EAST RUTHERFORD — Believing the team was spiraling out of control, the New York Giants went out of character by making two major in-season moves, firing coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.
With the team reeling at 2-10 in a season in which many observers had figured the team was capable of challenging for a Super Bowl, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch reached the decision Monday morning. It came less than a day after the Giants lost in Oakland, with quarterback Eli Manning benched and the offensively inept team performing poorly again.
“We agreed that wholesale changes to this organization needed to be made to get us back to the team we expect it to be,” Mara said at a hastily called news conference. “We also agreed it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will take over as interim coach for the final four games. He coached the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.
Mara said he did not know whether Manning will return as the starter this weekend against Dallas, saying the decision will be made by Spagnuolo.
Mara said neither McAdoo nor Reese was surprised by the decision, saying they were both professionals. He said his meeting with Reese was more emotional because the two had worked together since 1994.
“I don’t think there was any one final straw,” Mara said. “I just think that where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we’re 2-10. We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul. I don’t think there was any one event or one final act to precipitate that.”
Many felt the benching earlier last week of the well-liked Manning, the face of the franchise and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was the deciding factor.
McAdoo also would have been subjected to howls from fans with three of the final four games at home, starting this weekend.
The moves come less than a year after the 40-year-old McAdoo ended a four-year Giants playoff drought in his first season, going 11-6, including the postseason. That record was aided in large part by Reese’s outstanding work in the free agent market that rebuilt the defense.
While the 2016 season ended in a loss to Green Bay in the wild-card game, this year was supposed to be better. Much better.
The offense was bolstered by signing free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the drafting of tight end Evan Engram in the first round. The defense was back with the major exception of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
A fifth Super Bowl was in everyone’s sights if the offensive line could improve.
It fizzled from the start. The Giants lost their first five games. The line was inept. The defense underperformed, then the injury bug decimated the roster.
“This has been the perfect storm this season,” Mara said. “Everything that could have gone wrong this season has gone wrong.”
Assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will take over on an interim basis for Reese, who became GM in 2007 and had two Super Bowl wins on his resume. But the Giants missed the playoffs four times in the last five years, and his failure to address those offensive line problems this past offseason played a major role in a horrible season.
Mara said Abrams and Spagnuolo will be offered the chance to continue in their interim jobs. Former general manager Ernie Accorsi will be a consultant in hiring a new GM, whom Mara wants in place before a coach.
Mara has candidates in mind for general manager and said it’s possible a new GM could be in place before the season ends.
The moves came less than a week after McAdoo made one of the biggest mistakes of his short tenure, mishandling the decision to bench Manning. Mara was forced to address the matter the following day and said he wished the decision had been handled better.
McAdoo had a 13-16 record, and his firing is the first midseason head-coaching move by the Giants since Bill Arnsparger was replaced seven games into the 1976 season by John McVay. The 2-10 mark is the Giants’ worst since they were 2-10 in 1976, and their worst since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.
With the losses, word started to emerge that McAdoo was losing the team. His one-game suspensions of popular cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins heightened the problem.
Mara and Tisch came to McAdoo’s defense after an embarrassing loss to the then-winless 49ers on Nov. 12, saying his job was safe until the end of the season.
“To be honest with you, it became more and more apparent that we were going to have to do something at the end of the season, so we talked after the game and again this morning about why prolong it any longer?” Mara said Monday. “Why not just get it done now?”
The Giants hired McAdoo away from Green Bay in 2014 to serve as Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator. He was elevated to head coach on Jan. 14, 2016, less than two weeks after Coughlin was forced out after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
McAdoo’s first season was exceptional. His second was a fiasco.
“Our team is not good enough,” Mara said.