The feeling of relief inside the Giants’ locker room was palpable.
Fresh off a 12-9 overtime win over the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium, where fans actually had something to cheer about in a season filled with anguish, the smiles came easily and the praise for embattled coach Ben McAdoo was heartfelt. Winning cures just about everything in sports, and the victory addressed many of the long-simmering problems that doomed the Giants’ season less than halfway through.
“We were doubted the moment we stepped through the [locker room] door,” safety Landon Collins said after the team’s best defensive performance of the season. “When [the Chiefs] were put on our schedule, we were doubted. From that point on, it was big for us to do what we did.”
It was especially big for McAdoo, who was told Monday by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch that he no longer has to concern himself with his job security this season. Not that it mattered to McAdoo — at least outwardly — but knowing that he has the rest of the year to prove his case to remain has to be reassuring at some level.
But now that the afterglow of victory has come and gone, the cold, hard reality of his situation hasn’t changed. Unless this team keeps playing the way it did Sunday, the McAdoo Watch remains very much on and his job situation is very much in question.
Don’t forget, the last time the 2-8 Giants gave this kind of effort came after an 0-5 start and a series of injuries that decimated their wide receivers. They beat another AFC West opponent in a Sunday night matchup, dominating the Broncos, 23-10. But then came three straight losses, one more demoralizing than the other, until they stopped the bleeding again Sunday.
Both wins require some context, lest any mistaken conclusions be drawn. Beating the Broncos might not have been as impressive as it first appeared. Denver (3-7) is a team in disarray, and losing to the Giants started a six-game slide. On Monday, the team fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
The Giants also caught Kansas City at the right time. When the Chiefs were 5-0, they were arguably the NFL’s best offensive team. But they have lost four of five and have scored 26 points in the last two games.
So let’s keep things in perspective. While McAdoo is to be commended for finding a way to get his team to play up to its potential, it came after a series of woeful efforts that put his future in peril.
“Overall, the vibe, everybody is pretty positive,” said Orleans Darkwa, who has emerged as the team’s No. 1 running back. “At the end of the day, it’s just one win. We want to make sure we can stack these wins together and make the best situation possible for this team.”
And therein lies the challenge for McAdoo and those who will decide his fate. If the Giants can follow up Sunday’s promising result with more wins — starting Thanksgiving night against the Redskins — McAdoo will have gone a long way toward making a case that he should be given at least another year.
Mara and Tisch are known for their patience, and there is a lot to be said for that approach, because coaching turnover can be a drag on a franchise. But if the team reverts to the poor discipline and lackluster efforts that have defined most of the season, McAdoo will have made the decision easy: The Giants will have to look in another direction.
The Giants still don’t know about McAdoo. He took a step in the right direction Sunday, but this is a journey that will require many more steps before the answer reveals itself.