By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Generally, when a head coach gets hired, it’s to fill the fired coach’s deficiencies.
So when Tom Coughlin was forced out, largely because of the undisciplined and careless nature of the offense, Ben McAdoo was promoted because of his close, cosmic connection with Eli Manning and his overall synergy with the offense.
So Giants fans entered this season with a reasonable sense of hope. Wipe the whiteboard clean and start fresh with a two-time Super Bowl MVP, his electric wide receiver trio and a revamped defense fresh with three high-priced free agents.
And this is what we have. The Giants are 11th in passing yards per game (266), 27th in rushing yards (83.6) and 27th in points per game (17.8). Granted, they have been ravaged by injuries in the backfield, which impacts the entire offense. But they have enough talent at wideout to put up better numbers.
And instead of the refreshing, passing renaissance we expected from the last Manning left in the NFL, Eli has been pretty pedestrian. Manning is seventh in passing yards (1,385) and 15th in yards per attempt (7.41). He is tied with Kansas City’s Alex Smith (hardly known for his aerial assaults) for 22nd in touchdowns, with five, to go with four interceptions.
Not surprisingly, Manning’s passer rating (86.0) reflects his overall mediocrity, ranked 20th in the NFL.
But the blame doesn’t end under center. If the holy free-agent trinity of Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon were supposed to flip the statistical script, the reviews are mixed. After the first two games, the headlines bubbled with praise over Big Blue’s new-look defense. But after hemorrhaging 32 points to the Redskins, the Giants haven’t regained their competence or confidence.
The Giants allow 96.6 rushing yards per game, 12th in the NFL. And after having a historically woeful pass defense last year, they have nudged up to 20th in pass defense, yielding 261.6 yards per game. And in the most poignant stat, the G-Men are 15th, allowing 21.6 points per game.
And then there’s the new wave of variables that sprung up this young season. No one expected the Philadelphia Eagles to soar so soon and the state of “Wentzylvania” to consume the nation. They hit a small speed bump in Detroit on Sunday, but the Eagles are still way better than anticipated, especially when you consider that they just jettisoned their head coach, Chip Kelly, and shipped their presumed starting QB, Sam Bradford, to Minnesota.
Likewise, when Tony Romo’s brittle back acted up — again — we assumed the Dallas Cowboys, led by a rookie running back and quarterback, would tank until Romo returned. Yet the opposite has happened. Ezekiel Elliot has blasted through defenses as if he were still at Ohio State, and Dak Prescott is playing with poise and accuracy well beyond his years. Indeed the neophyte, fourth-round pick is playing so well there’s earnest and honest talk that Romo may morph into a backup when he returns.
Even Washington has a little mojo going. Fresh off a road win in Baltimore, the Redskins have won three straight — a streak started, of course, at MetLife Stadium. No, they don’t strike fear in opposing fans, but it’s troublesome, if not worrisome, to see all three NFC East teams above you in the standings.
The Giants finished third in the division in 2015, and, so far, seem fated for much the same in 2016. Yes, some of us saw a more glittering season, based on the quarterback who has won here and the coach who supposedly got the best out of him. So far, we look silly.
Then you have the soap operatic saga of Odell Beckham Jr., who has gone from kicking to kissing sideline equipment. Beckham’s mastery and mystery seem to have their own momentum no matter who wears the headset.
So why get rid of Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl champion and likely Hall of Fame head coach, for essentially the same results? It’s a fair question. But it’s unfair to say we have an answer after just five games.
Ask again in December, when we will know if the Giants are real or really the same.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel