SAN FRANCISCO — Evan Engram, the Giants’ rookie tight end and leading receiver, vehemently disagreed with the rats who anonymously ripped Ben McAdoo this week saying the coach has “lost the team” and “guys are giving up.”
“I have all the respect for Coach Mac,” Engram told the Daily News before the Giants (1-7) flew west for the franchise’s first game ever at Levi’s Stadium against the winless 49ers (0-9). “It’s pissing me off cuz I love Coach Mac. He’s been a great help for me in the transition (to the NFL). He’s tough on me. He doesn’t take any B.S. I don’t understand how anybody would say that. I just don’t get it.
“If you’ve got something to say, don’t even say that,” Engram added. “Go say something to Coach about it. Be a man about it. I 100% disagree with it, and I do not want any affiliation with that quote. It’s not how I feel about my coach. We’re fighting our asses off for him.”
Strong words from a young leader. But if the majority of the Giants’ locker room supports McAdoo and agrees with Engram, it’s time for the entire roster to not just say they’re fighting for McAdoo but to actually do it.
If the Giants players truly love McAdoo — Mr. Fake News, himself — their goal should be to save his job.
And while ESPN reported Thursday that the Giants do not intend to make any midseason changes to their front office or coaching staff, it’s hard to believe losing to the winless 49ers wouldn’t sway ownership toward another conclusion.
The Giants’ clear lack of effort on defense in last week’s 51-17 home blowout loss to the L.A. Rams was the kind of performance that gets coaches fired. Engram was obviously furious with being embarrassed and stood out as a player who refused to give up, angrily fighting after the catch, blocking with attitude and snagging a late TD.
It’s time for Engram’s teammates, though, to start putting forth the type of four-quarter efforts that remove all doubt of whether the Giants players back the coach.
Playing their hardest consistently, starting on Sunday, would go a long way toward proving that the snitches who ripped McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in a Wednesday ESPN report are in the minority.
Playing their hardest is required of them and shouldn’t be requested. And in last week’s embarrassing loss, defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, who did not play due to a neck injury, observed “guys kind of folded it up a little bit.”
If all these Giants truly say they don’t share sentiments of at least two anonymous Giants who claim coach Ben McAdoo has lost locker room, then they need to show more than they have recently when they travel to face winless 49ers on Sunday.
“It wasn’t just one, two, three, four people,” Casillas said Thursday. “I think at one point of the game it was like, ‘Alright.’ Guys kind of folded it up a little bit. That’s not to say those guys that were out there on those plays aren’t gonna play next week. It got to a certain point in that game where we were getting beaten so bad, it was just like, ‘Alright.’ Ya know? And I think that happens from time to time. Even the good teams …”
Even the good teams.
Casillas went on to make the point that even winning teams can turn in clunkers that raise eyebrows or let sluggish performances get away from them for a bad final score. But it was striking to hear him say “even the good teams:” At least the Giants know. They are a bad team until they prove otherwise.
Time is running out for the Giants to do that, but right guard D.J. Fluker wants people to know that the Giants “do care” and “want to win. “You start to be starving for a win,” Fluker said. “This locker room is craving a win right now. And that’s what you gotta think about. We’re out there busting our ass.”
Not only that. Fluker hasn’t given up on — ready for this? — an eight-game winning streak to close the regular season, a 9-7 final record, and a Wild Card playoff berth.
“I can’t stop thinking that way,” an animated Fluker told the News. “I want a playoff check. I want to get to the playoffs. I want to see what it’s like to be in a Super Bowl. I haven’t been. I got a second-round playoff loss to Peyton Manning in ’13 (as a Charger). I got a taste of what it’s like. I want to get back. 9-7? OK. We gotta go 1-0 this week? OK.
“Those guys who said that (McAdoo has lost the locker room), their goal should be to go 1-0 this week. That’s my goal,” Fluker added. “I’m still thinking Super Bowl, and I don’t care what nobody says. Fans are gonna say some crap ‘Oh, he crazy!’ OK, cool. But you’re not in my shoes either. You don’t know what it’s like to be out here practicing and giving your all on this field and then going in on Sunday and giving your all.”
Fluker’s goal is admirable and his energy and optimism certainly are contagious. The obvious problem is that the Giants are so decimated by injuries it’s difficult to see the results matching their aspirations, especially with their upcoming schedule.
They are home against the Chiefs next Sunday, at Washington on Thanksgiving night, back in California at Oakland the next Sunday. And in Week 14, when Dallas comes to MetLife Stadium, the Giants could draw Ezekiel Elliott in his first game back from serving the first four games of a six-game suspension, if he successfully appeals.
“We’ve got people hurt,” Fluker said. “We’ve gotta get these young guys to step up, and it doesn’t matter, rookie or not. Anybody can be a leader.”
Like Engram. The 23rd overall first round pick out of Ole Miss leads the Giants in all three primary receiving categories with 34 catches for 412 yards and four TDs. He has a TD catch in three straight games. He needs just one more TD catch to tie Bob Tucker for most TD receptions by a rookie Giants tight end. And Engram is embracing, even at age 23, the role of leader through his actions, demeanor and production in games.
“In a way, yeah,” Engram said when asked if he’s putting more pressure on himself to carry the Giants. “I’m not the only guys out there. I don’t think that way. But yeah, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be that guy. Definitely. It was the same when guys were healthy, but we had other dogs out there, as well.”
Fluker said to a man the Giants all have to “do our jobs better.” And of the rats who said players have given up, Fluker added: “Whoever said that has to do their job better, because they’re probably the main one.”
“You’ve got to protect your players and protect your coach,” the offensive lineman said.
Good words to live by. And while a win over a bad 49ers team with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback isn’t going to save McAdoo’s job on its own, it certainly would be a start for the Giants to begin walking their talk.