The last ten years of New York Giants football has been one of the worse stretches in franchise history; they have now lost at least 10 games in five consecutive seasons which is the longest active streak in the NFL. And the fan base who are upset about all this have no one to blame but themselves. Giants operating owner John Mara is taking a beating from fans and media types, the way all owners of perennial losing teams do. Mara’s biggest fault however is being influenced by the noise of the public.
It is conventional wisdom that a sports franchise should never react and make decisions based off what the fans think. The reality however is professional sports is big business and the fans are an essential and integral part of the billion-dollar ecosystem. They are the consumers and like with any business if the consumer becomes unhappy, and there are enough who are unhappy, then it will become a problem and effect business in a negative way. Ownership will take notice and react. There have been plenty of instances when a team’s decisions have been influenced by their fanbase, to deny this would be disingenuous. Fans never want to take any responsibility for decisions that go wrong.
This is why Giants owner John Mara has made some of the moves he has the last few years, many of which have been missteps. But it was the Giants fans who have been at the root of the two most critical decisions: The decision not to move on from Eli Manning years before they did and the firing of general manager Jerry Reese. These two decisions set the negative course of the franchise and they were dictated by the screaming and yelling of Giants fans. Ownership gave the fans what they wanted and now the fans must live with it.
The bottom line is this, the Giants have made the playoffs once in ten seasons. And the one season they did make the playoffs in 2016, the season right before this five-year string of ineptitude began, Eli Manning, who was and is and will always be beloved by the fan base, had a bad season. He had the fourth lowest Quarterback rating of the 30 eligible quarterbacks that season. Only Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a horrible season for the Jets, and Case Keenum had lower QBR’s in 2016. The Giants still finished 11-5 in spite of that. Since 2006 when QBR first began being recorded only two other teams have the made the playoffs with a quarterback who was bottom four in the league in QBR: the 2009 Jets who were 9-7 with Mark Sanchez throwing 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and the 2018 Baltimore Ravens who finished that regular season with rookie Lamar Jackson taking over the starting quarterback spot and led the team to a 6-1 record with his legs before leading the league in touchdowns passes the following season in his MVP campaign in which he finished number one in QBR.
The Giants managed to finish 11-5 with poor quarterback play for two primary reasons, they had a very good defense which finished 2nd in the NFL and Odell Beckham who was in the third season of a historic first three seasons of his career where he was the first receiver in NFL history to have 80 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in the first three seasons of a career. An outstanding defense and Beckham, both of which were a result of decisions made by the general manager. Beckham was a one-man wrecking crew and carried a Giants offense that failed to score 30 points the entire season with Manning at quarterback. Without Beckham the offense would have struggled to move the ball and have been unwatchable. The season before Beckham arrived in New York in the 2014 draft Eli Manning was the worse quarterback in the NFL throwing 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, leading the league in turnovers in a season where the Giants began 0-6. His season was so bad even Geno Smith, who would be the quarterback to replace Manning late in 2017 when he was finally benched for poor play, was a rookie with the Jets in that 2013 season and had less turnovers than Manning.
The Giants should have moved on from Eli Manning at that point. But the fanbase was well behind their hero and would not hear of it. So, Reese had to do the best he could and the first thing he did was draft Beckham in the first round in 2014 with the 12th overall pick. Yet, All fans and media did during the backend of Reese’s tenure with the Giants was criticize him for his selections in the draft and point to that as a reason why he should be fired. But his drafting of Odell Beckham after Manning’s league worse season arguably saved Manning’s career. Because his numbers would have looked far worse than they ended up being in the ensuing years had Beckham not been perhaps the best receiver the league had seen over the first three seasons of a career. Odell saved the offense.
The Giants would lose in the first round of the playoffs in 2016 as Aaron Rodgers vastly outplayed Manning at Lambeau Field. Not only did the Giants fail to score 30 points that season but they failed to score 20 points the final six weeks including that playoff game. Let’s be clear, the team had enough talent to compete for a championship, they just had a quarterback holding them back. Most teams make the playoffs because of good quarterback play. The Giants in 2016 made the playoffs in spite of poor quarterback play and were held back as a team from making a championship run because of it. This cannot be objectively disputed.
Reese gets all the credit for building another championship caliber roster minus the quarterback position which he could not touch. If anyone in the city had held Manning accountable for his shaky play the Giants would have let him go and gotten a better quarterback so they could’ve legitimately competed for a championship. But the public was in denial and would rather blame Odell Beckham Jr. for organizing a trip to Miami with his fellow wide receivers on an off day the week of the playoff game rather than hold the quarterback accountable and see what was painfully obvious and demand better play at the position. This is the point where the Giants streak of five consecutive double digit losing seasons would begin and they have had the worse record in the NFL since.
The following season the team could no longer mask it. Things fell apart beginning when Beckham suffered a season ending ankle injury early in the season on an errant pass from Manning in which Beckham jumped, reached for the ball and got blasted while in a compromising position. Beckham was not there to save Manning and the offense that season. Eli threw 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and the offense failed to score 30 points for a second consecutive season. The schedule got tougher and the defense with no help from the offense was unable to hold it down for a second consecutive season.
They began 0-5 and by week 13 at 2-9 Manning was rightfully benched, in order to give the other quarterback a chance a see what he could do. Giants fans and New York sports media were livid, putting Manning and his feelings ahead of the team, acting as if benching him was unjust and the ultimate move of disrespect. They screamed in unison over the City’s sports talk radio airwaves where fans can be heard and make their presence felt. The next day Reese and Head Coach Ben McAdoo were fired by ownership, giving the fans what they wanted. McAdoo should have been given coach of the year the previous season for getting a team to the playoffs despite the quarterback having a bottom four of the league performance. Instead the fans and media talked about McAdoo like he was a bumbling fool who didn’t know what he was doing and the Giants fired a good head coach and a general manager who built a team talented enough to go 11-5 and make the playoffs with poor quarterback play just the year before.
Giants fans wanted Eli Manning to continue as Giants quarterback and they wanted Reese out. John Mara was influenced by that and gave the fans what they all wanted. The narrative was that the Giants failed Eli instead of Eli failed his team. In came Dave Gettleman as the next general manager. Instead of seeing the situation for what it really was and keeping the talented roster intact, and adding an adequate quarterback, Gettleman kept the quarterback and got rid of everyone was, the real talent on the team, built by his predecessor. Mara and Gettleman gave Manning another year plus to start at quarterback which is what the fans wanted. Be careful what you ask for, because those two moves, urged by the fan base, set back the franchise for years and the remnants of those two moves are still being felt today.