New York Giants co-owner John Mara met with media members on Monday afternoon, after the decision to fire longtime general manager Jerry Reese and second-year head coach Ben McAdoo.
As such affairs go, Mara was reasonably forthcoming, and gave some insight into why he and fellow owner Steve Tisch ultimately decided to part ways with Reese and McAdoo. He seemed to want to diffuse the idea that the benching of Eli Manning was solely why McAdoo was fired, and said that if anyone deserves blame for how the Manning situation was handled, it should be him.
“Steve Tisch and I met after the game [the Giants lost to the Raiders on Sunday] and agree to talk this morning, which we did, and we agreed that wholesale changes needed to be made to this organization to get us back to the team that we expect to be, and we also agreed that it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes,” Mara said.
Former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi will serve as a consultant in the search for a new G.M., and that search begins immediately, Mara said. Ultimately, he’d prefer that the general manager be hired first and then a new head coach, though he didn’t rule out hiring the coach first, and also said his “very strong preference” is to keep the traditional power structure of a general manager and head coach, but that he wouldn’t rule out a coach having more say over personnel if it was the right candidate.
As to what led to this point – just a few weeks ago, Mara said there wouldn’t be changes made in-season – he said there was no defining moment, but used some strong language to describe the current status of his franchise.
“I don’t think there was any one final straw, I just think where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we’re 2-10, we’re kind of spiraling of control here,” Mara said. “I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul, I don’t think there was any one event or one final act that precipitated that.”
While he said Manning’s benching wasn’t the deciding factor, Mara did acknowledge the strong public reaction to the move (a group of anonymous fans paid for several “Big Blue Shame On You” billboards along highways near the Giants’ practice facility), and that three of the team’s final four games this season are at home.
“It really had no effect whatsoever; 2-10 is 2-10 and obviously the public reaction to that was not pleasant but that really didn’t have any effect on our decision,” he said.
Mara mentioned the Giants’ 2-10 mark several times, and said he’s embarrassed by the team’s record, especially since expectations were so high this season after last year’s 11-5 record and playoff appearance. But he also noted the “ridiculous” number of injuries they’ve endured. He said he can’t remember looking at the flip card so much during games, to see who New York is playing at spots where the normal starters are injured.
He called it “the perfect storm” of issues hitting the team all at once.
As for the Manning maneuvers, Mara said, “We were and we weren’t (on the same page). Ben came up with the plan and I initially signed off on the plan. My hope had been to talk to him to try to have a little more flexibility with it, to not have a hard-and-fast time when he was going to come out of the game, but by then Eli had rightfully rejected the notion of only starting and playing a half and coming out and we had issued a statement, and it was just too late at that point.”
And he also wanted everyone to stop blaming McAdoo and Reese for what happened with Manning.
“The plan was, Ben was going to talk to Eli, tell him that he was going to start, play the first half, that Geno (Smith) would play the second half. I signed off on that,” Mara said. “But my hope was two things: one, that I was going to speak to Ben and try to get him to be a little more flexible, although I do not like interfering with coaching decisions about who’s going to play, and also, as I said, I was hoping Eli would be playing so well it would be impossible to take him out.
“In any event, it is where it is and you should stop blaming Ben and Jerry on that; if you want to blame anybody for that, blame me. I certainly had the power to overrule it if I wanted to; I chose not to do it.”
Mara said to the best of his knowledge that Spagnuolo had not yet decided whether to give Manning the starting job back, and that his hope is that rookie third-round pick Davis Webb would get some playing time before the season ends.
But Mara will not abide a Colts-style “Suck for Luck” campaign over the final four games of the season.
“I met with all assistant coaches and told them that my expectation is to get them to work hard and to get these players ready to play these last four games,” Mara said. “I told them that I will not put up with any talk in this building of tanking or anything else, that I expect us to go out and try and win these games, and I expect their best efforts to try and get that.
Mara confirmed that assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will serve as interim G.M., and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will serve as interim head coach; Mara asked each man to be a candidate to take over their respective gigs on a full-time basis, and both agreed.