Year in Review: Recapping New York Giants' 2017 Season

Patricia Traina@Patricia_TrainaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 28, 2017

Year in Review: Recapping New York Giants' 2017 Season

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    Sarah Warnock/Associated Press

    There hasn't been a lot for New York Giants fans to smile about this year. This was, after all, a team that came into the preseason being mentioned as a "Super Bowl contender" following its 11-5 record from the year before.

    Instead, everything that could have gone wrong for the Giants has, in what has not only been one of the most bizarre NFL seasons in the franchise's history but also its worst thanks to its franchise record-setting 13 losses.

    Let's take one last look back at a few of the major storylines—the highs, the lows, the surprises and everything in between—as we prepare to bid adieu to 2017.

The Year of the Ankle (and Other Injuries)

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The 2016 season saw the Giants, previously a top-five contender for the most injured team in the NFL, finally enjoy a relatively healthy season en route to an 11-5 mark.

    Many people tied that success in with the arrival of Aaron Wellman, the new strength and conditioning coach brought in under former head coach Ben McAdoo.

    Unfortunately, though, Wellman's progressive training methods couldn't help the Giants in 2017 in what will unofficially go down as the year of the ankle injury for this team.

    Five players, including receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall and linebacker BJ Goodson, landed on season-ending injured reserve with ankle injuries.

    In fact, the Giants' current injured reserve list consists of 20 players from across the board and includes key starters and reserves such as offensive linemen Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker; defensive backs Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins and linebackers Mark Herzlich and Keenan Robinson.

    Even if the Giants didn't have the other problems that ruined this season, the lack of depth to replace those they lost made it an uphill climb from the get-go.

The Year of the Suspensions

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    For the first time in recent memory, the Giants had three players—all cornerbacks, no less—suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

    Think about that for a moment: The Giants had more players suspended than they had wins.

    The three included veteran corners Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and second-year player Eli Apple.

    Of the three, Apple turned out to be the biggest headache with his petulant ways and disregard for team rules, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, including mouthing off at the coach and insubordination that ultimately led to the team suspending him without pay for the rest of the season, per the official Giants website.

    In addition to the three suspensions, there were at least a trio of instances where players were fined—Apple and running back Paul Perkins were both fined by McAdoo for failing to return from the bye week on time. Apple was also fined for violating the league's social media policy during the loss to the Cowboys.

    In short, when it came to being a disciplined club, the Giants were anything but under McAdoo.

The Year of the Firings

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    The Giants made the wrong kind of history on December 4 when they did something they hadn't done in the franchise's history: They fired both general manager Jerry Reese and head coach McAdoo with the season in progress. 

    Reese's ouster was perhaps long overdue given the repeated failings of his draft classes that left the Giants devoid of talent and forced them to overspend for free-agent mulligans.

    McAdoo, the offensive-minded head coach who was only in his second season, seemed to lose his golden touch with the offense, which failed to score over 30 points in a game since he was named to succeed Tom Coughlin.

    Perhaps even more damning for McAdoo was how he so badly mishandled the benching of franchise quarterback Eli Manning and how his poor communication skills, which often (at least in the beginning of the season) saw him throwing his players under the bus for shortcomings the coaching staff was part of.

    This all contributed to a locker room that lacked energy and showed it on the field week after week.

The Year of the Benching

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    No one on the Giants offense has had a good season, including long-time franchise quarterback Eli Manning.

    Per SB Nation's Thomas George, McAdoo had been complaining about Manning's decline in skills, so when he was given a chance by the team ownership to look at the other quarterbacks on the roster, the former head coach seized the opportunity.

    McAdoo presented a plan to Manning that he likely knew the quarterback would reject. That plan was to allow the 36-year-old to start the first half of the game against the Raiders and then give way in the second half to the younger and more mobile Geno Smith regardless of the score.

    Manning rejected the plan, telling McAdoo he didn't think it was fair to him or Smith.

    Smith, 27, ended up playing the entire game, while Manning saw his streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts end due to the head coach's faith in him wavering.

    That mishandling by McAdoo not only brought another black eye to a franchise that last year dealt with the embarrassment of the Josh Brown fiasco, it was the last straw for team ownership, who was fired the head coach after the team returned from Oakland.

The Year of the Eagles

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    If there was one turning point in the Giants' disastrous season, it came in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Several things of note happened in that ill-fated, 27-24 loss. The first was defensive end Olivier Vernon suffering a sprained ankle that cost him four games. In that quartet of matches, the Giants came up with zero sacks twice.

    The second thing was Odell Beckham Jr.'s bawdy touchdown celebration. The wide receiver, finally healthy from a sprained ankle suffered in the preseason, scored two touchdowns in a matter of two minutes and celebrated the first by dropping to the turf and simulating a urinating dog.

    That classless act drew the ire of team co-owner John Mara, who told the New York Post he was "very unhappy" with Beckham's antics and would deal with the player internally.

    While Beckham's punishment was never made public, the Giants saw a tougher McAdoo from that point on; one who would end up suspending corners Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

    The biggest thing to come out of that game, though, was how the Eagles ended up winning the game.

    With the score tied 24-24 after kicker Jake Elliott had converted a 46-yard field goal with 51 seconds left, he then went on to convert a 61-yard attempt with time expiring to give the Eagles the win.

    That kick, heard up and down the New Jersey Turnpike, ultimately sent the two franchises in different directions, with the Eagles going on to become the NFC's top-seeded playoff team and the Giants headed to no worse than the third overall pick in next spring's draft.

The Year of the Tight End

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    One of the few bright spots for the Giants' 23rd-ranked offense has been the play of rookie tight end Evan Engram, their first-round draft pick this year.

    Engram leads the team in receptions (64), receiving yards (722) and touchdowns scored (six) and it's not even close. When Beckham and Marshall were lost for the season, the rookie picked up the slack by scoring at least one touchdown in four straight games.

    Engram has also been the only Giants receiver this year to have at least one reception in every game played.

    Beyond his receiving skills, the rookie has shown himself to be a decent blocker, delivering a bountiful return on the investment made in his talents.

The Year of the Revolving Offensive Line

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    Former general manager Reese's main reason for not addressing the offensive line last year is that he gambled on the unit of Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart being better after one year together.

    The joke was on Reese. Hart and Flowers struggled—the former left the lineup with an ankle injury early in the season. There began a revolving door on the offensive line, which has seen eight different starting combinations due to injury.

    The biggest sin of Reese's decision is that without adequate depth, often the coaches had to move multiple players around to address one injury. For example, when Hart went out of the lineup, Pugh was moved from left guard to right tackle with Brett Jones moving in at left guard.

    No matter what combination they tried, Manning often had to run for his life to survive, a big reason why both the passing and running games have struggled.

                  

    Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.