Ben McAdoo’s week began with a reprieve from ownership despite a 1-8 start, continued with a “brutally honest” meeting and film session with his players on Wednesday, and later featured a plea to fans to “come out, watch a great show” against the Chiefs.
The week ended with about as good an outcome as the embattled coach could possibly have wanted.
While there’s still plenty of uncertainty about McAdoo’s long-range future as the Giants’ coach, for at least one refreshingly positive afternoon, his team showed that it continues to play for him.
It’s too soon to know if that will continue or whether team owners John Mara and Steve Tisch can be convinced to keep McAdoo beyond this season, but an impressive showing in a 12-9 win over AFC West-leading Kansas City at MetLife Stadium certainly was a more welcome development than the horrendous football the team had played most of the season.
McAdoo coached like a man with nothing to lose right from the start, as the Giants pulled off a fake punt, used an unbalanced formation with only three offensive linemen and attempted an option pass that was intercepted near the goal line. And while the offense mustered only a touchdown and two field goals, a revived defense put together its most impressive showing of the season after giving up a combined 82 points the previous two weeks.
Afterward, when asked how he felt about finally winning again, McAdoo refused to make it about himself.
“Feelings don’t have anything to do with it. We played like the type of team that we’re capable of playing,” he said. “We played tremendous defense today. We were all over the field. We were flying around, running to the football. That was great to see. Special teams was big for us, again, I can’t say that enough. Going against that offense — they have a lot of speed, a lot of lump-in-your-throat returners. Three of them.”
The Giants were terrific against one of NFL’s most vibrant offenses, limiting Alex Smith & Co. to three field goals. Smith, who entered the game with only one interception, threw two picks, one each to two of the Giants’ biggest culprits in a season gone bad. Janoris Jenkins, who was suspended two weeks ago for not showing up after the bye and was positively horrible in last week’s loss to the previously winless 49ers, had a critical interception that set up a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. And Landon Collins, whose play had slipped badly after challenging last season for Defensive Player of the Year, picked off Travis Kelce’s fourth-quarter option pass.
A dose of humble pie served up by the coach during Wednesday’s film session in front of the entire team hit home.
“Hey, man, [McAdoo] put three of my mistakes on there,” Collins said. “I ain’t going to lie to you. I was kind of upset.”
Veteran guard D.J. Fluker suggested that McAdoo’s behavior during the week, especially in Saturday night’s team meeting, set the tone for the upset win.
“He gave a speech about being fired up and coming out with passion,” Fluker said. “Make the guy across from you quit . . . We’re going to defend our coach, because you only get one. You want to play hard for him. We ain’t giving up. We ain’t quitting. We’re the New York Giants. If you don’t play with passion for the coach, you shouldn’t be here.”
But while there was plenty of praise for the beleaguered coach afterward, not everyone was willing to say this was only about playing well for the sake of the boss.
“I’m not trying to save Coach’s job, I’m trying to win games. I’m trying to save my own job,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “The better we do, the better it looks for the head coach. The worse we do, the worse it looks for the head coach. We showed that we were going to come to our hometown, play against one of the most talented teams in the NFL and basically shut them down.”
Why did it take this long to put together a game like this?
“Good question,” Casillas said. “I wish I had an answer. I think we’d have won some more games if I had the answer.”
For one day at least, McAdoo found some answers. Even if it’s too late to save his job.