When Ben McAdoo was hired as coach of the Giants less than two years ago, he said it was “evolution, not revolution” for the team. It was supposed to be a somewhat smooth transfer of power, with a lot of familiar faces in comfortable roles.
On Monday, the revolution finally arrived.
The Giants fired McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese in one of the most seismic days in franchise history. The two were at the steering wheel for a 2-10 season with four games remaining and, most recently, the architects of last week’s botched quarterback transition.
The unprecedented Giants housecleaning moves were made by ownership after the team returned from its 24-17 loss in Oakland on Sunday, the first game in 13 years in which Eli Manning was not the starting quarterback. It’s one of the most precipitous collapses in NFL history, from a playoff team a year ago with aspirations of reaching higher to one of the league’s worst teams.
“I’ve been around long enough not to get shocked by many things,” co-owner John Mara said, “but I certainly did not see this coming.”
The firings themselves could be seen from a great distance as the season went on. Neither McAdoo nor Reese was shocked by his meeting with Mara on Monday that ended in termination, Mara said.
“We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control,” he said. “I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul.”
They’ll get that. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will step in as interim head coach and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will serve as interim GM. Both will be candidates for the full-time positions.
Mara said he and co-owner Steve Tisch met after Sunday’s game and had a conversation Monday morning.
“We agreed that wholesale changes needed to be made to this organization to get us back to the team we expect to be, and we also agreed that it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes,” Mara said.
Said Tisch in a statement: “This has been an extremely difficult and disappointing season. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers or quick fixes. And John and I were confronted with making the tough decisions of today.”
McAdoo finishes his time with the Giants with a 13-16 record. He is their first in-season change at head coach since Bill Arnsparger was replaced by John McVay after seven games in 1976, Arnsparger’s third season.
McAdoo came to the Giants in 2014, serving two years as offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin before replacing him. Reese had been with the organization much longer — since 1994 — and Mara said it was very emotional to let him go. Reese served as general manager since 2007.
“That’s as difficult a meeting as I’ve ever had,” Mara said of firing Reese.
Mara denied that the handling of the Manning situation last week was a “final straw.” He said on WFAN on Monday afternoon that the Giants likely would have made the same decisions if they had won Sunday.
“I just think it ended up being a perfect storm for us,” Mara said. “We got off to a bad start this year, particularly on offense. Our defense didn’t play as well as they played last year. We had leads in a few games, and last year they would have held them and we would have won the game. They didn’t do that early on and then everybody got hurt. Listen, there are certain guys on this roster that aren’t playing as well as they should be playing.”
Mara did, however, concede that appeasing fans (and former players) who were outraged about the season and the benching of Manning played into the timing of the decisions. The Giants have three home games left, all against division opponents.
“I was certainly cognizant of what the fan reaction was likely to be over the last four weeks, but that wasn’t the final determining factor,” he said. “We just reached a point where we felt, you know what, we’re going to be making these changes probably at the end of the season, so what’s the point in prolonging this any further?”
The ultimate reason, Mara said, was the 2-10 record.
“We’ve had an embarrassing season,” he said. “I think most people that know me know how painful that is to me and know how committed I am in trying to put a winning team back on the field. I know our fans are suffering, but I’m suffering more, I guarantee it. We’ve gotten to the point where we felt like we had to make wholesale changes, and that’s what we’ve done here.”
With Ben McAdoo out as Giants’ coach after less than two seasons, here are the prospective candidates that will likely catch their attention:
• Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator. Regarded as one of the best offensive tacticians in the game, he has head coaching experience, although he had a tumultuous tenure that lasted less than two seasons. He has resurrected his career after returning to work for Bill Belichick, and is expected to be a hot coaching prospect in the off-season.
• Mike Smith, Buccaneers defensive coordinator: Smith was a candidate in 2016 when the Giants settled on McAdoo. He enjoyed a solid career as the Falcons’ head coach, finishing with a 66-46 career record.
• Steve Spagnuolo, Giants’ interim head coach/defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo was a runner-up to McAdoo in 2016, and agreed to serve as interim head coach. He was previously head coach of the St. Louis Rams, but was fired after three seasons.
• Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach. There’s increasing chatter that Harbaugh may be heading back to the NFL after three seasons at Michigan. He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where he lost to the Ravens and older brother John.
• David Shaw, Stanford head coach. The Giants wanted to interview Shaw in their last hiring cycle, but he chose not to consider a move to the NFL. But the interest may still be there on the Giants’ part, especially with Shaw doing such a credible job for the Cardinal after succeeding Jim Harbaugh.
• Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator. While most of the attention in Philadelphia is focused on quarterback Carson Wentz, Schwartz has done an excellent job with the Eagles’ defense.
KEEPING IT SHORT
The only men with briefer tenures as Giants coach than Ben McAdoo led the team nearly a century ago. The coaches who didn’t stick around very long:
Games Coach Record Seasons
2 Benny Friedman 2-0 1930
12 Robert Folwell 8-4 1925
13 Joseph Alexander 8-4-1 1926
26 Earl Potteiger 15-8-3 1927-28
28 Ben McAdoo 13-15 2016-17
30 LeRoy Andrews 24-5-1 1929-30
32 Ray Handley 14-18 1991-92
35 Bill Arnsparger 7-28 1974-76
37 John McVay 14-23 1976-78