It’s All Hallows Eve and the New York Football Giants are at the halfway point of another nightmarish season.
Eight weeks ago, they began regular season play with hopes of proving last season’s historic freefall was just a mirage. Unfortunately, the misery has intensified with each crushing defeat.
They share the NFL’s worst record with the San Francisco 49ers at 1-7. No one would have predicted that model of professional sports excellence known as the Cleveland Browns would have a better record than the Giants with eight games remaining. The entire organization has played a part in this tragedy of errors.
Quarterback Eli Manning usually bears the brunt of the blame when the Giants play resembles hot garbage and this season is no exception. The voices calling for his release/retirement grow louder and louder with each loss. His offensive line is certainly no help as they haven’t been able to provide the protection a non-mobile quarterback needs to be successful.
Odell Beckham Jr. got his money and promptly ran his mouth in an ESPN interview. His muffed punt against the Carolina Panthers in Week 5 led to a touchdown that no one (including Beckham himself) acknowledges cost the Giants a victory. Sterling Shepard has regressed after a breakout 2017 in Beckham’s absence while Evan Engram has dealt with injury and underperformance.
Saquon Barkley has lived up to expectations with more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in his first eight games. He has shown flashes of leadership ability in calming the excitable Beckham on the sideline and accepting responsibility for the Giants’ 31st-ranked rushing attack. This isn’t to say he hasn’t made mistakes but he does get a pass for being ahead of the curve in his development.
Head coach Pat Shurmur has done the impossible: he’s made his predecessor, Ben McAdoo, look like Vince Lombardi. The Giants were 5-3 after eight games in McAdoo’s first season in 2016. Shurmur has often coached as if he were trying not to lose, a trait that fans despised about McAdoo. He has done himself no favors with his unimaginative play calling, another loathed McAdoo trait.
The Giants are in the middle of a purgatory of a season…but just how bad are they?
Five of their seven losses were by seven or fewer points. It isn’t as if they’re getting the brakes beaten off them every week. They have been ineffective in the first half, averaging just 7.2 points and scoring just three touchdowns. The Giants have been unable to score in the red zone when they have marched down the field with just a 40 percent success rate inside an opponent’s 20.
No one would ever confuse the ’18 Giants defense with the ’85 Bears. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 is heavily dependent on edge rushers, which the Giants don’t have many of. Olivier Vernon, the team’s top pass rusher, missed the first five games with an ankle injury. Third-round pick Lorenzo Carter saw his playing time increase in Vernon’s absence and got the team’s first sack of the season.
The defense has given up some SportsCenter Top 10 highlight reel plays.
There is no shame in future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson running for 149 yards on 26 carries (including a 64-yard scamper) in last week’s 20-13 loss to the Washington Redskins. He is ninth all-time in rushing yards for a reason. On the other hand, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles ripping off a 41-yard run in the regular season opener is almost inexcusable.
The defense has allowed some big gains in the air too. The Dallas Cowboys’ Tavon Austin, Philadelphia Eagles’ Nelson Agholor, and Atlanta Falcons’ Marvin Hall each torched the Giants secondary with moves reminiscent of Madden NFL ’19.
In the offseason, the team parted ways with defensive players Jason Pierre-Paul, Devon Kennard, and Romeo Okwara. They have a combined 20 sacks for their respective new clubs while the Giants have half that total as a team. Fan favorite Damon “Snacks” Harrison and former first-round pick Eli Apple were traded to the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints respectively as part of a fire sale before Tuesday’s deadline.
The Giants could potentially be playing for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft when they face the 49ers on the road in the final game of Week 10. Unless they run the table (which is extremely unlikely), 2018 will be their fifth losing season in the last six years. What makes 2018 all the more ghastlier is that the Giants are relatively healthy. In the past they’ve played this poorly, they were at or near the top of the league in players on injured reserve.
The Giants are not a good football team but there is optimism for the future.
They’ve got an excellent core group of players to build around, no matter how miserable it might be to watch the games now. The team is stockpiling draft picks to rebuild just as general manager Dave Gettleman did it in Carolina. He guided the Panthers to three division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. For that reason, he should be granted some leeway though it doesn’t excuse the missteps already made.
They are still questions surrounding Manning’s future. Anyone with a voice called to install rookie Kyle Lauletta as the starter following the team’s Week 9 bye. This was before his Tuesday arrest on an embarrassing traffic violation. Now Lauletta’s fast track to the starting lineup is on hold.
Shurmur’s suitability as an NFL head coach is also under the microscope. It’s not necessarily about wins/losses, though a couple of W’s wouldn’t hurt his cause. Can he decisively and effectively coach this team? Does he have the charisma to get the players to buy in although the postseason is a long shot at best?
The Giants are officially in rebuild mode, in spite of what they told themselves and their fan base in the offseason. Rebuilds are ugly and usually involve a great deal of losing before the tide turns, assuming it turns at all. The great deal of losing has already taken place with the Giants going 4-20 since the beginning of last season. It remains to be seen if the pendulum will swing in the direction of winning.
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.