Tis the season … for NFL coaches and general managers to be fired. The onslaught started this week with the Giants’ duo of Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese becoming the first out the door.
New York is a surprising team to be leading the firing charge. The Giants are similar to the Steelers as family-held teams that believe in organizational stability and are never quick to make changes. But co-owner and team president John Mara had seen enough of the quagmire his team had fallen into, especially in light of McAdoo’s poorly executed benching of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
I know Mara to be a fine man and an excellent team owner who understands the business of NFL football and the need for patience — in the mold of his father Wellington Mara, who was a pillar among NFL team owners for decades. It surely was painful for John Mara to make these moves with four games left in the season.
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Through the first half of the season, Mara obviously was hoping the team’s fortunes would improve. But New York in 2017 has become a train wreck of offensive inconsistency, defensive failure, injuries and too many frustrating losses, resulting in a 2-10 record. This followed an 11-5 playoff year that had Giants fans thinking Super Bowl. Instead, it’s another team with high expectations that wound up in the tank, which is never a good omen for the coach and GM.
“Wholesale changes need to be made to this organization,” Mara said. “It was pointless to wait any longer.”
Those are the words of an obviously disappointed and frustrated team owner.
The 51-17 shellacking by the Rams that dropped the Giants to 1-7 had to be the beginning of the end for McAdoo and Reese. Getting embarrassed on home soil is tough for a proud franchise’s owner to take.
The Giants’ offense, minus superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr., ranks second to last in scoring. The offensive line has been shaky, which didn’t bode well for the running game or protecting Manning. The defense has been even worse; dead last in yards allowed after Reese spent a boatload of money a year ago on free agents Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison, along with the re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul for big bucks.
Reese played a major role in helping build two Super Bowl winners, but Mara saw the lackluster recent drafts by Reese that have impacted the team’s depth and ability to overcome injuries.
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I never fired a coach during the season. However, I always felt it would be the right thing to do if it became obvious that change was needed in the team’s leadership, or if the team did not believe in the head coach and his staff. So I think it was smart on Mara’s part to cut the cord now rather than wait until the end of the season.
This gives Mara a leg up on quickly finding the best GM candidate who can then help him in the coaching search. And that’s how I expect it to go, as Mara said “in all likelihood” the GM will be hired first (as it should be to set up a good working rapport between the GM and head coach).
Mara wisely has enlisted the aid of former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi as a consultant during this transition. Accorsi is knowledgeable on how to build a successful team, and he is well plugged in around the league to help find top GM and coach candidates.
I fully expect Accorsi to handle the Giants’ searches as he did when he consulted with the Lions two years ago. Accorsi looked to the NFL’s most successful team (the Patriots) and recommended their director of pro scouting Bob Quinn to be the Lions’ GM. Then Quinn was part of the decision to retain Jim Caldwell as head coach, which was has turned out to be a good call.
Whether to accept whoever Accorsi recommends ultimately will be Mara’s decision. And Mara will be very involved, along with the new GM and Accorsi, in the selection of the head coach. Don’t be surprised if it’s a veteran, similar to when Mara hired Tom Coughlin in 2004 and a successful 12-year run followed.
The biggest decision for New York’s new head coach-GM tandem will be at quarterback and whether to keep Manning as the starter. The Giants also could look to last year’s third-rounder Davis Webb or use their top-five (perhaps top-two) pick on a potential franchise quarterback from the upcoming draft class.
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Meanwhile, it will be four more weeks of relatively meaningless (except for draft positioning) December football, something to which the Giants and their fans are not accustomed. At least there are three home games left against division rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington that could get the fans who show up moderately excited.
Mara will be thinking these games should have been highly anticipated stepping stones for the Giants in their quest to win the NFC East.
The real story, however, will be what goes on behind the scenes over the next several weeks as the future leaders of the Giants’ football hierarchy are identified.
Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.