Giants try to pick up the pieces

The Sports Xchange

January 03, 2018 at 3:23 pm.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants were supposed to follow up their 11-5 record from 2016 with another and deeper playoff run.

Instead, they proved to be a dysfunctional group of pretenders in what was one of the wildest and disappointing seasons in the franchise’s history, finishing at 3-13.

Internal strife, a struggling offense, poor special teams play, head-scratching personnel decisions, and the collapse of last year’s top-five defense all contributed to the Giants crashing into a million pieces within the first five weeks of the season.

The final straw came in Week 13 when head coach Ben McAdoo presented a plan that resulted in the benching and ending of Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive games started.

After having it suggested by management to see what the team had with its other quarterbacks, McAdoo opted to make Geno Smith, a known entity from his days with the New York Jets, the starter and keep third-round draft pick Davis Webb, thought to be the future at the position, inactive.

The following week, McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese made history when they became the first Giants head coach-general manager combo to be fired in mid-season.

“It was a tough, tough year,” said Manning, who admitted he’s never experienced a season quite like 2017. “Obviously, didn’t win enough games, losing your head coach, lost a lot of guys to injury … that’s football sometimes. You go through tough years and you learn from it and hopefully it makes you appreciate it, work harder to hopefully not go through these types of years again.”

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Tight end Evan Engram developed into everything the Giants hoped he’d be as both a receiver and as a blocker. The rookie stepped up after receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall went down for the season, and finished as the team leader in receiving, with 64 catches for 722 yards and six touchdowns.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Take your pick: 22 players on injured reserve, an offense that couldn’t score 30 points, the embarrassing discipline issues that led to three suspended players (the same number as the team’s wins this year) all qualify. The biggest problem is that former head coach Ben McAdoo seemed to undo all the discipline and structure that was left in place by Tom Coughlin, his predecessor.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Cornerback Eli Apple has all the talent in the world, but a poor attitude that led to numerous discipline issues and ultimately his suspension as well as his alienating his teammates thanks to his half-baked work ethic have officially earned this 2015 first-round draft pick the bust label. Look for Apple, whose demeanor with the team and with the press has screamed of his disdain for being a Giant, to be moved in the offseason.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Tight end Rhett Ellison’s signing raised a few eyebrows given the money he received and the fact that the Giants seemed committed to going back to keeping a fullback on the roster, but the veteran was a steady presence in the passing game, hauling in new career highs in receptions (24), receiving yards (235) and touchdowns (two).

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride is one of the youngest assistant coaches on the Giants staff in terms of pro experience, having worked in the NFL since 2010 (and only with the Giants), but the work he’s done with the tight ends group this season has been a bright spot on a roster that has otherwise basically under performed. Evan Engram has developed into a keeper with his team-leading six touchdowns, while Rhett Ellison had his best season as a pro.