OAKLAND, Calif. — Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo spent Sunday afternoon together on the Giants’ sideline. For the quarterback, it was his first time there since 2004. For the coach, it may have been his last.
The rest of the team, rattled with franchise-shaking alterations and the threat of them, could not change the most important symptom of what has become a crumbling season. They lost to the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, 24-17, to drop their record to 2-10.
The result fueled speculation that McAdoo will be replaced as coach before his second year at the helm comes to an end. An ESPN report Sunday morning suggested that such a decision by Giants ownership could come within 24 hours of the game, and that was before the result was known.
The Giants had no comment on the report, and co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch stomped out of the postgame locker room without stopping to answer any questions.
The Giants left Oakland for the long overnight flight home with McAdoo still holding his job. What happens in the hours and days after they landed remains to be seen.
“I’m going to coach this team as long as my key card works,” McAdoo said after the loss. “I’ve got a great group of players and coaches. Got a great staff to work with. I’m going to show up to work (Monday) and get this thing cleaned up and move on to the next one.”
Giants players, though, were bracing for the real possibility that he might not.
“Now I’ve got to take into consideration that it could happen,” safety Landon Collins said.
Asked if he expects a coaching change before the Giants return to their practice field Wednesday, defensive end Olivier Vernon said: “There’s been a lot of surprises with everything, man.”
There might be one more coming, although to call this a surprise would be disingenuous. McAdoo’s tenure with the Giants has long been expected to end with the regular season. The vitriol over his mishandling of the quarterback transition during the past week has sped up the process by only a month.
The public outcry against McAdoo has been deafening, and no doubt heard by the owners. It’s been heard by the coach, too.
“Listen, I understand where the fans are coming from,” he said. “If I was on the outside looking in, I’d feel the same way they feel.”
The venom isn’t limited to the fans. Fox Sports reported Sunday that some former players are trying to get together for Sunday’s home game against the Cowboys and wear No. 10 Eli Manning jerseys on the sideline as a show of support.
Many current Giants, however, expressed a desire to keep McAdoo. Even Manning, whose benching is seen by many as the tipping point in the organization’s decision-making process.
“I don’t want anybody to get fired,” Manning said. “When a coach gets fired, it’s usually because the team and the players, myself included, haven’t performed to our duties. So I don’t want to see that. I hope there is no truth to that [report].”
Collins, who has been a McAdoo supporter all season, said he heard about the report Sunday morning before he took the field and that it was in the back of his mind when he played.
“I thought it was just jibber-jabber, but I’m guessing it might be true,” Collins said. “Knowing that it can happen now, I really pull for McAdoo, so it would definitely hurt me.”
Geno Smith was the first player besides Manning to start at quarterback for the Giants in 4,748 days, snapping his streak at 210 regular-season starts. He could fare little better than Manning did with a thin offensive line and depleted depth at wide receiver. That their 17 points was more than they scored in either of their previous two games seemed slight consolation.
Smith completed 22 of 34 passes for 212 yards (89.3 rating), ran for 13 yards on three scrambles and led two long drives, including an 11-play, 74-yarder late in the first quarter to tie the score at 7. But Smith also had two key fumbles that ended scoring opportunities in the first half.
The Raiders went ahead 17-7 on a 9-yard run by DeAndre Washington with 10:18 remaining. The Giants closed to 17-14 with 5:16 left on Smith’s 10-yard pass to Evan Engram, but Derek Carr hit Cordarrelle Patterson for 59 yards on the Raiders’ next offensive play. That set up a 9-yard TD pass to Johnny Holton to make it 24-14 with 3:23 left.
Aldrick Rosas’ 52-yard field goal with 1:38 remaining got the Giants within 24-17. The Raiders recovered the onside kick and the Giants never got the ball back.
It was, at the end, a very familiar formula for this season: A defense that performs well at times but allows too many big plays, an offense that can’t score enough points, and a despondent locker room filled with confusion and depression.
“Something’s not right,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “We’ll figure it out sooner or later.”
For some, it may be too late.