GM Jerry Reese breaks down the state of the Giants at the bye week:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – General manager Jerry Reese today took responsibility for the Giants' 1-6 record, but said it is far too early to give up in the season.
"We have nine games to play and I feel like, don't count us out yet," Reese said in his annual bye week news conference. "We've been left for dead by a lot of people, but don't count us out yet. We're going to go into the second half of the season, give it everything we have, do some self-evaluations and figure out what we can do better, what things we have done good, what we've done bad, how can we manufacture and win football games. That's where our focus is moving forward right now."
The Giants were an 11-5 Wild Card team in 2016, Ben McAdoo's first season as head coach. This year, they were widely expected to be as good or even better, and some prognosticators picked them to win the Super Bowl. But they lost their first five games before defeating Denver. On Sunday, they lost at home to Seattle, 24-7, and currently reside in the NFC East basement.
"That's not where we want to be obviously, but this is where we are," Reese said. "This roster – it's my roster. I'm responsible for everybody on the roster and I'll take ownership to where we are right now with this 1-6 start. I do believe that we still have good players on this roster. I do believe that. I do believe we have to play better, though."
Reese cited numerous reasons why the team hasn't yet done so. One that has been largely overlooked is the players perhaps putting too much credence into those preseason expectations.
"You have to start over every time and you have to earn wins and you have to do it the right way," Reese said. "You have to put in the preparation and you can't walk out there and think people are going to just lay down for you, because people are saying good things about you. You have to earn wins in this league and I think we bought into some of the hype of this is a good-looking football team.
"There was a lot of chatter, a lot of good things were being said about the team. But again, when you have a young team – which we have, a relatively young team – you have to protect against winning. And when you win 11 games, then you've got a little bit of a swagger about you. You come back and say, 'Well, this is pretty easy, we won 11 games with a rookie head coach.' So you come back and think, 'Well, we already got 11 wins.' That's just not how it works. So you have to protect against winning. That's all I can say, you have to protect against winning, you have to start over, you have to put in the work, you've got to play with some passion out there."
Reese said it is not solely McAdoo's responsibility to drive that message home, and he strongly supported the second-year coach.
"No, it's not on the head coach, it's on all of us," Reese said. "When I said, 'Guys, we lose together and we win together,' it's on all of us. It's every single body in this organization.
"Ben, he won 11 games last year as a rookie. It's been a little bit tougher, you can't sneak up on anybody in this league, he has to do better at what his job is and I think he will. And here's why I think that - it's important to him, number one. He's a hard worker, he's smart. He's smarter than all of us in this room, I can tell you that. It's not even close, all of us together, he's smarter than all of us. So, it's important to him, it means something to him. He's not a guy that you can't talk to and give suggestions to. He's going to do whatever is best for this football team."
Some players have drawn more scrutiny than others, and Reese addressed those hot-button topics. One of them is quarterback Eli Manning, who has thrown for less than 140 yards in each of the last two games. The Giants didn't have their three best receivers – Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard - for either of those games, all because of ankle injuries. But the statistics, the Giants' low point (16.0 average per game) and record, and Manning's age (36) have led to questions whether rookie Davis Webb will get a chance to play this season.
"When is that some point?" Reese said. "It's not right now, because we're going to fight with everything we have with these nine games left and hopefully we can turn our season around. …
Eli, just like everybody else on the team, Eli needs to play better. Every position needs to play better."
Including the offensive line, which has frequently been criticized, particularly third-year left tackle Ereck Flowers, the team's first-round draft choice in 2015, who has been a recurrent target.
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"Ereck Flowers – it seems like this is a common theme, everybody wants to beat up on Ereck Flowers," Reese said. "Ereck Flowers is not the reason we're 1-6, okay? He's still a young player, he's been a starter for us for three years. I still believe he will develop and get better. He's gotten better as the season has gone on, so far. But again, it's a common theme for people to take swipes at Ereck. Ereck is not the only reason that we're 1-6."
Reese was asked why he returned the same five starters and didn't "upgrade" the line.
"The starting five, we felt like had a lot of snaps together and we felt like those guys, when you have some continuity in your offensive line, that's a help," Reese said. "We brought (D.J.) Fluker in. We drafted a young kid (Adam Bisnowaty, currently on the practice squad). There weren't a lot of choices out there. We looked at a lot of different situations, but there just weren't a lot of offensive line help out there from our perspective. We had an opportunity to get somebody, but we looked at some different situations and it didn't work out for us.
"I think our offensive line – we have some young players. I think they have improved. We've run the ball some, a little better than we have in the past. But you have to be consistent doing it. You have to commit to running the ball some. Do we want to upgrade our offensive line? Of course we do, but is our offensive line comparable to a lot of teams around the National Football League? Absolutely, it is. Whatever we have to do to manufacture wins, you have to do it and we felt like we had some young players in our offensive line that had a lot of snaps together. They flashed some good play at times, but obviously if you're not winning, a lot of things get pointed at. People like to point at the offensive line. It's totally not all on the offensive line. We win as a team. We lose as a team. It's a whole team effort that's caused us to be where we are right now."
And it will take a whole team effort to lift up the Giants and salvage the season. Reese believes the Giants can do exactly that.
"I feel like we have the coaching staff and the players with the pride to be a New York Giant in this organization, and nobody is going to lay down," he said. "We're going to come back after this break and we're going to leave everything out there."