Less than two years after celebrating their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons with a ticker-tape parade down the Big Apple’s Canyon of Heroes, the New York Giants are the worst team in the NFL.
The record says it all. The mistake-prone Giants are 0-6 following a 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. It makes you wonder if Tom Coughlin’s team can find a way to turn things around.
The start is the worst for the organization since it lost a franchise-worst nine in a row in 1976, a season that saw coach Bill Arnsparger fired after seven games.
Coughlin appears safe for now, thanks to the two titles and the high regard the organization has for him. General manager Jerry Reese might have to worry more after poor drafts, questionable signings and one trip to the playoffs in the past four years.
And that doesn’t include this season.
“There is plenty of blame to go all around, from the coaches to the players,” oft-injured center David Baas said.
The problem for Coughlin and the Giants is that this isn’t a one-year fluke. The slide started in the second half of last season, when New York wasted a 6-2 start. It went 3-5 to miss the playoffs.
That means the Giants are 3-11 in their past 14 regular-season games, and the list of problems is long, starting with two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning.
The usually reliable Manning has thrown a league-high 15 interceptions, matching his total for all of last season.
Eight of the picks have been in the fourth quarter, when New York has been in position to win at least four times.
“It’s not fun playing this game and losing and not feeling like you’re helping your team ...” Manning said. “But it’s not going to change the way I treat each day or treat each practice and treat the games. I’m going to compete. I’m going to work hard and do whatever I can do to try to put our team in a situation to win a game.”
Manning is far from the only problem. Pick a position and it can be criticized.
-The offensive line is not only aging, it is banged-up. Baas has missed four games with neck and knee injuries, and Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee is out for the season with a hip injury. The revamped line that includes No. 1 draft pick Justin Pugh has allowed 16 sacks, four fewer than last season.
-The running game, which was without No. 1 halfback David Wilson on Thursday, has had one 100-yard effort, with castoff veteran Brandon Jacobs getting it against the Bears.
-The receivers have their share of drops, bad routes and blown plays. A pick-6 by Tim Jennings on Thursday came because Manning and second-year receiver Rueben Randle weren’t on the same page. The game was decided when Jennings got his second pick at the Bears 10 with 1:54 to go on a Manning pass off the fingertips of tight end Brandon Myers.
-Defensively, the once-threatening line has generated five sacks in six games and allowed opposing quarterbacks to stand in the pocket without a threat of being touched. Jason Pierre-Paul, the biggest sacks threat up front, isn’t close to top form after offseason back surgery.
-Coupled with the 23 turnovers by the offense, the defense is allowing almost 35 points a game, including at least 30 in each of the first five games, tying an NFL record. The offense had 21 turnovers last season.
New York is minus 16 in turnovers this season.
“I know we are good enough,” defensive captain Antrel Rolle said. “We’re just not putting all the pieces together. Absolutely, we’re good enough. I think right now, personally speaking although it doesn’t mean anything, we could be 5-1 had we fought all four quarters and had we not let the adversity get the best of us.”
If anything has kept the Giants from slipping lower, it’s the 67-year-old Coughlin. He has urged his team to stick together after each loss. He also has been blunt with the players, telling them Friday after throwing away a chance to beat the Bears that the reasons for losing aren’t difficult to understand.
His message: The Giants are beating themselves with mistakes and it has to stop.
“My whole focus is on the team,” said Coughlin, who believes the season can be salvaged if the Giants play better. “I’ll do whatever I have to do help them. We’re all trying.”
While frustrated, veteran cornerback Terrell Thomas said the players are fighting for their coach <0x2014> although it’s more likely the roster will change than the man on the sideline next season, unless Coughlin opts to retire.
“We are a better team,” Thomas said. “We keep ourselves in games and find a way to lose them more times than not. Self-doubt does creep in here. We are human.”
The Giants won’t play again until facing Minnesota in a Monday night game on Oct. 21 at MetLife Stadium.
After going over the video of the Bears game, Coughlin told his team and coaches to take the weekend off.
“Think,” he told them. “Get some rest, think about the situation we’re in and how your part can be a part of the solution.”
After the last 14 games for the Giants, that solution is even more elusive.