GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Of all the things that could've gone wrong for the New York Giants this season, the last thing anyone expected to malfunction was the offense. They had brought back all their key pieces from a top-10 offense, including their play-caller, their quarterback and one of the best receivers in football.
Yet the offense was a disaster, almost right from the start.
The Giants will likely spend the next few weeks and months trying to figure out how it all disintegrated so quickly and why an offense that was ranked in the top 10 for both of Ben McAdoo's two years as offensive coordinator plummeted to 26th in his first year as head coach. The Giants scored almost a touchdown less per game in 2016 than they did one year earlier and gained about 40 yards fewer per game.
They also seemed to get worse late in the season. They didn't score 30 points at all. And they didn't top 20 in their last six games, dating back to when they scored 27 against the woeful Browns on Nov. 27. That stretch, which includes Sunday's 38-13 wild-card loss in Green Bay, was their longest streak of not scoring 20 points in 36 years (since Sept. 22-Oct. 26, 1980).
There's plenty of blame to go around, of course, from McAdoo's play calling and Eli Manning's play to the porous offensive line and the drop-happy receivers. Injuries played a factor (running back Shane Vereen, tight end Will Johnson and for a while guard Justin Pugh), as was the fact that the offense -- with no fullback and questionable tight ends -- was poorly constructed.
But the Giants now need to focus on how to fix it, and whether they can turn the offense around as quickly as they did their defense. They'll have plenty of salary cap space to spend, the security of franchise quarterback under contract and several young and promising stars at key skill positions.
But, when the offseason officially begins next month, the Giants will still have plenty of work to do. Like …
Find a tight end
For years, the Giants seemed to believe they could get by at this position with young players and projects; that they could develop overlooked players like Kevin Boss, Martellus Bennett and Jake Ballard. They did. And honestly, it was just two years ago that it looked like they did it again with Larry Donnell, who had 63 catches for 623 yards and six touchdowns
But Donnell (15-92-1 this season) has proven to be a liability and lost his job this season. Will Tye (48-395-1) is a limited player and not a strong blocker, and seventh-rounder Jerell Adams (16-122-1) might still be a bit of a project. Maybe the Giants can develop one of them, but why mess around?
It's time they hit the market or an early round of the draft to find a true combo tight end with receiving and blocking skills. The position has become too important in today's NFL. Not only is the blocking key since the Giants so often run out of three-receiver sets and other passing formations, but a good tight end can be a matchup nightmare for defenses. And Manning could sure use a big reliable target that he can consistently find in the middle of the field.
Sign a tall receiver to play outside
Ernie Accorsi's original scouting report on Manning read, "When he's inaccurate, he's usually high," and that really hasn't changed. Sure, he's done well with smallish receivers over the years -- like the 5-foot-11 Steve Smith, the 6-foot-1 Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz (6-feet), Sterling Shepard (5-foot-10) and Odell Beckham Jr. (5-foot-11).
But remember when Manning was just coming into his own, and how often the 6-5 Plaxico Burress' long arms bailed him out, or 6-3 Amani Toomer's sideline stretches? Cruz on the outside can't do what a tall receiver can do. Manning needs someone who can out-jump a corner for a fade pass in the end zone, or when streaking down the sidelines.
It's fair to wonder how many of his errant passes would've been incomplete if a couple of his receivers had just a little bit more of a reach.
Be open to moving Ereck Flowers to right tackle
The offensive line got better down the stretch, but Flowers really didn't. He's still only 22 and technique flaws can be corrected -- and hopefully he can grow out of his immaturity -- so it's too early to call him a bust or give up on him yet. But last offseason, the Giants stubbornly refused to even consider moving him to the right side. That caused them to miss on all the available veteran tackles in free agency. They all wanted to play left, where the money usually is.
Granted, moving Flowers from left to right isn't going to make him a better player or suddenly give Manning more time to throw, so a move isn't about Flowers' development. It's about being open to options. The Giants need an upgrade at tackle. They gave up far too much pressure from the edges. So if a veteran tackle is willing to sign with them and he wants to play left, they can't be afraid to make Flowers move.
Give offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan a shot at calling plays
McAdoo didn't suddenly lose the ability to call plays from his two years as offensive coordinator, and given the problems with his offensive line and his personnel issues at tight end, his play calls were hardly the problem (or as unimaginative as some fans like to believe).
Still, there were some questionable ones at times where it seemed he was too locked in to what was on his monstrous play card and lost his feel for the game. A great example was the big third-and-1 late in the first half on Sunday: He gave Bobby Rainey his lone carry of the game while Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins -- far better runners -- sat on the sidelines. Rainey was stuffed, the Giants punted, and eight plays later the Packers scored on a Hail Mary. If McAdoo was free of play-calling duties and could concentrate of the game, maybe he would've seen the folly in that choice.
It might also help the Giants from sometimes seemingly losing sight of Beckham early in the game. Or forgetting about him in key spots in the red zone where the Giants would sometimes oddly turn to their tight ends instead. Maybe the play calls from Sullivan wouldn't be that different. Maybe Manning's progressions would still lead him in other directions. But giving McAdoo an unencumbered look at the game, not blocked by his giant play sheet, might give him a better feel of the flow of the game and could give him some important insight when things start to go wrong.