By Ernie Palladino
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Ben McAdoo presents a perfect picture of a dead coach walking.
It happens just like that. First comes the losing — the close setbacks that make the difference between 0-5 and something somewhat more respectable. Then the catastrophic injuries, like the broken ankles pass-catchers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall suffered last week against the Chargers. Throw Dwayne Harris’ broken foot and Sterling Shepard’s rolled ankle in there, too, and that’s four wideouts down in one game.
And then comes the dissension.
In this case, it was cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who showed exactly how much of a team player he is by walking out of camp due to a dispute over how McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used him. Keep in mind that Cromartie is not the 53rd guy on the roster. He’s a starter, and the most experienced of what has been a shaky defensive backfield.
Apparently, DRC didn’t care for being shuttled between slot coverage and his normal outside duties. Fair enough, especially since it seems 2016 first-rounder Eli Apple has devoted this season to getting beat deep at every possible opportunity. Plus, inside coverage has never been Rodgers-Cromartie’s strength, so it’s only logical he and the gameplan guys should have a conversation.
But his walkout and subsequent suspension indicate bigger issues than a player-coach conflict. It shows McAdoo, in only his second season at the helm, has lost the locker room.
If that sounds a lot like the Ray Handley era, well, it’s because it does. By the time Handley ran into Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium tunnel after that 1992 finale, those Giants were in full revolt. The only differences between that team and this one is that those guys won six games, and McAdoo has at this point restrained himself from putting his hands on any photographers.
But that’s where it ends. Both claimed the team was together, united through all the losing, and both were dead wrong.
On Wednesday, McAdoo proclaimed his team united. Great practice. Looking forward to another one. Not worried about perceptions.
And yet, he may well keep one of his two starting cornerbacks on the bench, definitely for Sunday’s game in Denver, and possibly for three more after that for conduct detrimental to the team.
As to that issue, “That’s all I have to offer at this point.”
And he offered seven versions of that throughout his press conference.
See where all this is going?
With the Broncos, Seahawks, and Rams coming up in the next four weeks, the Giants could wind up winless going into the halfway mark. Even at that, he might have been given some leeway given the absence of four of his five wide receivers. Even the best of teams go into the season’s dumper after injuries that extensive.
But the real test is to keep the players playing hard despite the losing. The unforgivable sin is locker room revolt. And if DRC’s actions indicate anything, it is that the locker room is at least on the verge of imploding, assuming it hasn’t already.
The Giants had no choice but to launch Handley into outer space after 1992. He never coached again in the NFL. Anywhere. In any position.
McAdoo could certainly find other work as an offensive coordinator, given his success in refining Eli Manning’s passing game during his two years under Tom Coughlin. But he’s in great danger now of having that ominous tag — “Good coordinator, lousy head coach” — hung on him.
He’s headed there now. The walkout. The defensiveness after he levied his punishment. The losing.
It’s adding up, all leading to a fifth season out of six watching the playoffs from afar.
It’s a recipe for a firing.
Dead Coach Walking.
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