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Giants-49ers preview: McAdoo says it’s not too late to alter legacy

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo looks on after a

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo looks on after a loss to the Rams at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 5, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

It might seem an odd choice of word to focus on for a team that is 1-7, is coming off one of the most lopsided losses in franchise history and has gone through one of its most trying weeks in decades. But coach Ben McAdoo wants his players to think about it anyway.

The word is “legacy.”

Right now, the 2017 Giants have a poor one. They already are going to go down in history as one of the most disappointing squads in team history, if not New York sports. They have plummeted from seemingly legitimate Super Bowl aspirations to squalid dysfunction in the course of two short months.

McAdoo’s message seemed to be that it’s not too late to alter that. And that can start on Sunday against the 49ers.

“If you’re in a pro locker room, whether you’re a player or a coach, the word legacy shows up quite a bit,” he said. “It’s important to all of these guys.”

The Giants are not delusional about where they are. They understand they are unlikely to achieve anything anyone would describe as a productive season. But success can be counted in many ways.

“Everybody is looking at us right now like we’re the losers, we’re the worst team in the league, or number 31 behind this team we’re playing this week,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “So be it. I’m going to take it for what it is. People don’t expect too much from us, so we can surprise some people and I like that.”

“I think winning helps everything,” offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. “If we were sitting here and we were 7-1, not 1-7, I think there would be a lot of different conversations going on. There wouldn’t be any anonymous statements. We didn’t have any of those last year. Same coach, same system, same everything. But obviously things like that happen when you are 1-7, so we’ve got to get tighter as a unit, as a team, and come out together and push through it and figure this thing out.”

If they can, they can change their perception as a team that is on the verge of crumbling and perhaps become recognized as a team that, in dire circumstances, fought on. That they had the mental strength to persevere.

McAdoo shared one of his favorite quotes on that subject.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words, watch your words for they become actions, watch your actions for they become habits, watch your habits for they become character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny,” he said. “That’s essentially how you develop your legacy and what you leave behind. It starts between your ears.”

Or maybe it starts in San Francisco.

Fifty-one is the loneliest number

Steve Spagnuolo traced a circle around his gut.

“There’s a pit right here,” he said. “It’s called an embarrassing pit.”

And it stems from one number: Fifty-one.

That’s how many points the Giants defense allowed last week against the Rams, the most they have given up at home since 1964.

“Sometimes when it rains it pours,” Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator, said. “It pours and starts snowballing. We were trying to patch some things together . . . We just need to play faster. Make some tackles.”

One thing Spagnuolo did insist on was that the Giants showed effort. At least for the most part. He said he’s tracked a stat he calls “loafs” for many years. They are essentially demerits for not hustling, giving up on plays on the other side of the field, and jogging when a player should be sprinting.

“We have never gone through a game and not had a couple,” he said, noting that this past game had no more or less than usual. Still . . .

“We need guys bursting to the ball,” he said. “We need guys bursting to the ball.”

Eli eyes another longevity mark

Eli Manning is expected to make the 208th consecutive regular-season start of his career Sunday against the 49ers, tying him with his brother Peyton for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

“I’m happy to be out there each and every week with my teammates,” Manning said. “That’s a goal of mine to stay healthy, to play through injuries, to be accountable. But it’s not about breaking a record.”

The record belongs to Brett Favre who started 297 straight games. Manning won’t approach that number unless his streak can continue until the third game of the 2023 season. Can he make it?

“He’s a good ways away,” Manning said. “We’ll see.”

Beathard to start, but will Garoppolo finish?

Kyle Shanahan said C.J. Beathard will start at quarterback against the Giants Sunday.

Beyond that, though, all bets are off.

“It’s not a ‘no matter what’ at all,” the 49ers head coach said of sticking with Beathard as the team’s newest quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, waits to make his debut. The 49ers got for Garoppolo from the Patriots on Oct. 31 and he will enter Sunday’s game as the backup. The question is: Will he leave the game as its finisher?

“Everyone is very eager to see Jimmy get in, especially after you make that type of trade,” Shanahan said. “And I am, too. Everyone is. But . . . I’m really trying to be patient with this and make sure that when he does go in, he has an opportunity to be successful.”

The Giants say that they’ll be prepared to play against both quarterbacks. Or, more accurately, they’ll be ready to play against one system.

“With two similar-type players that play the position in the pocket, you’re going to get the system,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “You have to prepare for what you’re going to see in the system. They challenge you many ways in the system and the system really can fit any quarterback.”

Shanahan said he is pleased with the progress his new quarterback has made and is confident that Garoppolo can function if he does have to play on Sunday.

“I don’t feel any pressure to play this guy because of our record, or pressure to play him because everyone wants him to come in and save our season,” Shanahan said. “I want to make sure that we play him because Jimmy has a chance to be successful, it has a chance to help him, and it has a chance to help our team. And that’s something that I’m looking at on a day-to-day basis.

“Still plan on going with C.J. because I know [Garoppolo] is not there yet,” Shanahan added, “but I’ve been excited about his progress.”

New LB Sheppard could see plenty of action

Kelvin Sheppard got the call on Monday. He might be making the calls on Sunday.

The veteran was brought back to the Giants earlier this week to help replace a roster full of injured linebackers. They’ll be without B.J. Goodson (ankle), Devon Kennard (quad) and Keenan Robinson (quad) and have listed Jonathan Casillas (neck) and Calvin Munson (quad) as questionable. They need healthy bodies.

That’s why they called Sheppard, who played for them last season but has not been in the league since he was cut by the Bears at the end of the preseason.

“It’s pretty much the same scheme,” Sheppard said of the playbook he used last year. “It’s more just recalling everything I already knew from last year.”

There is even a good chance that Sheppard will not only play against the 49ers — “I’m not here to watch,” he said — but wind up wearing the radio helmet and calling the plays in the huddle.

“I’m fine with that,” he said. “The transition has been great. It’s a great group of guys. Mostly a lot of guys I was already in there with. They’ve been helping me out, so I’m definitely fine with that.”

Sheppard added that he felt like he was a member of the team the whole season because he remained in contact with most of the defenders on text chains and in other ways.

“I’m here now and I’m excited to be back,” he said. “I’m back where I wanted to be from the get-go.”

*

Of all the things that the Giants have been trying to fix this miserable season, they can finally scratch one off the list. The hot tubs are finally working.

It might seem like a small thing, but linebacker Jonathan Casillas said not having the jets functioning at full capacity for most of the past few months has put a crimp in his and many others’ routines. The water was hot and flowing for the first half of the season, but it wasn’t until this week that the issue of the less-than-potent pressure was fully resolved.

“If that’s part of your routine every day and it isn’t working, that can throw you off, man,” Casillas said. “Now it’s like a real Jacuzzi. It’s back.”

No one is blaming the busted tub for the 1-7 start, but could it be the thing that jump-starts the second half of the season?

“If the Giants come out and win this weekend, I’m telling you . . .” Casillas said. “I’m feeling good. I was in it twice today and I’ll go in it once more. I feel like a new guy. The hot tub is working. Shoot, I feel like a winning streak is coming too.”

By the numbers

38: Stadiums in which Eli Manning will have played an NFL game during his 14-year career with the Giants once he takes a snap at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday. Manning has never before played at Levi’s Stadium, but he was there in a suite when Peyton Manning and the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in the building.

33: Years since two NFL teams with 1 or fewer combined wins have met in the second half of a season. It last happened on Nov. 4, 1984, when the Browns (1-8) beat the Bills (0-9), 13-10.

4: Touchdown catches by Evan Engram this season, one shy of the Giants record for a rookie tight end set by Bob Tucker in 1970.

49: Different players who have caught a regular-season touchdown pass from Eli Manning after Tavarres King became the latest to do so last week.

19: Drives by the 49ers this season that have lasted 10 plays or more, the most in the NFL. Only six of those 19 drives have resulted in touchdowns, however.

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