The Giants’ bye week offered a brief reprieve from constant losing but did not quell the many questions about their direction in both the short- and long-term.
Here are five actions we need to see from Big Blue’s brass and players as the Giants (1-7) carry a five-game losing streak into next Monday night’s visit to the San Francisco 49ers (2-7), who are feeling good after last Thursday’s 34-3 obliteration of the despicable Oakland Raiders (1-7) behind a scorching debut from rookie third-string QB Nick Mullens.
1. GM DAVE GETTLEMAN NEEDS TO SPEAK PUBLICLY
Gettleman traded defensive starters Eli Apple and Damon Harrison away for low-round draft picks in October, took calls on players ranging to Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins at the trade deadline, and is overseeing a belated, half-rebuild of sorts after botching his evaluation of the roster in his first offseason — all while Eli Manning continues to start and look like a shell of himself behind an unacceptable offensive line. Gettleman has not spoken to the local New York media on the record since the regular season began. He needs to articulate his new plan publicly, and it can’t be finger-pointing at the mess Jerry Reese left him, because no one wants to hear excuses. It’s time for answers. Plus, a lot of the mess he is cleaning up at this point is no longer Reese’s but Gettleman’s own.
2. HOLD KYLE LAULETTA ACCOUNTABLE, THEN PLAY HIM (EVENTUALLY)
Rookie QB Kyle Lauletta hopefully will explain his actions and his side of the story and stand accountable to his arrest last Tuesday. And head coach Pat Shurmur has to impose the consequences he promised for Lauletta last week, which could mean delaying his debut or giving him no starts at all. But the Giants can’t lose sight of how poorly Manning has played (based on his in-game reactions, we know Shurmur hasn’t), how bad this offense is, and how nothing matters more than the future. The Giants need to get Lauletta some game action.
3. CLARIFY ELI MANNING’S SITUATION
Compounding Manning’s poor play is Giants fans’ frustrations with watching their two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback flounder and take a beating all while the GM and coach and ownership offer no articulated change of plan or clarification or resolution other than ‘let’s get better and go get ’em tomorrow.’ People aren’t stupid, and they have a breaking point. And there is a huge public relations management side to this second half of the season that centers around how the organization handles Manning (after badly mishandling him last season). Will Manning and the team announce that these final eight weeks will be a retirement tour so Manning gets a proper farewell? Will Gettleman and Shurmur definitively say how they intend to proceed with their franchise QB? Or will this just be eight more painful weeks of uncertainty?
4. GIVE FANS A REASON TO COME TO METLIFE STADIUM
Something big to watch from an ownership perspective that didn’t get a ton of attention in Week 8 but will become a bigger problem if the losing continues: there were plenty of empty seats for that Washington game, and by the fourth quarter MetLife Stadium was a ghost town, despite the score being only 10-3 Washington. The Giants are 0-4 at home, but it’s more than that. The fans are disinterested even during close games because the offense really does look that hopeless in person, despite some of the high-end talent on the roster. And they’re also sick of watching Manning go out this way, as a shell of himself behind a line that can’t protect him. Winning next Monday in San Francisco is not only important for Shurmur but for the Giants to be able to sell to fans that their return home for a Week 11 hosting of the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) might be a worthwhile product.
5. CARRY OVER THE WEEK 8 DEFENSIVE EFFORT
Corner B.W. Webb was one of Gettleman’s lone good finds in the offseason (along with Alec Ogletree). Webb cares. And he’s just one of the Giants’ defensive players who I thought showed great fight and persistence in Week 8 against Washington following the trades of Apple and Harrison to the Saints and Lions, respectively. Credit is due to coordinator James Bettcher for this, too, as well as to leaders like Ogletree (inactive but still on the sidelines) and Landon Collins, and to linebacker B.J. Goodson, who was buried on the depth chart early on and is now finally getting a chance. Kerry Wynn should be playing more, too. This defense has had plenty of problems this season, but if they play as hard as they did against Washington for the rest of the season, they should give a team with a respectable offense a chance to compete in some games (big if, I know).