This Giants season is on the verge of skidding off the rails. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney and left tackle Andrew Thomas both are likely to miss time with their injuries, the News has learned.
Toney aggravated his right ankle injury and is being further evaluated, but sources have indicated it’s more serious than a simple sprain.
Thomas now has injuries to both feet. In fact, he was hobbling to keep his injured left foot off the ground when his right ankle got rolled up on in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Rams.
So now Matt Rhule, courted unsuccessfully by the Giants in January 2020, is bringing his wounded Carolina Panthers (3-3) to MetLife Stadium on Sunday looking for a get-right game against the Giants (1-5).
Joe Judge is unlikely to have Saquon Barkley (left ankle), Kenny Golladay (right ankle), Toney and Thomas. And if Sam Darnold and Rhule carve up Pat Graham’s Giants defense, while the Panthers’ defense bombards Daniel Jones, there’s no telling where this season will go next.
Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are the ones who need to speak to the fans now, but they’re both politely declining to talk to the media. Judge was left to assure a disgusted, apathetic fanbase on Monday to trust in his process.
“This is definitely gonna get better,” Judge said. “I can assure everyone out there who’s a Giants fan and wants to know when it’s gonna turn, we’re working tirelessly to make sure we get this thing turned in the right direction — not just for short-term results but for long-term success.”
The fans have caught on, meanwhile, that firing coaches and general managers hasn’t addressed the root cause of this organization’s futility.
The loud boos of Mara at halftime in Week 3 should have been a tipping point. The same goes for Eli Manning’s September admission that he retired in part because of “the losing,” the Giants’ interminable failures at the end of his career.
“The losses hurt more,” Manning said days before his jersey retirement ceremony. “They affect your sleep. They affect your week. It affects family life with my wife and kids and it just got too much.”
Judge wasn’t the coach then. First it was Ben McAdoo paired with GM Jerry Reese. Then it was Pat Shurmur. McAdoo and Reese took them to the playoffs in 2016.
But both McAdoo and Shurmur, who had plenty of flaws as head coaches, ultimately got scapegoated for the organization’s reluctance to move on from Manning and start fresh.
GM Dave Gettleman was simply the captain brought in to execute orders from the admiral, to use a naval analogy. He’s just the trigger man whose offensive line leaks like a capsized vessel four years after he promised to plug the holes.
So now it’s Judge using submarine metaphors to try and keep his team together when the Giants’ real problem is ownership’s mismanagement and the team’s resulting lack of talent or depth on the roster.
Gettleman and Judge are signing inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, 28, to their practice squad, Judge confirmed in a Zoom audio call on Monday.
Judge and Graham undoubtedly plan to play the Houston Texans’ 2018 Pro Bowler as soon as possible to address the vacuum left by Blake Martinez’s season-ending torn ACL.
Judge is also holding his players’ feet to the fire for some less than acceptable effort that he saw in Sunday’s 38-11 defeat.
“In terms of waiting for me to single out a player, I’m not gonna do that,” Judge said. “However the things I didn’t like in the second half or first half in that matter will go fully addressed to the team as a whole and independently.”
There is a numbing quality to this year’s losing, however, with the Giants (19-51, .271) holding the NFL’s worst record and winning percentage since the start of the 2017 season.
Mara and Tisch have forfeited the trust that they will get it right. They have to prove they can again.
In that vein, it is important to heed Judge’s reminder that the Giants are striving “not just for short-term results but for long-term success.”
This was supposed to be a complete rebuild, finally, beginning with Judge’s hiring in January 2020. Ownership’s decision to retain Gettleman was a jarring snap back to reality, however, that Mara and Tisch were folding Judge into the Giants’ program — refusing to completely acknowledge their way was broken and pivot totally to new ideas and thinking.
There is no doubt Mara and Tisch put as much thought and heart into these decisions and into efforts to turn around their franchise as anyone. They care, and they’re trying. They’ve definitely evolved in some areas since Judge arrived.
But they made the mistake of suddenly believing in the spring that it was time to win in 2021.
They saw stadiums opening back up, they wanted to get fans back in the building, and they believed a weak NFC East presented an opportunity to strike.
They abandoned the long-term for short-term gratification in the process, though, and by calculating their team’s potential incorrectly, they are now receiving more criticism for their losing than they would have if they’d patiently stuck to a long-term plan.
And they may have also jeopardized the long-term rebuild with those attempts at quick fixes, like giving big money to Adoree’ Jackson at corner. He has made almost no impact at all.
“It’s just one of those things that is frustrating trying to figure out how to get better and how to do better,” Jackson said of the whole defense’s disappointing season to date.
Offensive tackle Nate Solder, who dislocated a finger in Sunday’s loss, said the players understand the fans’ booing — something that big-money defensive tackle Leonard Williams said “bother[s] me.”
“We are not playing up to our standards,”Solder said. “We need to play better. We’re with the fans on that.”
Judge said this week’s practice will determine who he plays and who he benches.
“In terms of changes, the players that play it the right way, with the way we’re gonna play effort wise and competitive wise for 60 minutes, the players who are most productive, those will be the guys you’ll see on the field,” the head coach said.
Judge isn’t making any play-calling changes with Graham or Jason Garrett.
“At this moment, no,” he said.
But it’s also fair to wonder whether that would even matter. The personnel on the field doesn’t measure up against good opponents. And that’s a byproduct of mismanagement from the top down.