EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Maybe there's no way for Ben McAdoo to save his head coaching job at this point. Or maybe there's just a sliver of hope that he can convince his bosses to give him one more season.
If there is, he took the first tiny steps toward salvation with his best coaching week of the year.
Sure, the bar was pretty low heading in, but even the most strident McAdoo critics have to give him credit for this. Coming off the worst back-to-back performances by the Giants in recent memory, including a loss to a winless team in which some of his players were accused of outright quitting, McAdoo found some buttons to push, both midweek and in-game on Sunday.
And the result was something nobody really expected: a gutty, 12-9 overtime win over the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs.
"We played like the type of team that we're capable of (being)," McAdoo said. "We played tremendous defense today. We were all over the field. We were flying around, running to the football. That was great to see."
Now, don't get too carried away with the performance. The Chiefs put on a terribly sloppy display of football. Their quarterback, Alex Smith, struggled at times in the wind. The Giants still could barely move the ball against the NFL's third-worst defense. And between big (and sometimes dumb) penalties, a missed extra point, blown assignments and their usual assortments of drops and missed blocks, there were times they looked incapable of getting out of their own way.
But they still somehow won. McAdoo had a team seemingly on the brink of mutiny, with players getting suspended, others anonymously complaining to the press and then giving no-show efforts. He figured out a way to grab their attention. He called his now infamous team meeting on Wednesday when he took the unusual step of making the entire team watch a series of handpicked plays -- including more than a few with questionable efforts. He pulled a few players aside for one-on-one chats.
Then on game day, he opened up his playbook early with a fake punt (A fake punt!?), some clever alignments and even a halfback option pass. Granted, that pass failed. That's not the point. The point is he didn't stick with his old standby plays. He, along with offensive coordinator and play-caller Mike Sullivan, decided to do something to try and spark the team.
Even when it didn't work flawlessly, it seemed to change the energy on the sideline. McAdoo, from afar, appeared to be a little more energetic on the sideline, too.
It was a testament to how much McAdoo -- and his players -- needed a win. Any win.
"Very badly," safety Landon Collins said. "Coming against a good team, even more. Because we were doubted the moment we stepped through the door. When they were put on our schedule we were doubted. From that point on, it was big for us to do what we did today."
"It means a lot, man, because it's against a team that everyone knows is a special team, a playoff-caliber team," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added. "And you go out there and hold them how we did and to get a win at home, I think it takes a little bit off of (McAdoo)."
Temporarily, sure, it does. For one day, McAdoo's awkward press conference answers -- like when he said, "Feelings don't have anything to do with it," after he was asked how it felt to win -- don't really matter. His job security likely won't be much of a question in this short week before the Giants play in Washington on Thanksgiving night, even if his job status is still teetering on the brink. And no one is going to wonder, for a few days at least, if his players are willing to play for him.
They are -- or at least they were on Sunday. It wasn't exactly a big rally around McAdoo in any corner of the locker room, but even if they had their own reasons to do it, they heeded his call to play hard.
"Look, I'm not trying to save coaches' jobs. I'm trying to win games," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "I'm trying to save my own job, to make sure I have a job next year -- you know what I'm saying? Hopefully the better we do, the better that looks on the head coach. The worse we do, the worse that looks on the head coach. I don't think it's a whole thing about us not playing for him or us playing better for him. I think you have to take the onus on yourself."
And they did. But McAdoo -- and what he did this week -- was a big reason why that happened.
"(We) just responded," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "A couple of guys were called out. You know what I think? As a team we went out there and responded well."
Yes they did. Maybe it's all too little, too late. Maybe, as a practical matter, the Giants would've been better off losing to stay closer to the top of the 2018 draft. Or maybe this was one big fluke and the Giants will revert to their awful 2017 form in a few days and ruin everyone's Thanksgiving dinner.
This game, though, was the kind of game that makes the Giants' owners take notice. It makes them look up from their list of future head coaching candidates and take another look at the head coach they already have. Maybe it's only a brief look. But the more the players respond down the stretch to McAdoo's voice or to his actions, the better everyone will feel about him.
Whether or not that changes the big-picture outlook, that remains to be seen. However, that sliver of hope for McAdoo to stick around next season might turn into a little something more with a few more performances -- and weeks -- like this.