Think back to training camp, and the idea that New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese would be fired before the end of the season seems impossible. They were coming off an 11-5 season that ended a five-year playoff drought, and the Giants were favored in some circles to win the NFC East.
McAdoo wasn't beloved, in part because of the way he presented himself publicly, but he appeared to be on solid ground. He had the results in a results-oriented business. Reese had won two Super Bowls during his tenure, which began in 2007.
My, how quickly things fell apart. McAdoo and Reese were fired Monday. McAdoo is out after less than two seasons as Tom Coughlin's successor.
The pair tore apart the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in a matter of months. McAdoo watched his team crumble thanks to injuries and the struggles of benched quarterback Eli Manning and was putting out fires seemingly every week during this unmitigated disaster of a season. He was even bashed anonymously by players following an embarrassing loss to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers.
The Giants (2-10) were eliminated from the playoffs before December.
Put it all together and it's what costs people their jobs. Losing is one thing. Losing in embarrassing ways (allowing 51 points at home to the Rams in Week 9, quitting defensively against the 49ers in Week 10 and looking offensively impotent in front of a national audience vs. the Redskins on Thanksgiving) and incidents that reflect poorly on the organization will get you fired.
It began with five losses to start the season. During that stretch, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. pretended to pee like a dog on the field after celebrating a touchdown. That left ownership "very unhappy," and was enough to put the heat on McAdoo, even after a promising first season.
But that was just the appetizer. It only got worse. McAdoo lost control of his team. He suspended veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a violation of team rules prior to a Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos and then cornerback Janoris Jenkins for not returning on time following the team's bye week. Eli Apple was also benched this season.
The breaking point appears to be the way that McAdoo, and by proxy Reese, handled the benching of Manning. In the end, we'll never know who concocted the flawed plan of allowing Manning to start the Giants' remaining games, only for backups Geno Smith or Davis Webb to replace him midway through those games -- an idea Manning rejected when it was presented to him. We also won't know whether that plan was presented properly (McAdoo said it was, co-owner John Mara said it wasn't), but McAdoo and Reese drew the wrath of the fans.
Hard to believe they didn't know benching a beloved two-time Super Bowl winner for Smith, who lost in his debut Sunday, wouldn't go well. When the dust settled, Manning wasn't happy, ownership was confused and the fans were livid.
This should have been expected. Mara conceded Wednesday that all parties could have handled the situation more delicately and with more compassion.
"I suppose [McAdoo] could have," Mara said. "I don't think that's necessarily his strength, but I suppose he could have. Again, at the end of the day, does it really make any difference? The fact of the matter is it's a major decision for this franchise and with a beloved figure, people are not going to like it."
The fury with which the decision was met -- by current and former players and fans -- was beyond what they expected.
Again, the optics of Manning's benching and McAdoo's tenure as a whole came back by bite him. It most certainly played into the decision to make him the Giants' first coach to be fired before the end of the season since Bill Arnsparger in 1976.
But so did the state of his offense. McAdoo was hired because of his offensive expertise. He got the gig in large part because of the way he helped retune Manning, as offensive coordinator, after a couple of down seasons.
But since McAdoo became the head coach, his offense became problematic. The Giants didn't score much last season (19.4 PPG), and it has only gotten worse this season (15.6 PPG) without Beckham.
The offense was bad, the behavior was bad and the optics were terrible. It all reflected poorly on the coach and general manager.
After last season, when there was so much promise, it's shocking how fast it all fell apart.