EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants players made it clear on Wednesday that none of their recent controversies were a sign that Ben McAdoo had lost their locker room. It's nothing personal, they insisted. They don't hate him, they said. In fact, they swear they respect him.
Maybe that's true. But they sure do have a funny way of showing it.
Because as much as the Giants - at least those who were willing to talk -- wanted to give the appearance of a happy locker room on Wednesday, that's a tough sell when two prominent players have been suspended in a three-week span for breaking team rules. That's not exactly a show of respect for authority.
And in this case, McAdoo is the authority too many of them have defied.
Now this isn't exactly Ray Handley revisited - a coach whom players stopped respecting and even openly hated. This isn't even Tom Coughlin pre-2007 where there was a thinly-veiled revolt bubbling due to his dictator style and archaic team rules. These Giants don't appear to personally dislike McAdoo or his coaching staff, and there's no sign they've lost faith in his ability to coach.
But they sure are frustrated, unhappy, and in some cases they act like they've given up on the season, and some of that is directed at him. That's the part where McAdoo has lost control, because if his players really, truly respected him and wanted him to succeed one of them would step up and put a stop to the misbehavior.
And that's what seems to be so sorely missing in McAdoo's locker room. Nobody is standing up to scream "Enough!"
"Is it going to happen? Who knows?" said linebacker Jonathan Casillas. "There's guys (that can do it). I can possibly do it. Is it going to happen? I don't know if I'll do it. So far (it hasn't happened) since the suspensions happened, but we did just get back from the bye week."
"I mean, (problems) happens, you know," added quarterback Eli Manning in the most milquetoast way possible when asked about the locker room issues. "I think everybody knows the reasoning for why they're occurring and we got to, obviously, go about our business and then when guys come back, you don't think about it and you keep going."
It's doubtful that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Janoris Jenkins - the two Giants cornerbacks suspended for violating team rules in the last three weeks -- are going to feel bad about letting down their coach and teammates after hearing a response like that.
But give Casillas and Manning credit. They at least stood up and spoke to the media, as team leaders are supposed to do. So did safety Landon Collins, who said "Stuff happens" and somehow attributed the recent controversies to "bad luck". Veteran Jason Pierre-Paul refused to answer any questions. Damon Harrison, as he often does, refused to talk at all. Some others didn't pass through the locker room at all.
Casillas actually even called out Jenkins for his inexplicable behavior - not returning to work on time and not bothering to call and explain. And he said he told as much to Jenkins, too.
"Jackrabbit, I love him to death, but he broke a team rule," Casillas said. "And when you break a rule and get caught, there are consequences. It's not like he didn't do anything. It was kind of inexcusable.
"Whether I support Ben McAdoo or not, he's the head coach. He's doing what he thinks is best for the team."
If that last part doesn't sound like unconditional support of the head coach … well, that's a sentiment that has been bubbling in the locker room for a while. Every successful coach has had a handful of leaders on his team to make sure his rules were followed and that no one stepped out of line. It seems clear, that halfway through his second season, McAdoo still hasn't developed his guys.
In fairness to him, though, winning is the best breeding ground for those kinds of leaders. Before 2007, nobody looked at the Giants locker room and could've easily identified players who had Coughlin's back. Nobody saw a room full of leaders. Two games into that season, with the defense in shambles, Michael Strahan angry, and Antonio Pierce blowing air horns at the media, those future champions looked like a rudderless ship and a leaderless mess.
That's laughable in hindsight, but only because they won. Yes, they probably won because they had strong leaders that held the team together. But how different would everyone view those leaders and that history if they hadn't mounted that infamous goal-line stand in Washington in Week 3?
"(Problems) happen more on bad-record teams than on good-record teams," Casillas said. "But to say someone like NE doesn't have people come in late? That's very false. They just do a better job of keeping things under wraps. Bill Belichick benches guys, but does the locker room fall apart when he benches guys? No, because they're 7-2. It's a difference."
Unfortunately for McAdoo, the losing and the frustration aren't likely to end anytime soon. It's just hard not to wonder if the obvious lack of respect goes deeper than that. How else to explain Jenkins' willingness to simply not show up for work without a phone call? How else to explain DRC's three-day feud with McAdoo and decision to pack his bags and storm out of the facility? How else to explain the reported argument on the sideline that led to Apple's benching and to him questioning the team's "culture" after it happened?
When players step out of line like that it's not because they didn't realize there'd be consequences, it's because they didn't care.
That's why their talk of "respect" for McAdoo rings hollow. Their actions speak far louder than their words. If it's true, as Collins insisted, that McAdoo "hasn't lost the team" then there's an easy way for the Giants to show it.
"At the end of the day, we're professionals," DRC said. "We have to act like it."
That's the best - and only - way to prove they really do respect their head coach.