And now we’re down to debating whether the Giants’ headsets work or not, whether they’re to blame for Joe Judge wasting timeouts in critical spots, and seeing the NFL clap back directly at the coach’s suggestion that whoever is in charge of sideline telecommunications better fix it immediately.
Welcome to 2-6 and all the attendant misery that goes along with it.
Judge’s revelation after a desultory 20-17 loss to Kansas City that headset malfunctions were an issue in that game and others left him open to ridicule for having to burn timeouts because the Giants couldn’t get the correct lineup combinations on the field. He made the point that this wasn’t the main reason the Giants lost, but it came across as excuse-making nonetheless.
Better to have simply taken the blame and moved on without going down that rabbit hole, especially after the league made it clear that they found no irregularities during the game.
"We were not made aware of any issues during the game from the club through our standard communication channels that are used to identify game day issues," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in a statement on Monday.
Judge reiterated during his news conference on Tuesday afternoon that he wasn’t pinning the loss on the headset issue.
"I made it very clear last night, I'm not an excuse maker," he said. "I was asked a direct question about why we used timeouts in certain situations and that's the reason right there, that's all I’m going to say about the headsets right there."
And that’s likely the last we’ll hear of the headset kerfuffle — at least from Judge. But that kind of viral moment isn’t soon forgotten, and fans who have grown weary of watching yet another Giants’ season buckle beneath the weight of poor play, untimely penalties, and yes, poor coaching decisions and clock management maneuvers.
All of those factors were in evidence against Kansas City, which has simply not played the kind of football that marked their championship run two years ago and their march to the Super Bowl last year. The Giants had the right idea of using Cover 2 against Patrick Mahomes, and the All Pro quarterback was clearly frustrated at being left to dink-and-dunk his way down the field.
But as has been the case all season, the Giants beat themselves. Daniel Jones was mediocre through most of the game, and while the defense did a credible job in so many key spots, it was Oshane Ximines’ offside penalty late in the fourth quarter that negated a Darney Holmes interception that would have put the Giants in perfect position to score the winning points down the stretch.
Linebacker Tae Crowder was called for a face mask penalty on Kansas City’s subsequent drive for the winning touchdown, and the normally reliable Eli Penny was flagged for taunting after gaining first-down yardage earlier in the quarter.
All players are responsible for avoiding penalties, but well-coached teams simply don’t commit those kinds of infractions, especially in critical junctures. At 2-6 and failing to finish games the way they should, this is simply not a well-coached group right now, and Judge is ultimately responsible.
As he said just a couple weeks ago, "The fish stinks from the head down." And right now, the Giants stink, and the head coach must shoulder a lot of the blame.
There is still time to turn things around. And with nine games remaining and the Giants just two games out of the last wild card spot, they can theoretically make a run to somehow sneak into the tournament. But we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve seen Giants teams toward the end of Tom Coughlin’s reign and then with Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and now Judge hold onto this flimsy mathematical hope, only to fail to meet the moment on game day.
If the Giants want to flip the script, and if Judge wants "Headsetgate" to fade into obscurity, then there’s only one way that happens. They need to play better, and they need to coach better.
Yet from what we’ve seen so far this season, they are not ready to meet the moment.