It is impossible to minimize just how treacherous the Giants’ situation has become just five days into their season.
For a team that harbored playoff hopes thanks to the infusion of free-agent acquisitions such as wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson as well as the drafting of receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round, back-to-back losses to the Broncos at home and at Washington already have left the team in a significant hole.
But it’s not simply the losses that are cause for concern. It’s how those games got away from them that makes things so worrisome.
The Giants were not ready to play in a 27-13 opening day loss to the Broncos, a game in which Daniel Jones coughed up the 30th fumble of his career and the defense — supposedly the team’s strength — was dominated by Teddy Bridgewater, who is on his fourth team.
And in Thursday night’s 30-29 loss to Washington, they were the polar opposite of the disciplined team that coach Joe Judge insisted he’d turn them into after taking the job in January 2020. Mistake after mistake after mistake. The holding penalty on what should have been a touchdown run by Jones. The dropped pass by a wide-open Darius Slayton in the end zone that would have iced the game. The wretched fourth-quarter play-calling of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett after what should have been a game-deciding interception by James Bradberry.
And, finally, the mind-numbingly brutal offsides penalty by Dexter Lawrence on what should have been a missed field goal to give the Giants the win. That gave Dustin Hopkins a second — and successful — chance on a 43-yard field goal with no time remaining.
Good teams find ways to win these games, and bad teams find ways to lose them. The Giants most definitely are a bad team at the moment, and their 0-2 start is precisely the thing they needed to avoid.
And make no mistake: At the top of the list of culprits in this stunningly poor start is Judge. He came into the season off a difficult yet promising start to his NFL head-coaching career in 2020. With a virtual offseason and zero preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge kept his team together during an 0-5 start that featured mostly competitive performances and came out of it fighting for a playoff spot until a late-season swoon and the Eagles’ tank job against Washington in the regular-season finale.
He captured the attention of the fan base with his blue-collar, no-nonsense approach, inviting comparisons to the ultimate lunch-pail guy in Bill Parcells. But those comparisons need to be put on hold, because the mistakes and undisciplined play of Judge’s club don’t resemble anything close to a Parcells team.
Parcells rallied from his own miserable 3-12-1 rookie season in 1983 by becoming a consistent playoff contender and an eventual two-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer.
Those teams weren’t perfect, but they didn’t beat themselves the way the Giants have done thus far.
And say this much for tough-guy coaches in today’s NFL: You can drive your team hard, as Judge has done, and you can curse at your players and make them run gassers after a bench-clearing melee in training camp, as was the case last month.
But if you don’t win, then you don’t get away with this for very long.
Players can accept a strong-willed coach who makes them work hard. It happened with Parcells and it happened with Tom Coughlin. But if you don’t win games, players will turn on you.
Parcells and Coughlin won a combined four championships, and their place in Giants history is secure.
Judge presides over a team that already is fraying.
Golladay was seen screaming in the bench area at either Jones or Garrett — or both — late in Thursday night’s game. Toney, whose rookie season has been marked by a COVID-related absence and minuscule involvement in the offense, vented on Instagram with a post that expressed his frustration after the game. That’s simply not a good look for a coach who demands obedience.
Judge already has lots of fires to put out, and how he deals with this early-season disappointment and controversy will go a long way toward defining his legacy in New York. The Giants believe they have found the right coach for a long and successful tenure. But if Judge cannot turn this team around, the cycle of losing will continue and perhaps he will be deemed expendable, just as Coughlin successors Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur were before him.
It doesn’t help that general manager Dave Gettleman has yet to fix his offensive line once and for all and that this team simply doesn’t have enough good players in Year 4 of his tenure. Add in the fact that the Giants’ schedule will stiffen considerably after next week’s game against the Falcons at home. Then it’s the Saints and Cowboys on the road, the Rams and Carolina at home, defending AFC champion Kansas City on the road and Las Vegas at home before the bye week.
Yes, there still is time to turn things around. And sometimes opponents that appeared unbeatable one week will be impacted by injuries or inefficiency the next. But unless Judge cleans up the mess in his own house, none of it will matter.
As Yogi Berra liked to say, it’s getting late early.
Six more years of Brady?!?!
It seems unthinkable that a player — any player — could last in the NFL until age 50. Even 40 seems as if it’s stretching things.
But Tom Brady, who has been pushing the limits of athletic possibility for years, just may do it. And who are we to question the idea that Brady himself broached during a conversation with longtime teammate Rob Gronkowski on "Tommy & Gronky," a YouTube video produced by the Buccaneers.
"Can Tom Brady play till 50? Like, 50 years old?" Brady said. "I don’t find it so difficult. Plus, in Florida, it’s kind of a retiree state. I think I can, I think it is a yes."
Gronkowski playfully suggested that Brady’s bigger challenge is getting the approval of his wife, renowned model Gisele Bundchen, to play that long. But Brady already has resisted his wife’s suggestions that he retire, so there’s simply no telling how much longer he will keep playing.
Brady is looking almost as good as ever, especially in engineering his 49th game-winning drive in a thrilling 31-29 win over the Cowboys in the Thursday night opener.
MVP vs. MVP
It’s 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes against 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson in what should be a fascinating Sunday night matchup as Kansas City visits the Ravens.
Mahomes is coming off yet another electrifying performance in a 33-29 win over the resurgent Browns. Mahomes rallied his team from a 22-10 halftime deficit, again proving that he is the most gifted and talented quarterback in today’s NFL — and already in the conversation about the all-time greats, even if his career is not yet fully formed.
Mahomes already has two Super Bowl appearances and one championship run, and he also has dominated his head-to-head matchups against Jackson, winning all three. This is just the second time that two MVPs under age 27 are facing one another; the other time was when they met last year.
While it’s far too early for must-win territory, the Ravens really do need to summon all they have to avoid an 0-2 start. They blew a seemingly comfortable lead against the Raiders in a Week 1 Monday night matchup before succumbing in overtime. And with the AFC North collectively better now that Cleveland and Cincinnati are no longer pushovers, the Ravens can ill afford to get into an early hole.
"We just didn’t close the game out when we had the opportunity to do it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the loss to Las Vegas. "That’s what you need to do. When you have an opportunity to win, you’ve got to win it. We just didn’t do that."
Making the Ravens’ situation even more desperate: A rash of injuries has led to 13 players being placed on injured reserve, including cornerback Marcus Peters, tight end Nick Boyle, running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, and receivers Miles Boykin and Rashod Bateman.
Around the league
Mahomes has 14,489 career passing yards in 47 starts, surpassing Kurt Warner (14,372) for the most passing yards by a player in his first 50 NFL starts . . . Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 6-1 against the Ravens. Harbaugh coached under Reid in Philadelphia . . . Receivers Devonta Smith of the Eagles, Ja’Marr Chase of the Bengals and Miami’s Jaylen Waddle each had a touchdown catch in Week 1, marking the first time in the modern draft that three rookie receivers caught a touchdown pass in Week 1. (Note: Kadarius Toney of the Giants, of course, did not make that list.) . . . With 187 scrimmage yards (98 rushing and 89 receiving) in last week’s win over the Jets, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has seven career games with at least 75 rushing yards and 75 receiving yards. That’s the third- highest total in the Super Bowl era, with only Marshall Faulk (11) and Priest Holmes (nine) having more . . . Road teams won eight games in Week 1, which may not be surprising, considering recent results. Last year, road teams were a combined 128-127-1 (.502), the highest winning percentage since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.