SANTA CLARA, Calif. — This was once one of the iconic matchups in the NFL, a rivalry steeped in tradition with the names Simms, Montana, L.T., Lott — and yes, even Eli Manning — among the most noteworthy contestants who have produced so many memorable moments and so many glorious games.
And now? Now they are two bottom-dwelling teams, the 49ers without a win coming into Sunday’s game, the Giants with just one win in one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. When it was over, the 49ers finally broke through for rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan, and the Giants imploded once more and left Ben McAdoo’s coaching future in grave doubt.
A week after being embarrassed at home in a 51-17 loss to the Rams, the Giants suffered another dose of humiliation against the previously winless 49ers, losing, 31-21, at Levi’s Stadium and adding one more blot on McAdoo’s reputation. After losing to the Niners (1-9), the Giants are 1-8 as they continue to spiral downward in one of their worst seasons in the 97-year history of the franchise.
McAdoo’s inability to rally his team — even after a week in which several of his key players came to his defense when anonymous quotes surfaced from two players ripping the coach — continues to leave team president John Mara with little alternative but to move on and try someone else. Despite a credible rookie season in which he guided the Giants to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in 2016, McAdoo’s performance this year has been inexcusable, embarrassing, pathetic, futile — use whatever other negative description you’d like.
The Giants haven’t made an in-season coaching change since 1976, when Bill Arnsparger was fired by Wellington Mara after losing his first seven games. But McAdoo is now testing John Mara’s patience to the point where he may feel there is no choice but to make a change before the end of the season. With seven games to go and a team that has shown neither the ability nor the willingness to beat an opponent — even a winless one like the 49ers — then Mara will surely be tempted to make a move. Even if it is done simply to assuage a fan base whose anger and frustration are dissolving into apathy.
McAdoo was once again at the center of another trying week, dealing with yet another brushfire, this time in the form of unnamed players suggesting he has lost the team. He suggested Thursday that he was unconcerned with the complaints because the players weren’t willing to bring their complaints directly to him. And many of his most respected veterans — including Landon Collins, Damon Harrison, Jonathan Casillas and Justin Pugh — offered an impassioned defense of the coach and challenged the leakers to put their name on their complaints or else keep their mouths shut.
Collins even went so far as to suggest McAdoo should not only keep his job for the rest of the season, but beyond.
“He’s doing a great job,” the All-Pro safety said after Sunday’s loss. “This season is not coach McAdoo’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault. Everybody’s in this. It’s not just him, even though he’s gonna take all the hype and take all the pressure. He’s going to take all of that. That’s what the great coaches do. And he needs to coach this team next year, too.”
That last sentence will certainly not sit well with Giants fans who want to see a change, and Mara is sensitive to his constituents’ frustration. McAdoo himself took the blame for another woeful performance.
“They outplayed us today, they outcoached me today,” McAdoo said of the 49ers.
Why do you say you were outcoached? “Look at the scoreboard,” he said.
McAdoo deflected a number of questions about the players’ collective effort, telling reporters several times he needs to “take a long, hard look at the tape” and “make sure we get it corrected and be honest with each other.”
He also insisted he’s not worried about his job security. “That doesn’t have anything to do with anything,” he said. And he scoffed at speculation swirling about his situation. “What speculation?” he snapped.
At 1-8, how does he motivate a veteran group coming off a brutal loss to a winless team with rookie quarterback C.J. Beath ard, who looked like Joe Montana against the Giants’ putrid defense?
“They’re pro football players,” he said. “They need to be self-motivated. Everybody gets a paycheck this week. We need to go out and play that way.”
Yet there is no indication the Giants are capable of competing even against the weakest of competition. Quite simply, they don’t look like they’re capable of winning another game this season.
Just look at the tape.