No, don’t say you “called it,” because you didn’t. Everyone assumed prior to the season that the Giants would out-do the Jets, but no one thought it would be this way.
Entering Week 14, the New York Jets are sitting at 5-7, still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Giants, well they just benched Eli Manning and fired head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese. Not to mention they are also officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 2-10 record.
What the hell happened?
For the Jets, it’s tough to pinpoint where and when things turned around. Coming into the 2017 season, they were predicted to be the NFL’s worst team by a mile. A Vegas sports book reportedly gave them 1,000-1 odds at winning the Super Bowl, the longest odds EVER seen.
There were also many so-called “experts” standing by the presumption that this team was destined for 0-16. The Jets were going to be the league’s new Browns.
And after kicking off the year with two horrible losses, those predictions garnered more noise. This team had no shot. With stud wide receiver Quincy Enunwa out for the year, a washed up and injury prone Matt Forte and journeyman Josh McCown, the Jets looked like they had landed and were preparing to roll out the tanks (pun intended).
A Week 3 victory over the Miami Dolphins turned the volume down a bit, however. And when the Jets went on to win their next two after that, the noise was put on mute.
The same can’t be said for the MetLife roommates, however.
The Giants also found themselves in an early two game hole to start off the year. But it was just going to be a fluke. This team was Super Bowl ready, and they had the offensive fire power to prove it.
But the hole only seemed to get deeper, and the strength was never found to climb out.
Manning looked sluggish, and despite making the team’s next three games a one score deficit, there was no prevail. It wasn’t long after that that his two star receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall fell to season ending injuries. Things looked gloom.
Rumors began circulating about McAdoo’s hold on the locker room. Players were reportedly coming out and anonymously criticizing his faith in the club. And as much as the Giants attempted to ignore the chatter, their performances couldn’t drown it.
Eli continued to struggle, and in (some what) pure shock, he was benched, ending his streak of 210 consecutive games started. The media, fans, and players went into uproar, and it wasn’t long before the witch hunt began.
How the hell did this happen?
Most people now know the “what,” but the bulkier question is “how?”
The Jets had a target on their back which was carried all throughout the offseason. Outside of some of the fans (some wished for the tank), most wanted to see this team crumble. Not because they were hated by any means, but because of the way they were going to attack the season.
Their roster looked horrendous. McCown, who hasn’t seen a whole lot of success over his 15 year career, was going to be the leader. An unproven Robby Anderson was going to be the number one receiver, and the secondary was made up of multiple inexperienced rookies.
But opportunity was there.
The pressure thrust these no-name players into the spotlight. It was the movement as a team to go from no-name to oh-damn! And that movement has been consistent.
Other teams didn’t expect it, and sure didn’t know how to plan for it. The Jets had and still have been able to remain competitive, keeping five out of their seven games lost within one score.
The Giants presented that same reflection early on as well, but criticism eventually flipped the switch for implosion.
The New York market is not an easy one to play in. You’re either the cherished or you’re the defunct. That quickly became the case for Eli.
Some would say he’s done more with less. He’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback, so how can things be this bad? To the media and the fans, it’s unacceptable, and they’ll eat that up until change is made. And change WAS made.
When criticism reached the locker room, and leaked back out into the media, it was about time to call it a season for Big Blue. It was Super Bowl or bust anyways, right?
What does the future behold?
While the Jets have exceeded season expectations by a long shot, a winning record still is not evident. The team has made magnificent strides in development and culture creation, which will pay dividends down the road.
A lot of speculation points to the notion that the Jets will look to take a quarterback in this year’s draft. The right guy could take this team to the next level, and playoffs may not seem like such a long shot next year.
For the G-Men, a clean slate may be the only option. Eli Manning’s future with the team is looking iffy at best, and a handful of expiring contracts may end up haunting them.
The Giants may have to follow in the footsteps of their cross-town foes, and pray that the team can flip the script as quickly as the Jets could.