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The 2017 season was supposed to be rock bottom for the Giants. That’s the one where John Mara got so mad that he fired his general manager and coach with four games left in a 3-13 season. Four weeks before that happened, he watched his team suffer a humiliating, 51-17 loss at home to the Los Angeles Rams.
If that feels familiar … well, after the Giants’ embarrassing 38-11 loss to the Rams at home on Sunday, it should. And that brings up this very important question:
Are the Giants really any better now than they were four years ago?
The sad answer is that they might be worse.
Maybe the score wasn’t as bad on Sunday. But these Giants certainly looked as inept as they did at any point in the last four years. Their offense stinks. Their defense is a sieve. Their offensive line looks as bad as it was when GM Dave Gettleman took over on Dec. 28, 2017 and promised to fix it.
It’s like there is literally nothing to show for the last four years of rebuilding – nothing but a 15-38 record under Gettleman’s watch. And despite Joe Judge’s postgame promise that “There’s a lot of ball left to be played,” it feels like things are only going to get worse.
At this point, it is virtually inevitable that the 70-year-old Gettleman will be gone at the end of the season, if Mara even waits that long. Judge’s long-term status has to at least be questionable, too. Because unless you believe in the fantasy that these Giants can somehow win more than one of their next four games, they are looking at a best-case scenario of being 2-8 -- 10 games into a season where they absolutely, positively had to win.
The rest of the season feels like it’s just a formality, leading to a foregone conclusion: Mara has to blow this whole mess up.
“There’s a lot of ball left to be played,” a defiant Judge said after his record as a head coach dropped to 7-15. “We’re in Week 6. So to turn around and start tapping out now ... I don’t know what kind of mentality other people have, but I don’t quit things. These players don’t quit things. We’re not going to do that. Anyone who’s got that mentality of ‘Woe is me,’ what did you think was going to happen? Did you think they were going to go out there, roll the ball out and we were going to walk through every opponent?”
No, but some more competitive football was definitely expected, and probably a few more wins during the soft, early part of their schedule. Regardless, of course Judge was going to look on whatever bright side he can find, because he’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to add his voice to the chorus of doom and gloom surrounding his team.
But it’s hard to view the rest of this season as anything but doomy and gloomy. Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay are probably out for another week at least, and now Kadarius Toney – their exciting rookie receiver – is out with an ankle injury, too. And the offensive line is a crumbling mess, especially now that left tackle Andrew Thomas has added an injured ankle to go with his injured foot.
Remember how that offensive line was Gettleman’s priority job four years ago? It has become a symbol of the failures of the last four years every time quarterback Daniel Jones gets pummeled by an opposing pass rush as he did against the Rams (four sacks, seven hits). It’s easy to forget that Gettleman’s line has been crushed by injuries, including to Thomas and season-ending injuries to center Nick Gates and guard Shane Lemieux.
But the excuses don’t matter. With the Giants on their way to their fourth-straight season of double-digit losses, nobody wants to hear them. All that matters is it’s bad. The same goes for an offense that has been crushed by injuries and a defense that’s been reeling from the loss of middle linebacker Blake Martinez. Nobody wants to hear any of it anymore. All that matters is what the Giants are going to do to fix it.
“We don’t have a room full of guys looking around and wondering,” Judge said. “We don’t have a room full of guys who are waiting for next year. We don’t have a room full of guys who are waiting for someone to show up and save us.”
Maybe not, but somebody needs to save the Giants. And it’s not at all clear that that someone is here. That’s why, barring a shocking turn of events that somehow saves this season, it feels like a lock that Gettleman will be nudged into retirement at the end of the season, rather than get fired.
But the bigger question is whether Mara will go outside the organization for the first time since the NFL forced George Young on the Mara family back in 1979 -- something, by the way, that he absolutely, positively doesn’t want to do. Will he be able to find enough positives in this shipwreck – the franchise quarterback, the dynamic rookie receiver, the … I’m sure there’s something else – to let Gettleman hand the reins to one of his lieutenants like assistant GM Kevin Abrams or their scouting director, Chris Pettit?
The answers may not be coming any time soon, which puts the players and fans of this franchise in an uncomfortably familiar position. They have to endure an 11-game death march towards the end of yet another lost season, watching a team desperately trying to keep its chin up while repeatedly getting punched in the mouth.
“We’re in that submarine right now,” Judge said. “If something happens wrong on that submarine, there’s got to be someone on that ship to step up and save everyone. If there’s a leak, someone’s got to plug it for you. No one is coming. No one will get there in time to help you if you don’t fix it yourself.”
Can they? And does it even really matter anymore? If they do pull out a few surprise wins the rest of the way, will there even be many fans in the building to see it? Judge has been trying to fix this thing for nearly two years. Gettleman’s been at it four years. And the franchise as a whole has been trying to put this broken egg back together again since the 2011 season ended with a Super Bowl championship – a team they ironically honored at halftime on Sunday afternoon.
Nothing has worked, leaving Mara in the painful spot of probably having to blow up his franchise for the second time in four seasons, and maybe to fire a third straight coach after just two seasons on the job. That’s the kind of chaos sowed by the worst franchises in sports.
Sadly, it sure looks like that’s what the Giants have become.