Full NFL Insider Link: #Giants head coach Ben McAdoo at 1-7: The Players' Perspective: Last week the New York Giants players returned off their bye week with a flicker of optimism still lighting the back half of their season. That, was basically a half second before the the organization dropped a news release stating the team's decision to suspend Janoris Jenkins, another Giants defensive back for violating team rules.
Later that evening, I received an unsolicited message from a Giants player on the team that said: “McAdoo has lost this team. He’s got us going 80% on Saturdays before we get on a plane to play a game, it’s wild. Changed our off day. He’s dishing out fines like crazy. Suspended two of our stars when we need them the most. Throws us under the bus all the time. He’s ran us into the ground and people wonder why we’ve been getting got.”
I asked the the Giants player if he wanted to go on the record. He said he wanted to remain anonymous for fear of the impact to his status on the team.
I texted another Giants player for their thoughts too on what I heard minutes before. Has McAdoo lost the team? A second anonymous Giants player replied, “Yea I think so.” That same player also texted, “Guys are giving up on the season and nothing’s being done. Guys just don’t care anymore.”
Another game passed, at MetLife versus the Los Angeles Rams. Enough time to see if there would be any change in the team after extended time off.
Not so much.
The Giants lost to the Rams 51-17— the highest point total the Giants allowed at home since 1964; to a team that was 4-12 last season.
Now with the time ripe to circle back with the players to assess their faith in McAdoo moving forward, I asked Giants safety Landon Collins specifically about the comments a couple of his teammates made last week— stating McAdoo had lost the team, he’s working them too hard on Saturdays, and fining them too much.
“McAdoo has been leading the same way he led last year. So, I don’t knock the way he has been doing things. He’s been that way since he became the head coach. Fining people like crazy? If you don’t follow the rules, you get in trouble because you got to pay the consequences. You dig? So that’s how it goes.” Collins added, “I wouldn’t say he lost the team. I have the utmost respect for him. He’s been doing a great job. Just trying to figure it out like we all are.”
Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie told me his experience lets him know this team has not jumped the rails, yet.
“I don’t feel that and I’m an old head. I (have) seen a lot of locker rooms and I know for a fact this locker room ain’t lost. I (have) seen a lost locker room. I know what guys do…They come to practice lackadaisical. They don’t have a care. Nothing really matters no more and I don’t see that happening,” said Rodgers-Cromartie.
“Are people mad that we are not winning? Of course, but we are definitely not falling apart. If that’s the case you’d see guys not talking to guys and you would see a whole bunch of other stuff going on.”
“I still respecting Ben, but I can’t speak for everyone,” said Rodgers-Cromartie.
What about a teammates’ assertion McAdoo works the players too hard on Saturday?
Collins dismissed that too.
“We been doing this for the past year. We did it last year. We took it into this year….I don’t see it as being a problem because all we have is 14 plays out of that Saturday practice (separately for both offense and defense)….You tell me? It’s 14 plays on Saturday, at 80%. Is that bad?”
With the Giants winning just one game since the infamous Miami trip by some of the players before the wildcard loss to the Green Bay Packers last saeson, one could argue the team isn't practicing hard enough, nor making the correct adjustments, nor have all the right resources to do it.
However, paramount to the team’s evaluation must be this question: is McAdoo head coach material, a leader of men?
“Mcadoo has it all. He can lead men. He can do whatever you say. He has the ability to do those things. It’s not McAdoo…it’s everybody. Everybody has to look in the mirror, the coaching staff, the coordinators, the players, everybody,” said Collins.
Rodgers-Cromartie does not feel McAdoo has lost the team, but, he does admit the team is lost to some degree.
“I’ll say that we are still trying to find our identity—who we want to be…At times we show the team that we know we are, and at times we don’t; and we got to figure out why is that.”
Midway through our conversation Collins started to hint that some adjustments need to be made, at least on the defensive side of the ball, which is what he knows.
“You have to let all the playmakers on defense make plays..because that is what we did last year.”
I was told Tuesday evening, during and after the team meeting on Tuesday, McAdoo made it clear to his coordinators and the rest of his coaches that he wants to make things simpler on defense, so the players can play faster. That is the one of McAdoo's new mandates moving forward, and Collins definitely co-signed on that too when we spoke at length.
“Like look at Seattle. Everybody knows Seattle is a Cover-3 defense correct? They are going to line up and show you they are in Cover-3. You have to go beat them. They are going to tell you what they are in (and then say) now come prove that you can come beat us in that Cover- 3 defense. That is what I am saying basically. We need to get back to our identity and (just be simple) like that again too.”
Collins told me he feels the Giants defense has their own signature they they employed many times last season when the team went 11-5.
“Cover-2 high look, where you see both safeties back high and we are playing stern up front ("like a press Cover-2, cornerbacks down, bumping and pressing the receivers. Keeping the linebackers in the box being able to read run or pass, unconcerned about the outside unless it’s a fake draw), said Collins. “Every time we line up in our Cover-2 defense, it is really hard to beat us. It’s really hard to get a first down on us. We make big plays off of it. We make interceptions off of it.…We can read stuff and play fast. That’s how we get back to us.”
“We kind of have been all over the place, trying stuff instead of just being us,” added Collins.
One of the Giants players who wished to remain anonymous shed more light on how the season has been going on the defensive side thus far when I asked for an example of how things have been ‘all over the place’ as Collins indicated.
“Coach 'Spags' has really just been panicking in the game. He was bringing up calls last week that we a’int seen since training camp. So a lot of us were confused. They had to really just coach us on the sidelines when we came off. Coach Spags called a couple plays in the game that we hadn’t really went over and guys were scrambling. So he definitely really needs to dumb it down.”
Collins offered more of an explanation.
“If you see us showing a 3-high safety or something like that, teams are constantly checking it, so it’s like what can we do to get these teams off our backs? That’s how we are looking at it and Coach Spags is just trying to get a step ahead…Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, (but) we really just need to play us.”
After practice Wednesday coach McAdoo acknowledged to the media he wants things to be less complicated
“I talked to the team about getting back to our identity. Sound, smart and tough. Committed to discipline and poise. That’s something I haven’t been talking enough about and we got back to it. Talked to them about we’re disappointed where we are. We’re not discouraged with where we are. Everything is fixable. We have a lot of pride. We have a lot of fight in that room and they responded as well. We talked about doing simple better. We hit that before. We made it an increased emphasis this week,” McAdoo said.
McAdoo also discussed wanting some of the younger players, like wide receiver Sterling Shepard to step up as a leader during these times and be more vocal.
“I just got to take advantage of this opportunity, especially in our room since guys have went down. Guys that were our leaders, we are kind of running thin on them. It’s time for us to step up,” said Shepard.
“Yes I am comfortable doing it. I been in this situation before in my life. (I) just kind of have to take some things I learned back then, and apply them to now.”
As for offensive adjustments...
“On our side of the ball, I feel like it’s just taking care of the ball. That’s the main thing for us. If you look at it, we had three turnovers in the first quarter (against the Rams) which give them the short field and they capitalized off that. So we got to do a good job of holding onto the ball first,” said Shepard.
McAdoo is setting out to renew the spirits of this 1-7 Giants team and to reinvigorate his message to the players.
“Talked about let’s begin again. That was really the message for them. Don’t buy into the lies. The lies that your feelings are telling you. This thing is not about feelings. It’s a decision and let’s make the decision to begin again,” McAdoo told the media Wednesday.
The question is, is McAdoo’s message too late for this season?
One Giants player indicated that the organization may still be in the midst of rock bottom.
“I would say this last week (against the Rams). Even after the game, a lot of guys were like at their wit's end. You could tell even on the sidelines. I just got the vibe, you can tell when the team has quit and it just felt like we did. It felt like nobody wanted to be there and the whole week (McAdoo) didn’t give us the day off last week (after players returned from the bye). Guys were a little upset about that— even though we did get a bye week—so the morale was kind of shaky. We just worked straight,” said the Giants player anonymously.
Apparently there was some added resentment after some of the players made sure to listen to how coach McAdoo characterized one of the Giants’ worst losses in history in front of a national audience last Sunday.
“I think a lot of the guys watched the press conference after the game like a lot of guys do just to see what (McAdoo) says. When (McAdoo) said ‘um’ to I the question ‘what did you tell the team at halftime’ and (McAdoo) just said ‘um’ he didn’t really have anything. Man, he didn’t really have anything for us when we came back in the locker room too. It was just kind of like the same, old same old. You can just see guys were like, you can just tell that nobody was kind of following it.”
Part of the a coach’s job includes motivating players, both intrinsically and extrinsically. But I’ve been told by people in the organization, not just the players that being inspirational is not McAdoo’s strongest skill.
“No, not at all….I’m going to keep it 100 and I’m going to tell it like it is and it’s terrible man. I feel like we really don’t got a leader in coach McAdoo. It’s weird man. It’s hard to explain,” said a Giants player who wished to remain anonymous.
“Going from Coach (Tom) Coughlin a leader who just had that presence. Like if you were doing something wrong, like on the phone in the hallway walking by, like (Coughlin) is going to say something to you. Coach McAdoo on the other hand would see you on the phone in the hallway, walk by you and then fine you…So just the way (McAdoo) goes about things are a lot different. He’s not really confrontational when it comes to certain things and that is just what it has been. (McAdoo) said he’s had more fines at this point in the year than he had all last year, so I don’t know.”
On Tuesday, the same day some Giants players told me McAdoo made it known that he wants to at least try to simplify things on defense, there was still evidence some dysfunction remains—an unsurprising occurrence on a losing team with high expectations.
“We were in the meeting room and Coach Spags is just going over plays and then when he asked “Player X” a question about the play that that player was in on “Player X” replied just blatantly. I mean coach McAdoo was in there, I mean everybody was in there, in the defensive meeting room and “Player X” was like, ‘coach I’m not with that today.’ That was it, and coach Spags just kind of moved on…Everyone was just kind of quiet and let it go…I know a couple coaches wanted to talk to “Player X” to find out if everything is ok. It just seems like it was coming from a place of frustration for sure.”
But Rodgers-Cromartie is adamant things can get better. His tone is admittedly rooted from his experience in the league and everything he says he’s been through that leaves him, mostly unflappable under adversity--suspension aside.
“At the end of the day we have eight more games to get it right.
(The Rams game) was terrible. I ain’t never seen nothing like that in my life. In that game you had people running wide open. Ain’t no way in hell anybody expected us to come off a bye and play like that.”
“But I’m telling you (McAdoo) has our support..It’s just been a tough season. It is what it is,” said Rodgers-Cromartie.
“It’s everybody's fault. It’s not just one person to blame. Can’t just blame coach McAdoo. Can’t blame Mr. (Jerry) Reese. Can’t blame the offensive staff. It’s everybody. We try to do what the coaches say, but at the same time (playing an over-complicated defense) is not us. We are just not buying into what’s going on (before.)," said Collins.
Collins told me in the locker room Wednesday that practice on defense was much better. He felt they were playing faster and the re-signing of linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has been helpful. “It’s been good,” Collins told me.
“It took us what (8) games to figure this out….We are 1-7. You feel me…and not too long ago they had a 9-7 team that went to the playoffs. So hey, we just make a run, play giants defense and play simple, I don’t see why we can’t do it again,” said Collins.
I asked Collins if he would still be this upbeat and continue to show faith in Giants leadership, even if they were 1-15, 1-32?
“Basically if I played for the Cleveland Browns and the losing seasons that they have had, I would still have my team’s back, coaching staff and all. If i was playing for Nick Saban’s Alabama team and he was calling the worst stuff I ever heard in my life and we were having a losing streak —and everybody knows Alabama does not lose— I would not down my teammates, nor my coaches nor my coaching staff.”