Lawrence Taylor was an eyewitness to the Giants’ latest debacle, a 25-22 loss in Tampa, in which the Buccaneers won on a field goal with no time left — a similar ending to the previous week’s walk-off loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Making the former linebacker’s visit to watch his former team all the more ignominious: After each of the Bucs’ two touchdowns, fellow Hall of Famer Warren Sapp trolled Taylor by videoing him on his iPhone. Afterward, an exuberant Sapp showed the files to two reporters, cackling outside the winners’ locker room and talking smack about beating Taylor’s NFL alma mater.
“It hasn’t looked very good so far,” Taylor told Newsday on Wednesday morning.
Like most Giants fans, Taylor is at a loss to explain how a team that looked so promising — at least in theory — coming into the season could look so dreadful after a winless first month. At 0-4, with the Giants still searching for answers, so is their most renowned alumnus.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” he said. “I’m just sitting there waiting for things to get better. The Giants always find a way to come back and make a good showing. Just waiting for something to click.”
So far, nothing has gone right for a team that is easily the most disappointing of any in the NFL this year. No team expected to do well has come close to the Giants’ 0-4 flop, and a team that just a few weeks ago spoke openly about winning a fifth Lombardi Trophy is now left to explain where it all went wrong. Barring an unexpected turnaround, this will go down as one of the most shocking seasons since the franchise was founded in 1925.
“You would have thought after the draft and after all the acquisitions they had that, wow, the Giants are pretty stacked,” Taylor said. “And it’s dumbfounding and it’s confusing. You say to yourself, ‘Wow, what the hell is happening?’ ”
But Taylor doesn’t believe this is a lost season just yet, and said it’s incumbent on one man to turn the team’s fortunes around.
This is on Ben McAdoo.
“It’s the inmates running the asylum, and it isn’t good,” Taylor said. “I’m quite sure as a coach, and a new coach, [Mc Adoo] has his loyalties, and he wants to be fair to everybody because this guy or that guy helped him get his job. He wants to be loyal. But you’re the head coach now. The hell with loyalty.”
Taylor reflected back to another young coach who struggled early in his career before turning it around.
“Just like Bill Parcells, he was loyal in that first year , and he went 3-12-1,” Taylor said. “Then it became a bus station, and loyalty was out. Parcells made it like a bus station, where he’d be having players come in and out, just trying to find the right guys.”
It’s a bit of a role reversal for McAdoo, who made the playoffs in Year 1 and is winless in Year 2. Parcells struggled as a rookie coach but then turned things around with a playoff run in 1984. He won the first of two Super Bowl titles in the 1986 season.
“Look, I’m not playing, and those guys are out there playing, so I have no business there,” he said. “There were times when we couldn’t get it together.”
What’s most important now, according to Taylor, is that the team doesn’t fracture from within. His voice rises as he makes his point, almost as if he’s offering a pep talk within the Giants’ huddle.
“Listen, this is the time when you need to band together,” said Taylor, 58, an eight-time first-team all-Pro and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year from 1981-93. “If you don’t, you start forming little groups. One little group over here saying these guys aren’t doing their jobs. And this other group will say the same thing. Little groups start talking about each other. That’s going to destroy a team. Let’s band together and hunker down, maybe talk as a team and go out as a team, but let’s get our [expletive] together.”
Taylor believes that if the Giants stay together — and play together — then anything’s possible.
“The strangest things can happen,” he said. “If they come back and go to the playoffs, you won’t even think about 0-4.”
Taylor continues to believe, even if few others outside the locker room — and perhaps even some inside the locker room — think there’s still a chance.
Now it’s up to McAdoo to impose his will on his team, just as Taylor’s old coach did a generation ago. And maybe it’s not a bad idea for McAdoo to have Taylor tell the players himself what’s possible as long as they don’t give up hope.