The New York Giants' season was a never-ending series of missteps and drama.
A team that five years ago couldn't stomach a young cornerback getting tossed in a cold tub had at least a handful of incidents that were far worse. After a 3-13 season, what went wrong? And more importantly, how should the Giants go about fixing it?
"I feel like we had a lot of off-the-field stuff going on that didn't need to be there, and it created some kind of, I don't know, it just wasn't a together team like it was two years ago," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said.
The dysfunction showed on the field and led to the worst season, in terms of wins and losses, in the franchise's 92-year history.
It didn't take long for the Giants to realize that something wasn't right. At least two players said in a Week 1 loss in Dallas that something was off with the defense. The approach and attitude weren't the same as in the previous season, when the Giants went 11-5 and ended a five-year playoff drought. They started this season 0-5, and then the wheels really came off.
Here's a look at some of the issues:
Three in-season suspensions
Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple were all suspended at different points this season. Rodgers-Cromartie was first. He walked off the field and into the locker room during a game, with the intent of leaving the stadium. Jenkins didn't return from the bye week in time for practice and didn't offer an excuse.
"I just didn't show up," he said.
That isn't supposed to happen, especially not with veteran players. But it was hardly the only lack of respect for the team's authority.
Apple went at it with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton throughout the season, according to multiple sources. A screaming match led to the first of several benchings for the second-year cornerback, and a similar incident at practice late in the season led to his suspension.
Apple wasn't happy being on the scout team and got into a heated exchange with a different assistant coach that served as the final straw. He was benched and fined on multiple occasions (including for tweeting on the sideline during a game), was called a "cancer" by safety Landon Collins and had his effort questioned. Collins even had to be held back from fighting Apple in front of a small group, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN after it was reported by NJ Advance Media.
The defensive backs room also had its problems. That contributed to coach Ben McAdoo being fired with four games remaining.
"A good man lost his job," one player said, "because a bunch of kids didn't know how to act."
The Flowers-Hart dynamic
The offensive line is usually one of the closest position groups on a football team. They generally do everything together, on and off the field.
The young tackles isolated themselves from the rest of the line. They didn't go to the movies or attend dinners with the rest of the line. The two weren't even part of the group's Secret Santa. They were detached -- and not by design.
"It was crazy," one lineman said. "I've never seen anything like those guys."
It was like that since Day 1. Hart and Flowers didn't attend the group's end-of-the-year dinner with quarterback Eli Manning during their rookie seasons, according to sources. They instead attended the wide receivers' dinner. Flowers also had a run-in as a rookie with former offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
The relationship among the O-line was never fixed. It only became worse. Veterans were consistently forced to answer publicly for players whose attitude and effort were in question.
The linemen were fed up with Flowers and Hart. Flowers, in particular, wasn't interested in taking advice from the veteran linemen, according to a source. One teammate noted early last week, before Flowers and Hart asked out of the finale because of injury, that they were packed and ready for the season to end.
It's a problem general manager Dave Gettleman has already started mending. He waived Hart over the weekend. Flowers was inactive for the second time in his three-year career. His future could be in doubt.
"You can't play with them," another teammate said.
Curious case of Weston Richburg
Starting center Weston Richburg was watching practice and appeared to be closing in on a return despite dealing with his first career concussion. This was back in late October or early November. There was still plenty of season remaining.
Richburg thought he was going to return in a week or two. He had a discussion with then-general manager Jerry Reese, who expressed excitement about his return. But the following day, Richburg was placed on injured reserve with 10 games remaining, according to a source. The Giants had moved on to Brett Jones.
Richburg didn’t agree with the decision.
“No, I wanted to play,” he said Monday when he returned to the locker room.
He later added: “Absolutely, I don’t want to go [to injured reserve]. I thought I was turning the corner and ready to go, and then that happened.”
Richburg is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
The Eli benching
This is where the Giants' dysfunction reached a national level. The team's brass (at the time John Mara, McAdoo and Reese) concocted a plan that would provide Manning an opportunity to keep his consecutive games streak going while being phased out. Manning rejected the offer to start games but be replaced, and the Giants went to former Jets quarterback Geno Smith, which caused outrage among Giants fans.
By the time the week finished, Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch decided to fire McAdoo and Reese, even though they had sent out a release several weeks earlier saying they wouldn't make any moves during the season.
The negative attention and all the losing forced the Giants to make the moves. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was installed as the interim coach, and the plan at quarterback changed. Rookie Davis Webb never saw the field, despite Mara's being on the record prior to McAdoo's firing saying the rookie quarterback should play.
"I will tell you that Davis should play at some point, and when that is -- I don't like to interfere with those things," Mara said in late November. "I'd like the coach to make that decision. But I think [McAdoo] knows what our feeling is."
McAdoo, who several weeks earlier was criticized by players anonymously, wasn't around the following week. Spagnuolo had no motivation to get Webb into a game ahead of Manning, as he rightfully prioritized winning. Webb didn't take a single snap his rookie season, and he dressed for only the finale.
Par for the course in this mess of a Giants season.