By Ernie Palladino
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Now that three days have passed since that 38-0 catastrophe in Carolina, the question must be asked.
When, exactly, did the Giants turn into the Jets?
Even more importantly, who’s to blame?
These are the things that come up when a squad that hasn’t made the playoffs in three out of four years starts 0-3, especially with a clunker like Sunday’s thrown in. We look for blame, we look for the scapegoats.
Blame it on the players, as former Giants great Carl Banks did in his radio-broadcasted remarks of the previous day. Not coach Tom Coughlin. Not the game plan.
Leave it to the emotional — some might say big-mouthed — Rolle to put it all in perspective.
“Do we like each other in our locker room?” Rolle asked rhetorically. “I believe so. We like each other. But are we going out there and fighting for the guy beside us? Absolutely not. There is no way I can hide it, sugarcoat it, whatever you want to say.”
He didn’t directly pull out any evidence of that, but it’s there. Take Hakeem Nicks’ anger after he was targeted just once. If he sounded just a little like Santonio Holmes, well, perhaps that was no coincidence. Because he’s in a contract year that turns every catch into scads of potential dollars, the me-first attitude is understandable. But perhaps if the Giants were 2-1 instead of 0-3, Nicks keeps his mouth shut.
Instead, he popped off. And he was dead wrong, incidentally, simply because that creaky offensive line that Eli Manning has protecting (or not protecting?) him gave up one jailbreak after another. Manning took one of the worst beatings of his life that game, and Nicks complained that his quarterback never got the ball to him. He might have considered that the field general was on his back most of the time.
This basically comes down to the players, however. The offensive line has already been shuffled once, and now may have to incur more switches if left guard Chris Snee’s barking hip doesn’t settle down. The game film will show Andy Reid’s surging Chiefs all they need to know about the gaps in the line, and Kansas City may be all too eager to exploit it on its climb from obscurity.
There are old faces and hurt faces. Justin Tuck was in on several pass rushes but he never did get to Cam Newton. Neither did Jason Pierre-Paul, who is clearly struggling following offseason surgery. Terrell Thomas, after a valiant return from double ACL surgery, was burned badly on one of Newton’s touchdown passes.
There are new faces that just are not ready yet. Not that the line was any help, but David Wilson simply does not look like he’s prepared for the responsibilities of a featured back. Besides, Coughlin probably is still holding his breath for fear of a fumble every time Wilson touches the ball. Brandon Jacobs’ best years are clearly behind him, and he’s not going to lead the running game anywhere.
And let’s face it — the solid and stoic Manning simply has not played well. If he keeps throwing picks at this rate, he’ll wind up with more than 40, and not even Mark Sanchez in his worst year came close to that.
Really, though, there is more going on here than sheer numbers, hurting bodies and bad reads. So much of football involves the mind. Players get knocked down, but they get back up and fight.
The Giants showed no fight. It’s one thing to pack it in in the last month of the season if all is lost. But this was Game 3. To see a team lie supine to another 0-2 squad at this point bodes ill for the future. They may never turn this around.
Ultimately, the coaching staff will pay the price if things don’t improve. Ownership might suggest that Coughlin “retire.” The assistants would go at any rate. Maybe even Jerry Reese. Starts like this, low-lighted by games like Sunday’s, are what get the higher-ups fired.
There is still time for a reversal. But it has to come from the players, since the waiver wire will offer no panacea. Right now, from inside the locker room and out, the Giants appear to be more in a mood to fight each other rather than to fight FOR each other.
Nothing good can come of that.
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