Where do winless NY Giants go from here? NFL Insider on John Mara's conundrum

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Daniel Jones rolls right 9/26 cropped
Daniel Jones rolls right 9/26 cropped

The Giants are headed to a deep, dark place -- a place they didn’t expect to be, and a place they never even wanted to imagine.

And at this point, it’s hard to see how they can avoid it.

The one thing John Mara doesn’t want to do is blow up his entire organization. He doesn’t want to shake up his front office for the second time in four years. He really doesn’t want to bring in an outsider. And he certainly doesn’t want to even ponder firing a third straight head coach after just two seasons.

If he does that, the Giants would become a picture of chaos and dysfunction, which would be heartbreaking for an owner who craves stability only slightly less than he craves wins. His organization would be the laughingstock of the NFL, if it isn’t already.

But the Giants are 0-3 for the second straight year, staring at a brutal seven-game stretch, and coming off four straight seasons of double-digit losses. They’ve been bad for a decade now, and they’re heading in the wrong direction again.

So Mara knows he may not have a choice. The darkness awaits.

“We’re going to be all right guys, you got that?” Joe Judge said as he walked off the postgame podium after the Giants’ heart-breaking, soul-crushing, 17-14 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. “We’ll be all right.”

Maybe someday they will be. But when? And how? The Giants’ first three games were supposed to be the easy part of their schedule. What comes next is an absolutely brutal gauntlet where it’s honestly hard to pick out even a possible win. They go to New Orleans next, for the Saints’ first game back home since Hurricane Ida chased them away. Then they’re on to Dallas before home games against the Rams and undefeated Panthers. Then it’s at Kansas City, home to the surprising Raiders, and at the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

How exactly are they going to be all right?

Because right now it’s all wrong and everyone has had enough. Daniel Jones admitted players are frustrated. And if you weren’t clear on how frustrated the fan base is, check out the boos that rained down on Mara as he was officially retiring Eli Manning’s No. 10 at halftime on Sunday.

For the next few months, you can be sure those are going to ring in his ears.

The Giants, quite simply, have become a complete embarrassment and there is not an obvious light at the end of the tunnel. This season was supposed to be their salvation, the year all the young players GM Dave Gettleman has been accumulating finally come together into a playoff team. It was the year where Jones was going to arrive as an NFL quarterback and Judge was going to show he was the right choice, not just a surprising choice, to be the Giants’ coach.

At least Jones is looking good. The rest? Not so much. And that’s going to put Mara in a very unwanted spot this offseason, if not before. He can’t possibly justify bringing back Gettleman, his 70-year-old GM, if this season continues to head in this depressing direction. And he might have a hard time justifying what would almost certainly be his next preference -- promoting Gettleman’s replacement from within.

And if he’s forced to look outside for the first time since then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle pushed George Young on the Mara family way back in 1979, all bets are off. It’s inconceivable that Mara would fire Judge after two seasons, after firing Pat Shurmur after two seasons, and after Ben McAdoo didn’t even get that long. But if a new GM has a new idea and a coach he likes better, it’s not impossible to imagine

The more this spirals, the more all bets are off.

Yes, there certainly is a long way to go this season. No one is getting fired at 0-3. And while Mara is undoubtedly furious, he has always managed to calm himself down before he makes any rash decisions. But even his mind is surely racing ahead, fearful of the direction this train is headed. He likes Gettleman. He loves stability. But he surely realizes both are slipping through his grasp.

Could it all be turned around? Sure. Judge, who is trying to ooze positivity while his team just oozes, seems to be a firm believer that if his team stays the course, everything will be just fine.

“I think the DNA of our team is a team that comes back and goes to work,” Judge said. “Look, no one is going to be happy after a loss, that’s the reality of what it is. The element of what we do as professionals (is) we’ve got to come back and go to work. In terms of the morale of the team, I trust in the way the guys work.”

That’s quaint, but this shipwreck is beyond that now. They can work all they want and maybe they can steal a game or two over the next seven, but can they possibly win enough the rest of the way to actually salvage their season? They’d probably need to go 9-5, minimum, to make the playoffs. Can they even come close with their painful schedule? Or even close enough to convince Mara to return in 2022 with the status quo?

In the darkness of 0-3, that’s hard to see. And it’s getting darker by the minute. This is such a mess, the hole is so deep, the Giants just might not be able to find their way out.

“Where do we go from here?” asked Giants safety Logan Ryan. “Keep on trucking.”

That’s all they can do. But if they don’t get that truck going in the right direction quickly, then pretty soon Mara will have no choice but to back the truck up to the Giants offices to clear everybody out.