I.

At around 7:30 last night, when any illusions about another miracle comeback had vanished, I recalled an incident from my sophomore year of high school. Our baseball team, which was a mediocre, underachieving bunch at the time, showed up to a key Saturday game and turned in a performance as unconscionably listless as the Giants’ on Sunday.

After the game, our coach made us sit on the metal bleachers while he exchanged courtesies with the opposing coach and packed up his stuff. We sat there and waited as the fear built up – nobody said a word. Some of the guys had obviously come in hung over. Some had come in sleepy. Some just didn’t want to be there. Some had actually played hard, but poorly. Now we were paying the price, as we contemplated the torrent of abuse that would surely rain down on us. The coach walked toward us.

“I’m not gonna yell at you,” he began. It was pretty clear what he was trying to do with this one. It’s the old “Coach walking out of practice move.” The team is supposed to feel so ashamed at their performance that the harshest words are no words – you are just left to contemplate your shittiness. The silent contemplation of the disgraceful effort was supposed to send us into a weekend of shame and soul-searching, which would ultimately lead to more urgent play the next week.

Nobody said anything – we knew what he was doing and were perfectly happy to play along. Perhaps too happy, because it couldn’t have been two seconds after the words left his lips that he realized that he had overestimated us.

“Fuck that,” he declared, and the wrath was loosed upon us.

 

II.

It’s the obvious thing to ask, but it bears repeating. It’s really the only thing there is to say. What the fuck? What the fuck is the matter with this team?

I don’t mean to get all Mike Francesa here, but sometimes the guy hits it on the head. To give that kind of showing in that kind of spot it disgraceful. Even if you exclude the Colts game – which I’m not sure should be excluded – that three out of the last four big games that we’ve gone out and showed absolutely nothing.

The Carolina game. The Philly game. And now this one? To quote Karen Hill’s mother in Goodfellas, “What kind of people are these?” Indeed, what kind of a team is this?

After the Carolina game I gave them a break. They were injured on defense and things went bad from the start. It was an awful end to a good season, but horrible games happen.

After the Philly game I tried to let it go. I tried to convince myself that the comeback said more about the character of this team than the hole they dug. “Giant pride,” right?

But now this. 42-3 in the third quarter. There are no more excuses. Something is seriously wrong with this team

 

III.

That said, Jeremy Shockey has no right to bury Coughlin like he did. The way to instill the urgency and discipline that this team lacks is not to humiliate the coach in public; doing so is just another step in the wrong direction.

Besides, for however bad things are, the fact is that it’s still the third game after a playoff season. Shockey was way out of line in opening up the can of worms of questioning the coach. To paraphrase Otter in Animal House, “Only we, the fans, can do that to our coaches.”

I’ve always liked Colonel Tom and I have defended him at every possible turn, but after yesterday, I would be ridiculous if I didn’t have my doubts. The point has been made plenty of times now, but how ironic is it that Colonel Tom, the guy that was supposed to instill discipline into the sloppy atmosphere that characterized the late Fassel regine, is entirely too soft on these guys.

First, Tiki calls him out after the Carolina game. Then Shockey, Burress, Joseph et al don’t show up for minicamp. Then Shockey calls him an ass. Then Plax says publicly that he should loosen up, as if Plax should have any say in the matter. Then they come out like they have in the last couple of games, and now Colonel Tom is supposed to take this from Shockey?

No. Fortunately, the situation was addressed. Colonel Tom did the right thing by not taking this public, but it seems like most of the players had his back. Even Eli called Shockey’s comments “unacceptable.” Whatever anyone’s problem with Coughlin is, he’s the coach. There’s no way this season is going to be successful if guys start ripping the coach this early on.

Either way, as they head into the bye week, the Giants season has reached a critical point.