Jerry Reese made it clear last week that he thought the Giants entered this season too full of themselves, lacking the "hunger" and the "fight" they had last season, and they too easily "bought into the hype." Ben McAdoo agreed that was at least partially responsible for the 1-6 start to this season.
And if the Giants did think too highly of themselves at the start, that's clearly over now.
"We were humbled, obviously, the first half of the season," McAdoo said as the Giants returned from their bye week on Monday. "We talked to the players about the first half before we left. We were obviously humbled. One thing I wanted them to keep in mind is: Don't forget how badly you once wanted what you now have."
It's debatable whether the Giants forgot that, or whether they just weren't good enough to duplicate the high-wire act they successfully navigated last season - when they went 11-5, including a remarkable eight wins in games decided by a touchdown or less. The offensive problems that burned them at the start of this season were painfully obvious last season. And it was only a matter of times before their good luck with injuries finally ran out.
Yet Reese didn't blame the lack of depth or the inability to improve the offense - particular the line - for the Giants' problems. He blamed their lack of preparation, the fact that they "didn't go out and strain as hard as you have to strain" to win, and how the team came back and thought "Well, this is pretty easy, we won 11 games with a rookie head coach."
Though Reese denied it, that certainly seemed like a shot at how McAdoo got his team ready.
Asked if he took responsibility for that, McAdoo said "Everything falls on my shoulders."
But that doesn't mean he believes that was the sole reason for the disastrous start to this season.
"Yeah, I think you go back again, you take a look at the first half of the season, (and) I don't think you can point to just one thing," McAdoo said. "Were we a hungry enough football team? You can make a case that we weren't. But, that's just part of it. It's not just one thing."
McAdoo's players were split about how much "hunger" and "passion" was lacking, and whether they really did buy too much into the "hype" that they were going to be a good team.
"I can only speak for me personally and you can look back at what I said: I said, I thought this was the best team that we've had on paper," said right tackle Justin Pugh. "But that doesn't win games for you and obviously that didn't win games for us. But I think in this league if you ever get too high, you ever get too low, this league will humble you real quick."
"I don't know about the hunger part," added defensive end Olivier Vernon. "We've got guys that are fighting. A lot of games that we didn't come up with the wins, we were fighting to get the wins. But we just have to get better, communication-wise and finishing the plays. A lot of the teams we played against, they just made better plays than we did. This year, it's just not going our way right now."
That much is definitely true, whatever the reason, and whether or not it's McAdoo's fault. Though he and Reese seemed to disagree at least a little on the primary reasons for this disastrous season, McAdoo insisted there was no rift between him the Giants general manager.
"One hundred percent, we're on the same page," McAdoo said. "We're tied at the hip. Jerry and I have multiple conversations every day. We have a great relationship - (a) great working relationship. I have a lot of respect for Jerry and everything that he's done in this profession."