Ben McAdoo’s Giants are 0-5 with the real possibility of heading into their Week 8 bye at 0-7 with no easy win in sight. Odell Beckham is out the rest of the year. Eli Apple said on Sunday that the team needs to “fix” the “culture” that resulted in his benching.
The Giants have a 47.6-percent chance of earning a top-five pick in next spring’s draft, per ESPN’s Football Power Index. The only other two winless teams, the Browns and 49ers, owned the first two NFL draft picks last spring.
These are the junctures when morale can fall off the deep end and a coach can lose a team. Everything McAdoo does now matters tenfold. The players, like middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, have their eyes on “every little thing” the coach does as the leader of a frustrated team to see if McAdoo will “go astray.”
But here’s what might surprise you: Goodson on Tuesday stood up for McAdoo in an interview with the Daily News, saying he believes McAdoo “leads by example,” has “great character,” still “believes,” and is keeping the Giants “caring” and “humbled, grounded and hungry” with his handling of this crisis.
“I love playing for McAdoo, man,” Goodson, 24, a second-year player out of Clemson, said at his locker. “There are so many reasons. I could sit up here (all day). But he leads by example, man. For one, you never want to see a coach go astray. And I feel like in this situation right here, just seeing his response in a situation like this, from the first loss we had all the way through to the last loss, seeing the way he responds is very important.
“Because if he was to respond in a way any differently than he has, then maybe guys do go numb, maybe guys don’t care anymore,” Goodson said. “But the way he’s carried himself and gone on about things, and his messages to us, it keeps us grounded and wanting to work and wanting to fight. Because we know how close we are to getting those wins.”
The counterargument to Goodson’s sentiment is that the Giants’ predicament easily could get worse and add more pressure and anxiety to McAdoo’s job and relationship with the locker room.
Ben McAdoo may not have any wins this season, but he has the support of B.J. Goodson.
(Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
GM Jerry Reese’s offensive tackles, for example, won’t be able to handle pass rushers like Denver’s Von Miller and Seattle’s Michael Bennett the next two weeks – or after the bye, the Chiefs’ Justin Houston in Week 11 and the Raiders’ Khalil Mack in Week 13. That’s four of the Giants’ remaining 11 games right there.
Beckham’s absence is especially demoralizing because now they don’t have a transcendent offensive talent to bail them out, and their defense isn’t anything close to last year’s.
That is why Apple clearly didn’t appreciate being the scapegoat, benched for the first three series last Sunday against the Chargers. He told reporters after the game: “You lose games and it’s got to be someone else’s problem and they look around think, ‘OK, this is the problem.’ But it’s not just one guy – it’s the whole culture, it’s everything. We’ve got to fix it.”
Tuesday, Apple clarified his message was about “getting everybody on the same page, making sure everybody’s mission is to win this game.”
Goodson, though, also said he doesn’t view Sunday’s frustrations from Apple, Landon Collins (saying “ask coach”) and Janoris Jenkins (leaving the field early) as negatives. He views them as proof that McAdoo is keeping the players engaged.
“It’s important that those guys care,” Goodson said. “If they didn’t care, then there would be a problem. Then you have issues within the locker room. The fact that they care, that we feel the hurt and pain – because we all know the work we put in and that we deserve to win – I like the fact that they care as much to be upset about the outcome. It’s normal. The issue is when guys become numb to it, and that’s what you don’t want.”
Eli Apple and others on the Giants have expressed frustration, but B.J. Goodson sees that as a positive that the players still care.
(Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
And he attributes the players’ emotional reactions to the fact that McAdoo doesn’t just stand there wide-eyed after these losses, either. He tries to do something about it.
“He does react, but the way he reacts, the way that he responds is different, from body language, to every little thing,” Goodson said. “I’m a big-time observer, so every little thing that he does, it catches my eye. And the way that he responds – sometimes you don’t know what to expect – but the way he responds keeps you humbled and grounded and hungry for the most part. And he keeps you caring. We’ve just got to keep guys caring, man, and we’ll get it.”
One potential silver lining from a morale standpoint in that vein is that McAdoo now has so many young players, especially on offense, fighting for their NFL careers, they may be too hungry to be complacent.
Wide receivers Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan on the active roster, and Darius Powe on the practice squad, all were just signed out of free agency or off the practice squad. This is their chance to shine, not give up.
Maybe this means that Eli Manning, who is typically bland and even-keeled in his responses, wasn’t blowing smoke Tuesday when he said the mood in the Giants’ locker room is still “good.”
Will it stay that way? Who knows. But Goodson stands behind McAdoo as his coach.
“As long as guys care, man, and are coming to work and working hard and busting their asses, that’s all that you can ask for from everyone,” Goodson said. “Eventually we’ll get the outcome we’re looking for.”