The idea of rest has been put to bed.
With the Giants facing Washington in a mathematically meaningless game for them on Sunday, having already clinched the fifth seed and a wild card in the upcoming playoffs, there has been plenty of speculation on how Ben McAdoo would handle the game as first-year head coach. Would he go the route of the Steelers, who have said they are going to sit Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to avoid injury? Or would he push forward the way Tom Coughlin did with the Giants in the 2007 finale, a game that resulted in a loss but gave the team momentum toward a Super Bowl title.
His answer: “We’re going to play to win the ballgame.”
That includes, he said, Eli Manning who will make his 199th consecutive regular-season start. McAdoo was a bit vague on whether Manning would play the entire game — that likely will depend on the situation of the game in the second half — but made it clear that the objective is to come away with a victory.
“We’re going to play our players and go win the ballgame,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”
It opens him up to a lot of second-guessing if Manning gets injured in this game — the only backup quarterback on the roster, Josh Johnson, has not thrown a pass in an NFL game other than the preseason since 2011 — or the Giants wind up losing some other key cog to a twisted ankle or sprained knee.
Certainly there will be some thought given to resting players with injuries such as CB Janoris Jenkins, who is coming off a bruised back and was limited in Wednesday’s practice. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison also suffered a knee injury in last week’s game against the Eagles, although he was not on the injury report this week. McAdoo said all of those decisions would be made based on the medical information at game time. Being ready to play in a postseason game, though, should trump risking the aggravation of an existing injury.
Washington, who needs a win to get into the playoffs, is expecting the Giants to play their starters the entire game.
“We’re just going to play the Giants, man, that’s all that I know,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Whoever we see out there in a Giant uniform, they’re going to be very good players and we have to get ready to play.”
The reality is that the Giants only have 53 players and will activate 47, just like every week.
“I don’t care who plays,” Washington safety Will Blackmon said. “They can bring back Jeff Hostetler, Mark Bavaro, whoever. They come off the bus, they have to line up and we have to win.”
McAdoo was part of two teams that rested starters on the eve of the playoffs in Green Bay. That was the tactic Mike McCarthy, McAdoo’s mentor, used in 2007 and 2011. Coincidentally both of those seasons ended with a playoff loss to the Giants.
McAdoo said that had no impact on his decision this time, however.
“2011 in another city has no impact on what we’re doing here,” he said.
The fact of the matter is that this is not a preseason game with an endless roster to swap players in and out. The Giants have 53 players on their team and 47 will be active for the game in Washington.
The players are embracing McAdoo’s philosophy.
“It’s Week 17, everyone wants to play,” center Weston Richburg said. “I don’t think there is any questioning that among this group of guys. I think everyone wants to go out there and play.”
“We’re putting the pedal to the metal,” safety Landon Collins said. “We’re treating this as a playoff game and coming out firing on all cylinders. That’s our mindset, to try to get the W.”
McAdoo was not surprised by that attitude.
“This is pro football,” he said. “We get paid to coach and paid to play. That’s what we do, it’s what we do for a living. [This is] another game on the schedule, it’s a division game, it’s an important game . . . They like to play games. Games are fun, practices are work.”
As with life, though, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.