The Giants enjoyed a lot of success, winning four Super Bowl championships over the last 30 years. They won two in Bill Parcells' regime and two more under the guidance of Tom Coughlin. It was a lot for fans to sing the Giants' fight song, "Proud to Be a New York Giant."
But no more. That class and dignity has disappeared this year. It started when prima donna receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. made like a dog and acted like he was peeing on the turf in Philadelphia. It continued when almost the entire secondary was either suspended or reprimanded for bad behavior.
Some of those secondary members, like the well-paid Janoris Jenkins, and the misguided former first round pick Eli Apple, appeared to stop playing in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, a team that was winless before Big Blue came calling. Both Jenkins and Apple looked like they didn't want to make tackles during that loss. On one play, Apple was out of bounds when 49er quarterback C.J. Beathard ran by for a touchdown. He was standing out of bounds. I had never seen that in a football play on any level, even Pop Warner.
Apple was apparently called out for that play and others, like running away from Robert Woods on a touchdown the Los Angeles Rams receiver scored on a play where it was third-and-33. Apple's poor play was pointed out in a film session and he was so angered by it that he considered walking out. But he thought better and returned, but he has not played in a game since.
All of the aforementioned things are bad enough, but the way that beleaguered head coach Ben McAdoo treated his future Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning this week took the cake and placed the entire franchise in a state of disgrace.
I just happened to be covering Giants' practice for Associated Press a few weeks ago, when McAdoo first hinted the idea that he might sit Manning, even though Manning hadn't missed a start in his entire career, dating back to 2004.
When reporters asked Eli about McAdoo floated the idea of sitting Manning down, Eli, like he has done many times in his career, handled the questions like a true professional.
"I'm happy to be out there," Manning said. "I'm able to play through injuries. It's important for me to be out there for my team. I want to play. I play quarterback. I play football. I understand I have a job to do. It's no fun losing games. We're going through a tough time, but we have eight more games and an opportunity to fix it."
Even after the loss to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night, I took part in a conference call that featured Manning.
"It's definitely been a frustrating year," Manning said. "It's not the style of football I'm used to playing. It is frustrating and it is tough. We have to find ways why we're not able to do things. I've missed some throws. Everyone is contributing to our lack of success. I have to make plays. It's been a tough year, but we have five games left and now it's all about pride."
You know, proud to be a New York Giant.
McAdoo was on the same conference call last Friday.
"We're disappointed in the way our offense looked," McAdoo said. "We had a lot of unforced errors. We're going to take a look at it and see what adjustments we can make."
But there was no talk of any quarterback change.
However, three days later, McAdoo announces that the Giants were sending Manning to the bench in favor of Geno Smith, stating that "Geno gives us the best chance to win right now."
And this was done on Tuesday, which is always scheduled as Manning's day to speak to the media. Coincidence? I don't think so.
So then Manning was left to twist in the wind and deal with the issue of the benching head on. Which, by the way, Eli did and did magnificently, like he always has over the last 14 years.
My problem with the whole thing is this: First of all, if McAdoo really wanted to bench Manning, like he hinted at doing three weeks ago, then why didn't he do it then? Why wait until now?
I'd understand it even more if McAdoo said, "We have five games left and we want to see what Davis Webb can do." But no, he chooses to say that Geno Smith _ yes, that same Geno Smith who was a total flame out with the Jets _ gives the Giants a better chance to win than the two-time Super Bowl MVP. Now, how insane is that?
We all know what Geno Smith is capable of. I covered a game a few years ago against the Buffalo Bills that Smith threw three interceptions among his first four passes. He threw the ball to the other team three times in his first four passes. Right there and then, we all knew that Geno Smith was not a good quarterback. But now, McAdoo believes that Geno gives the Giants a better chance to win than the guy who brought two silver trophies to the East Rutherford facility. There's no logic in that whatsoever.
Here's the deal. If McAdoo wanted to make the change, there were better ways of doing it than letting the future Hall of Famer twist in front of his locker Tuesday. I still believe that it was calculated to happen on Eli's talk day with the media. It would have made more sense on the conference call. Did McAdoo just decide on Tuesday that he was going to make the change? Not if he hinted about it three weeks prior.
There's no way that Eli Manning is the source of the problem with the 2-9 Giants. He didn't put that ridiculous offensive line in front of him. That falls in GM Jerry Reese's lap. He's the one who knew last year that Ereck Flowers couldn't block and John Jerry couldn't move laterally, but he thought that if they worked out all during the off-season, they would magically get better. Or that Justin Pugh could play every single position on the line.
Eli Manning wasn't the cause of the injuries to receivers Brandon Marshall and Beckham. Manning wasn't the reason why the rushing attack simply isn't there. Manning didn't instruct the secondary to act like complete lazy jackasses and refuse to tackle people with the ball.
But on Tuesday, McAdoo chose to single out Manning as the reason why the team smells like bad fish.
Manning was the one who went out there and took every single snap, despite being so grossly undermanned. But now, he's the reason.
So now Giants fans are left with Geno Smith? Are you kidding me? That's like going out on a date with Charlize Theron and coming home with Phyllis Diller.
I'm also stunned and shocked that John Mara told sportswriters Wednesday that he was on board with the decision. Here's Mara's quote:
"I had had a conversation with Jerry (Reese) a week or two ago about – and I normally don’t speak to the coach directly about which players are playing and which players are not playing. I’ll have the conversation with Jerry. I mentioned to him a week or two ago – ‘don’t you think it’s time that we start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during the games’ and he agreed. Said he had already had a conversation with Ben (McAdoo) about that. Jerry called me on Monday afternoon, I was at a family function in Virginia, to tell me that Ben was going to be speaking to Eli to let him know that he was going to continue to start the game. He’s going to start the game on Sunday, but that at some point Geno (Smith) would come into the game. Tuesday morning, Jerry called me and said that Eli had informed Ben that ‘if you’re going to play Geno in the second half, you may as well just start him. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to me and I think that would be the best decision going forward.’ And, he also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that. So, that’s what we did."
If the Giants were classy, like they once were, they would have released Manning and let him go elsewhere to play right now. You can be rest assured that Coughlin (who was first told to retire by the Giants, but in reality was fired) would take him in Jacksonville in a heartbeat.
But the Giants, the ones who let Beckham pee and let Jenkins and Apple whiff on tackles, decided to let their two-time Super Bowl MVP to twist and then handle his benching.
This is now a disgraceful franchise, top to bottom. I never would have thought that of Mara, who is a disciple of his father, Wellington, one of the most respected men in the history of the NFL.
As for the coach, he's a complete clown. The general manager has to go, because he constructed this mess. They decided to get rid of Coughlin for some reason and now the team that Coughlin oversees is in first place and the Giants are dead last.
I don't know where the Giants go from here. I was at the game in 1978 when a plane flew over Giants Stadium that said, "Fifteen years of lousy football, we've had enough."
Well, the Giants have reverted back to those days in one single year. They are a laughingstock. And it's only going to get worse Sunday in Oakland, with Geno Smith calling the signals. What a joke!
On Thanksgiving morning, I attended the final high school football game between Madison and Millburn, ending a tradition that lasted 86 years.
I covered 13 of those Turkey Day contests for the Daily Record of Morristown. I first covered the games when the legendary Ted Monica was on the sidelines for the Dodgers and I was overjoyed to see him there with the countless other former Dodger and Miller players that were on the field at halftime. I cherish the times I spent talking football with Monica when I was just starting out in the business and he remembers many of those chats to this day.
I also experienced current coach Chris Kubik's genius over the years, winning five state championships and posting three undefeated campaigns. He's one of the finest football coaches in the state and a credit to the Madison athletic department.
I spoke with my friend, current Madison athletic director Sean Dowling about the demise of the long-standing rivalry.
"The North Jersey Super Football Conference has encouraged us to discontinue the game to give us more flexibility and create more competitive crossover games. We're also looking to pass a new playoff structure. To wait around for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks to play this game is not good. Madison and Millburn really don't have a rivalry in other sports anymore. It's time to end this and move on. It was a great rivalry, but we understand that it's time."
It makes sense, but it still stinks that a long-standing tradition that stood the test of time for 86 years is gone. It was the last Thanksgiving Day game in Morris County and now it's over.
There was something special about seeing football on Thanksgiving morning, then going home to have dinner with the family. I remember the old St. Peter's Prep-Dickinson Turkey Day games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, memories I shared with my late father.
So Madison-Millburn ended with Madison winning 14-7.
I understand the move, but it doesn't mean that I'm applauding it. I wish there was a way to keep the tradition. That's all.
You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com and www.theobserver.com