Ben McAdoo has reached a critical point in his career, and how he handles this 0-5 mess very likely will decide whether he is truly the long-term answer. Or whether the job is simply too big for him and the Giants eventually need to consider finding someone else.
It is still too soon for the front office to come to a definitive conclusion about McAdoo’s viability, and a franchise known for patience and deliberation is not about to make any rash moves. But make no mistake: With the Giants’ season unraveling in spectacular fashion after an offseason filled with expectations, McAdoo’s performance in this crisis will be a telling sign.
As McAdoo himself said minutes after Sunday’s 27-22 loss to the previously winless Chargers: “You learn a lot about yourself in times like these.”
He’s right about that. And he’s about to learn whether he’s capable of keeping this team from being torn apart, the way Tom Coughlin used to do on a regular basis when times got tough.
The early indications are not promising.
Start with the football part, which has been abysmal. McAdoo was given several important new pieces to the offense, including first-round tight end Evan Engram, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison. But instead of creating a more vibrant attack and taking some pressure off Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants’ offense wasn’t functional the first two weeks of the season against the Cowboys and Lions.
For a head coach who earned the job largely because of his strong work as the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, it was a stunningly poor getaway. The last three games have been better, although not enough. The Giants still haven’t scored 30 or more points in a game since the 2015 season, when they did it seven times.
McAdoo can’t be faulted directly for the mystifyingly poor performance by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, which hasn’t been up to the standards of last season. It would help if the offense were more productive and didn’t put the defense in so many bad spots, but no excuses. A defense that was reliable and sometimes dominant last season failed to hold fourth-quarter leads the last three weeks.
What’s equally as troubling as the losses is a lack of discipline, from the players and from McAdoo himself. He publicly criticized Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion, for his poor play in a loss to the Lions, while going easy on Marshall and left tackle Ereck Flowers, both of whom played worse than the quarterback.
Before suffering a season-ending ankle injury Sunday, Beckham was once again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons following a touchdown celebration in Philadelphia in which he imitated a dog urinating. The back-page pictures were cringe-worthy, and co-owner John Mara had to intercede by having a private meeting with Beckham in his office. Engram also drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for grabbing his crotch after scoring a touchdown in Week 2 against the Lions. It’s a poor reflection on the players, but also the coach.
Now McAdoo is dealing with another issue involving one of his star defensive players. He was asked Monday on a conference call whether he was troubled that cornerback Janoris Jenkins walked to the locker room in the final minute of Sunday’s game.
“We’ll handle all those issues in-house,” McAdoo said.
Asked whether he was bothered that a player would do that, McAdoo was silent.
Jenkins left the locker room Sunday after dressing quickly, and reporters saw Spagnuolo running after him.
Cornerback Eli Apple, a first-round pick in 2016, had been playing so poorly that he was benched for the first three series of Sunday’s game. Afterward, Apple said he “wasn’t happy . . . But it’s not just one guy. It’s the whole culture, it’s everything. We’ve got to fix it.”
McAdoo has got to fix it. And if he doesn’t, if this team continues to spin out of control at every level, then all the good will he created in last season’s 11-5 run to the playoffs will devolve into questions about whether he’s the right man for the job.
He’ll answer those questions in the weeks ahead, when he either finds his way out of this mess or succumbs to it.