The collapse nearly is complete.
On and off the field, the Giants have reached a rock bottom rarely seen in the nearly century-long history of the franchise, a run of ignominy that will match — or even exceed — any in its mostly storied past.
On the field, they are 2-11, careening toward what might be the worst record since the club’s founding in 1925, when Tim Mara plunked down $500 to join the NFL. General manager Dave Gettleman has deconstructed the roster piece-by-piece, leaving a woefully incomplete group for Pat Shurmur to coach, and this just might be the worst team in football.
Off the field, they now are left to clean up after the mess left by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who used an unacceptable word in a tweet and was released Friday. Yes, it has come to this: Twitter misbehavior has led to the banishment of the team’s best cornerback.
Jenkins clapped back at a fan on the social media website, using a derogatory word that once was used routinely but now is verboten because of its hurtful connotation. Jenkins was called on the carpet by Shurmur, eventually sent a tweet apologizing for using the word -- and then showed little remorse when discussing the matter with reporters the next day.
“I really didn’t see nothing so bad with it until people like y’all started picking it up and making stories, so I just decided to apologize,” he said Thursday. “I regret it, but at the end of the day, like I said, it’s my slang, so if you take it how you’re going to take it, then that’s on you … I always speak freely as a man. I speak the way I want to speak.”
The Giants decided Jenkins, who is nursing an ankle injury, no longer was worth the trouble and sent him packing. Which absolutely delighted the cornerback, who wanted to play somewhere else anyway.
“Best news ever. Thank you,” Jenkins tweeted shortly before the team announced his release.
Creating the right culture around the Giants has been an important underpinning throughout Gettleman’s rebuild, and it helps explain why the team moved on from Odell Beckham Jr. just a year after giving him a $95 million contract extension. It’s also at the heart of Jenkins’ ouster.
But culture is a relative word in sports, especially the NFL, a league in which misbehaving players routinely receive second and third chances. As long as their talent level makes it worth the trouble to keep them, teams will find a way to either overlook their mistakes or work with them to correct their aberrant behavior.
Just remember this: While the Giants sent a message that Jenkins’ use of a word on Twitter was unacceptable, this is the same franchise that routinely looked the other way when Lawrence Taylor engaged in illicit and illegal behavior, including the purchase of crack cocaine and drug binges.
In other words, Jenkins had outlived his usefulness, so the Giants made a business decision to send him away. But rest assured that if Jenkins had been younger, had been brought here by Gettleman, had not been one of the few remnants left behind by Jerry Reese and still was a big-time defensive back, the result would not have been the same.
There would have been some public hand-wringing from Shurmur and possibly Gettleman and co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. But there also would have been a second chance for Jenkins.
That’s the way it works in the NFL, and that hasn’t fundamentally changed over the years. Domestic violence is one of the only areas in which NFL teams draw the line – along with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem.
Jenkins’ unseemly tweet was merely an excuse to make a decision that would have been made in a few weeks anyway. He no longer was a part of the team’s future, and so the Giants decided to make him part of their past.
There will be no defending Jenkins here; most of his time with the Giants has been a mix of underperformance and poor comportment. But let’s not fail to see the double standard of the team’s emphasis on creating the right culture. If Jenkins was worth the trouble — i.e. if he was an elite player with a future on a rebuilding team — chances are he’d still be here.
Let’s face it: We are about to see a far more meaningful culture change once the Giants’ season is over after the next three games. There’s little chance Shurmur will be back, and Gettleman might be swept aside, too.
Big changes most certainly are coming to a franchise that has mostly floundered since Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning combined forces for the team’s fourth Super Bowl title after the 2011 season. Coughlin is gone, Manning soon will be gone, and what’s left is a rudderless ship that is adrift.
Manning will be in the lineup on Sunday against the Dolphins in perhaps his final start with the Giants. While it’s one more opportunity for Giants fans to say goodbye to the greatest quarterback in franchise history — and fans ought to greet Manning with a standing ovation for all the good he has done over the years — the bigger picture offers a far grimmer reality.
Jenkins’ ouster was a symptom of the deep-seated dysfunction that now grips one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. As Manning’s career with the Giants fades to black, the team’s future looks as bleak as its present.
This is what the bottom looks like.