EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The message sent by New York Giants co-owner John Mara about general manager Jerry Reese after the 2015 season was simple.
"Jerry knows this is on him. I've had that discussion with him," Mara said at the time.
The Giants had finished a 6-10 season, their fourth straight without making the playoffs. The pressure was placed directly on the shoulders of the general manager.
Two years later, what will Mara say to Reese after missing the postseason for the fifth time in six years? It could be "you're fired," and it would be warranted.
The Giants team Reese assembled this year wasn't good enough, and Tom Coughlin is no longer around to be scapegoated. That was the feeling among everyone close to Coughlin when the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach was fired and Reese remained.
Not much has changed. The Giants (2-8) head into a Thanksgiving night matchup with the Washington Redskins in last place in the NFC East and Reese has a target on his back.
His future is among the most pressing subjects for Giants ownership to address after this season concludes. The future of coach Ben McAdoo will be the other major topic after a year filled with drama, losses, controversies and a roster that proved to be nowhere near good enough to compete for the Super Bowl some thought was possible.
Instead, it has become apparent the roster and the playoff berth that came last year during an 11-5 campaign were propped up by Reese's best draft pick, Odell Beckham Jr., who is out for the season with a broken ankle.
"Odell Beckham," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said about the biggest difference in this year's Giants team. "He's the best receiver in the league."
He was Reese's first-round pick in 2014, which seems a world away. That's what happens when things come apart like they have for the Giants this season. The coach and general manager are under fire. Giants ownership issued a statement last week to explain they will "determine the reasons for our poor performance ... at the end of the year" when rumors about their coach reached volumes that could not be ignored.
It's a results-oriented business, and the Giants are among the NFL's worst teams entering Thursday's game against the Redskins. Nothing they can do can save the season, only potentially salvage their jobs.
Reese has to shoulder a good portion of the blame, which he admitted last month. He badly misjudged the state of the offensive line, whiffed on his most expensive free-agent acquisition (wide receiver Brandon Marshall never made an impact before being lost for the season) and some of his most precious draft picks -- inside the top 10 -- have, to date, flopped.
That begins with the underwhelming play of 2015 and '16 first-round selections Ereck Flowers and Eli Apple, both top-10 picks. They are the headlining mistakes over the past six years and have contributed to the Giants' depressed state.
"This roster -- it's my roster. I'm responsible for everybody on the roster and I'll take ownership to where we are right now with this 1-6 start," Reese said during the Giants' bye week, before stating he thought there were good players and shifting blame elsewhere.
There is more than enough finger-pointing to go around, as McAdoo and the players haven't exactly held up their end of the bargain.
But the question the Giants will have to ask themselves at the end of the season is one shared recently by an AFC scout.
“How does [Reese] get the right to pick a top 3 draft choice?”
The draft record
It all started so with promise for Reese. His first draft class as general manager in 2007 was perhaps his best. All seven players made an impact, with second-round selection Steve Smith and fourth-round pick Zak DeOssie turning into Pro Bowl players.
The Giants also won the Super Bowl that season. Reese became the first black general manager to lift the Lombardi trophy. He did it again in the 2011 season. His current résumé: 11 seasons, two Super Bowls, seven missed playoffs.
After that second Super Bowl, the Giants' problems began. Reese drafted just three players who developed into full-time starters in 2012-13, and only one (Justin Pugh) remains on the roster. Only two players he has drafted in 11 seasons (Jason Pierre-Paul and Will Beatty) ever received a long-term extension. That's two out of 78 players to date.
When some of the older players from the Super Bowl years left there wasn't a next generation of young talent to succeed them. Reese has drafted six Pro Bowl players in his 11 years as general manager. That ranks 21st out of 32 teams. One of those six players -- Linval Joseph -- became a Pro Bowler after he left the Giants and the other was DeOssie, a long-snapper.
The others were Beckham, safety Landon Collins, Pierre-Paul and Smith.
A bigger problem might be Reese's lack of mid-to-late-round hits. The Giants have found three players in Rounds 3 through 7 from 2008 to '17 who have become full-time starters for more than a full season. They are linebackers Devon Kennard and Jacquian Williams and wide receiver Mario Manningham.
All this left the Giants' cupboard relatively bare after Reese's second Super Bowl and forced them to restock (especially defensively) by spending last year in the offseason.
Building a defense with players unfamiliar with the Giants way has backfired this season. They allowed 82 points in a two-game stretch to the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers and had a pair of veteran cornerbacks suspended for violations of team rules. It has been an unpredictable debacle.
Who stays, who goes
Mistakes were made this offseason and this season. They were made in droves over the past six years.
McAdoo can't be held responsible for missing the playoffs five of the past six years, though he can be charged with being unable to keep everything under control inside the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this season. Neither can his mentor Coughlin, who was exiled after failing to qualify for the postseason in his final four seasons.
Next in line? Reese. He's the most prominent fireable figurehead remaining and has been responsible for assembling rosters lacking in competent offensive linemen and sufficient weapons to salvage the tail end of quarterback Eli Manning's career. The Giants have been near the bottom of the league in points scored three of the past six years -- even with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
The final six games will go a long way in determining everybody's fate. How Flowers and Apple play might be telling for Reese's future. He might need one or both of them to flourish in order to be charged with the task of selecting so high in next year's draft, because the success of those two players falls on the résumé of the general manager.
"Yeah, well, you're always on notice," Reese said last month. "I've been doing this over 10 years now and every single time -- I’ve been left for dead a lot of times since I've been doing this job and that's just part of the business."
This time it could -- and maybe should -- be for good.