If you were holding out any hope for the New York Giants' 2013 season after their 0-4 start, it was probably shattered by Chip Kelly and his start-up project Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Kelly's Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter, handing Tom Coughlin's ballclub its fifth consecutive loss of the season.
Why can't these Giants get a win?
The Eagles game offered us a glimpse into how ugly New York's situation truly is. Now, 0-5 overall and 0-2 in the NFC East, the Giants have decisively staked their claim as the division's bottom-feeders. Are they really as bad as their record indicates, though? Maybe they're even worse...
Before we dive into the actual game, let's take a moment to fully understand the Giants' 0-5 start to the 2013 season.
Since Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning came to New York in 2004, the Giants have suffered only one losing season. That was the coach-quarterback tandem's first season together. The rookie passer won just a single game after taking over for Kurt Warner midseason, as New York limped its way to a 6-10 finish.
The Giants were bad but still not as bad as they are now. Although the Manning that currently takes the field is now a seasoned vet with a couple of Super Bowl MVPs to his name, his team isn't any better than the one he quarterbacked as a 23-year-old. You have to go back even further to pinpoint just how terrible this Giants team's record suggests it is.
The last time the Giants started 0-5 was 1987, a season marred by a strike and replacement players. No team was particularly strong then, and the makeshift '87 Giants happened to be the worst of the worst for the first month of football that year. They finished the season with a 6-9 record.
You have to go back almost a decade further to find a Giants team as unforgivably terrible as the one that has taken the field this past month. The last time New York kicked off a season with five straight losses was 1979—and that was 34 years ago.
Giants fans under the age of 30 don't know what it's like to root for the league's laughing stock. The Giants have won four Super Bowls since the 1986 season, and during that time nationally recognized stars like Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber and Eli Manning have thrived with Big Blue. New York has come a long way from the days of Joe Pisarcik and "The Fumble," when the entire organization was in the midst of the most miserable stretch in franchise history.
Early in this 2013 season, however, the Giants have taken a sudden and unexpected downward turn. Through five games, the New York Giants have been outscored by 100 points; they have turned the ball over 20 times; the injured reserve has enough members to form a small colony...
Must I explain any further?
Giants' second-year running back David Wilson was so excited when he crossed the goal line for the first time this season, giving his team an early 7-0 lead, that he performed a pair of end-zone backflips to entertain the home crowd at MetLife Stadium.
Things were looking good. The Giants were showing signs of life on their first drive of the game, both through the air and on the ground. The previously inept offense was finally responding to the sedated start to the season, as Wilson enjoyed an encouraging five-yard touchdown scoot. The young back's confidence was surely on the rise.
Perhaps he was a tad too confident two drives later, when the Giants started with the ball backed up on their own 5-yard line. On the first play of the drive—and the final of the first quarter—Wilson was hit in the backfield and, after hesitating, was driven into the end zone. He was lucky to have established forward motion at the 2-yard line, avoiding what looked like a two-point safety for the Eagles.
He wasn't as lucky, however, when it came to his health. Wilson injured his neck on the play; he did not re-enter the game.
After heading to the locker room early in the second quarter, Wilson was spotted on the sideline suited up, apparently ready to go if needed. He then returned to the locker room and was declared out for the remainder of the game on the other side of halftime.
Without Wilson, the Giants offense quickly became one-dimensional. Brandon Jacobs assumed an every-down role, carrying the ball 11 times for 37 yards as the Giants turned to their passing game. New York no longer had a respectable threat to run the ball.
Aside from a two-possession span in the third quarter—in which the Giants assembled back-to-back scoring drives, both capped off by Rueben Randle touchdown catches—New York's offense struggled without its first-round investment in the backfield. In the fourth quarter, it was the worst its looked all season.
Early reports on Wilson's injury claim it's not serious, per Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. But the injuries are really mounting for New York now. In addition to CB Aaron Ross and G Chris Snee being added to the injured reserve list this week, CB Corey Webster, C David Baas, DT Linval Joseph, TE Adrien Robinson and CB Jayron Hosley also missed the game due to injury. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka were each injured at various points in the contest, as well.
While the reported insignificance of Wilson's injury may be good news for your fantasy team, it doesn't do much for the Giants. They needed him on Sunday and—for the most part—they didn't have him.
One thing is for certain: Eli can still seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
Only lately he's been doing it for the wrong team.
Against the Eagles in Week 5, Manning had a solid stat line going—two touchdowns, nearly 300 yards passing and, most importantly, no interceptions. It was in the fourth quarter, however, that Manning tossed all three of his interceptions and committed the final of his three intentional grounding penalties on the day. After a promising start, it ended up being a lousy afternoon for No. 10 in blue.
And it was hardly the first time all year. While Manning hasn't necessarily been at the center of the blame during New York's tumultuous start to the 2013 season, his late-game errors were in the spotlight versus Philadelphia. After all, this was a game in which the Giants were within arms-length of a victory; they actually held a rare second-half lead with less than a third of the game remaining.
As teams have slipped from the Giants' grasp this season, Manning is the one New York turns to. Heroically, he attempts to lift the team on his shoulders, holding out hope that he can somehow pull off a miraculous victory like he has done so many times before. But luck runs dry at some point, and the superhuman run Manning put on in 2011—where he engineered eight game-winning drives for the NFL's first nine-win Super Bowl team—had to come to an end at some point.
Not trusting your teammates is not a sustainable recipe for success.
Manning may have been stripped of his running game and any semblance of chemistry along the offensive line, but those are not excuses for him to make mistakes at the rate in which he's made them in 2013. He now has 12 interceptions, an average of more than two per game. His once-healthy 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio has flip-flopped, as Manning has sunk like a rock from elite to defeat.
All this while his brother Peyton is seemingly having the most perfect season in NFL history.
What lies on the horizon for the Giants' 32-year-old quarterback is uncertain. With his team imploding and a state of flux almost certainly impending, one can only wonder where New York's trusty old signal-caller falls into all of this.
Tom Coughlin hasn't escaped the blame this season, either. Nor does he deserve to. While the fanbase may be quick to turn on the head coach, the fans are correct in the sense that ultimate responsibility for the team's demise falls on the neck of the man in charge.
You can point to Tom's Super Bowl rings, his work with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and his Hall of Fame résumé all you want, but Coughlin had a direct impact in the team's loss versus the Eagles. An impact more noticeable than he has had in recent weeks.
In the first quarter there was the inexplicable acceptance of a holding penalty on Philadelphia center Jason Kelce, which gave the Eagles an additional shot at a third down. Michael Vick was able to convert that third down with a 29-yard run, and Philadelphia was able to cap off what should have been a dead drive with a field goal from Alex Henery.
Later in the game, with the Eagles driving early in the fourth quarter, LeSean McCoy tapped his toes along the sideline for an 11-yard gain and another third-down conversion. Coughlin called a timeout before deciding to challenge the ruling on the field. The play was upheld, and the Giants were charged a second timeout. And there they were, down to one timeout with the second half only three minutes old.
The point is that Coughlin hasn't looked as sharp this season, and his team is a reflection of that. The gaffes, mistakes and mental errors have added up and manifested themselves in the form of turnovers, penalties and overall missed opportunities. The season-high six-turnover performance against Dallas was just as dismal as the season-high 12-penalty (136 yards) performance against Philadelphia.
This team is in a bad place, and it's beginning to look like Coach Coughlin was the one who brought them there.