectation is for them to continue to work hard to get these players ready to play in these last four games,” Mara said. “I told them I would not put up with any talk in this building about tanking or anything else, and I expected us to go out and try to win these games. I expected their best efforts to try to get us to do that.”
When the 2017 season began, the thought that neither Reese nor McAdoo wouldn’t make it to the end of the season in the job they then held seemed unfathomable. So perhaps the paramount question here is, how did the Giants go from an 11-5 playoff team to one that fired a general manager for the first time since 1978 and a head coach in-season for the first time since 1976?
“That’s a good question, one that we’re trying to figure out right now,” Mara said. “I was very confident about this roster, as I think most of the people in this room were heading into this season. I thought it was as talented a roster as we’ve had here in a long time. We were coming off an 11-5 season, our defense was basically the same, our offense was supposed to be better. We had added some receivers and a tight end, a couple of tight ends. We were supposed to be better. We got off to a very poor start on offense, our defense did not play as well as they could have and then everybody got hurt. It’s really, and I’ve used this expression, it was the perfect storm. Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong so far this season. It’s just one of those things you have to live through and suck it up and make whatever changes you have to make and go on.”
Micheal Eisen wrote part of this story.