Around 8 p.m. Sunday, the season mercifully comes to an end for the Giants, but not before they mercilessly take the Eagles down and out with them. The green-clad visiting fans trudge out of MetLife Stadium having been eliminated from the playoffs in Week 17, by, of all teams, the despised Giants, who head into the offseason knowing they took down a division rival, inflicting some ill cheer for the holidays.
If this scenario plays out, it makes the Giants 5-11, the same as Pat Shurmur’s first year as head coach and ends the season on a three-game winning streak. There is burgeoning belief in Daniel Jones as the rightful heir to Eli Manning’s franchise-quarterback throne and tangible evidence the young players did not quit when times were darkest, and that means there is something to build on.
See where we are going with this?
Giants’ ownership cannot and will not be fooled by this. Not this time. Not again.
The entire body of work, and not the uptick the past few weeks, will be the measuring stick to determine Shurmur’s fate, and just like Carlo had to answer for Santino, Shurmur will have to answer for the nine-game losing streak that spoiled this season rotten.
John Mara and Steve Tisch are not going to be carried away by a wave of positive vibes, if their Giants achieve their most impressive victory in Shurmur’s two seasons. That is what beating the Eagles would be. No matter what happens in the Cowboys-Redskins game played at the same time, if the Eagles take care of business against the Giants, the NFC East is theirs.
“We come out to play every single game to win,” guard Will Hernandez said. “Now you throw on top of the table that we get the chance to spoil their playoff hopes? Then OK, cool.”
It would be cool for the Giants and their fans, but what would it mean?
General manager Dave Gettleman was hired down the stretch of the 2017 season, shortly after Eli Manning threw for 434 yards in a close loss to the Eagles, a performance Gettleman dubbed as “not a mirage” as he committed to Manning for another season as the starting quarterback. Last season, a horrid 1-7 first half gave way to an improved 4-4 second half that convinced Gettleman to stick with Manning again, although it also prompted him to make sure he found Manning’s successor in the draft. That the Giants lost their final three games in 2018 was overshadowed by Gettleman and Shurmur both stressing that the Giants actually led their division in scoring.
What happens after Thanksgiving must always be digested with antacid nearby. Once a team is already out of contention, the stakes are skewed and performances need to be judged with that in mind. Beating the Dolphins in Manning’s final start was heartwarming, and watching Jones toss five touchdown passes and Saquon Barkley run for 189 yards to defeat the Redskins in overtime showed the verve of Gettleman’s two first-round picks. Injecting misery into the Eagles would allow Mara and Tisch to ring in the New Year humming “Fly Eagles Fly” — although helping Jerry Jones’ Cowboys make the playoffs would be the worm at the bottom of the tequila shot.
Too much bad has happened with this franchise for too long now for Mara and Tisch to give Shurmur a pass for what transpired in October and November. That dreadful and inexcusable start (17-0 deficit) at home against the Cardinals. The mistake-filled loss in Detroit. Worst of all, blowing a 27-21 lead to the freaking Jets. A lackluster loss in Chicago. Blowing a 17-3 lead in Philadelphia to a wounded Eagles team.
Ownership is fully aware of what this roster is all about, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to convince Mara and Tisch that coaching did not play a big part in losing to bad or mediocre opponents such as the Cardinals, Lions, Jets and Bears, all non-playoff teams, and that a different man in charge might have avoided the depressing overtime loss in Philly.
This last game, the opponent that arrives in the building will be trying to stave off what the Giants know is coming: Baggie day locker cleanup on Monday.
“When we have the number of young players we have going through it for the first and some of ’em for the second time, learning how to win in December is very important,” Shurmur said, “so when we win more games early in the season it will be meaningful.”
Meaningful games might be coming, but they are not here now. That usually dooms the head coach.
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