EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It has been more than 41 years now since the Giants fired Bill Arnsparger seven games (and seven losses) into the 1976 season. It was the last time Giants ownership changed coaches midseason. And on Monday, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch made it clear they have no plans to do it again now.
When they did, with their statement of "support" for the embattled Ben McAdoo, they essentially ignored the mob with the fire and pitchforks gathering outside the gates of MetLife Stadium. They put aside their own anger at what they called this "extremely disappointing season" and the "inexcusable and frustrating" performance the last two weeks. And Mara suppressed what we know from his past statements is his own inner urge to fire everyone in the middle of disasters like this.
They also put off what seems to be inevitable -- the firing of McAdoo and the reset of a franchise that has clearly lost its way.
And you know what? Despite the increased anger of a fan base that will likely be largely absent for the four remaining home games this season, Mara and Tisch were right to wait.
There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to be gained by firing a coach in the middle of a miserable season in the NFL. Sure it works in other sports at times, but they all have longer seasons and far-less-complicated schemes that are tied to new coaching staffs. In football, an interim coach is nothing but a placeholder, often stuck watching as the storm around him gets worse.
That's the general reason why the Giants did what they always do -- pushed off any big decisions until after the season. Here are a few more specific reasons why they're keeping McAdoo around for now:
There's no viable replacement on staff
It might be a different situation if there was a coach on staff the Giants would seriously consider to replace McAdoo in 2018 and they wanted to evaluate how he did in the midst of a crisis. But after going the internal route when they nudged Tom Coughlin out the door two years ago, the feeling is that if the Giants make any changes they're going to clean house -- especially on the coaching staff. So the players would know that whoever took over would be gone in a month and a half.
Besides, who would that be? The most logical candidate is defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former head coach (with the Rams) and an incredibly popular man inside the Giants' building. But his defense is, amazingly, the biggest problem on this team. The discipline problems and the anonymous sources ripping the coaches all seem to come from his side of the ball. Add in the fact that his defense might be the NFL's worst for the second time in three years, and he clearly wouldn't deserve the promotion.
What about offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan? There was some buzz about a head-coaching candidate a few years ago, but his work on McAdoo's offense hasn't exactly been stellar. He'd also presumably have to give up play-calling duties, which would give the Giants their third different play-caller this year for an offense that is already a mess. That doesn't make much sense.
It could make even more players quit
"Quit" is such an ugly word in sports, but it was sure hard not to use it during the Giants' 31-21 loss in San Francisco, particularly about some defensive players and specifically about cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Whether that's fair or not, it's certainly a safe assumption that players are not giving it their all for a 1-8 team the same way they would for a team that's, say, 6-3.
How would a coaching change fix that? They're certainly not going to rally around an interim coach they know will be gone shortly. In fact, more might be emboldened to give up if the organization officially raised the white flag of surrender. There's no way these guys play harder for a coach they know will be gone in seven weeks. Sure, McAdoo may be gone too, but at the moment they can only assume that, they don't know for sure.
That tiny sliver of doubt might be enough to prevent a few more players going the way of the "Jackrabbit."
It's not going to make fans show up
The most amazing part of this collapse is that there are still seven games remaining -- including four home games. And as we know, nothing affects the Giants owners like the sight of empty seats and a few angry fans in their building in the second half of the season. It could be ugly.
But seriously, what could possibly prevent that now? Yes, die-hards will be there, but if you've already made the decision not to show -- or will make that decision for the three December games -- why would an interim coach change your mind? Could you possibly be that excited about seeing Sullivan or Spagnuolo on the sidelines coaching a 1-8 (or worse) team? Seems doubtful.
There's no time for a magic jolt to save the season
It's over. Even a 7-0 finish likely leaves the Giants outside of the playoff picture. Plus, the Giants still don't have Odell Beckham, Jr. and they are now missing several key players due to injuries. They are undermanned, they are giving questionable effort. Even if they get a short-term spark from a new coach, what's the upside? A 3-4 finish? In the end, even a minor miracle leaves them in the same place (albeit with a worse draft pick).
Really, there's almost nothing that can happen the rest of the way to make people feel better about this mess.