The silence lasted only a few seconds, but between the moment that John Mara was asked Wednesday about Ben McAdoo’s job security and then delivered his answer, there was an unmistakable air of uncertainty.
The answer itself only added to the perception that Mara may be suitably miffed by how the Eli Manning benching went down this week to make a decision on McAdoo’s status earlier than expected.
“There’s no guarantees in life,” Mara said when asked if he had guaranteed McAdoo would finish out the season as head coach. “We made our statement on that a couple of weeks ago, but there’s no guarantees in life.”
It was a curious response from the Giants’ president and co-owner, because it ran counter to the statement that he and fellow owner Steve Tisch put out less than three weeks ago. A day after an embarrassing loss to the winless 49ers in San Francisco dropped the Giants to 1-8, Mara and Tisch said there would be no changes until after the season.
“Our plan is to do what we have always done, which is to not offer a running commentary on the season,” the statement read. “It is our responsibility to determine the reasons for our poor performance and at the end of the year, we will evaluate the 2017 season in its entirety and make a determination on how we move forward.”
Mara seemed far less unequivocal about McAdoo’s status in the wake of the latest fiasco that has shed a negative light on a team that has been used to being perceived as a first-class operation. It was therefore impossible not to notice his hesitation before answering the question when he made an unscheduled visit to the press room at the team’s training facility.
As a follow-up to the McAdoo question, Mara was asked if he was acknowledging decisions need to be made about McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese after the season. Again, he was vague.
“Well, you have decisions to make every year on people after the season,” he said.
And what kind of job does he think McAdoo has done this year after getting to the playoffs the previous season?
“We’re 2-9. We’re 2-9, OK?” he said. “I’m embarrassed about that. Nobody’s doing a good job.”
Mara certainly played a part in the clumsy and mishandled situation that ultimately led to Eli Manning’s consecutive starts streak ending at 210 games, and much of his anger on Wednesday was directed inward. He made no excuses, and he owned up to his role in telling McAdoo and Reese that he’d like to get a look at Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb before the end of a lost season.
But Mara also has a right to be furious with the outcome, in no small part because of how poorly McAdoo did in explaining to Manning how he planned to get game-day snaps for the other quarterbacks. In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that McAdoo’s plan to have Manning start Sunday’s game against the Raiders and then come out at halftime wasn’t how Mara would have handled it. Mara himself said he envisioned a scenario where Manning, in the event he was playing well and the Giants were in the game, would be given a chance to play the rest of the way.
But Mara was at a family function in Virginia the day that McAdoo and then Reese first floated the plan to Manning. And while it’s uncertain whether Mara’s presence during those conversations would have helped, it’s not a stretch to suggest that owner might have brokered a palatable arrangement in which Manning would continue to play.
Instead, Manning refused to go along with the plan because his streak would be tainted, and McAdoo quickly moved on with Smith as his starter. Ever since, Mara’s team has been bombarded with negative publicity — rightly deserved, at that — and the owner has been left seething over the fallout.
The possibility that his franchise quarterback, the MVP of two Super Bowl championships, might never take another snap for the Giants is the latest and perhaps the cruelest indignity in a season defined by failure.
McAdoo will almost surely pay the price of that failure with his job. Reese likely won’t make it to 2018 either.
And despite Mara’s earlier promise of not making any changes until after the season, this latest fiasco might hasten his timetable.