EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As he marched onto the MetLife Stadium field Monday night, Tom Coughlin did not come across like a man one day removed from losing a football game by three touchdowns. The overlord of the Jacksonville Jaguars had two good reasons to project the radiant, puffed-chest vibe of someone who had just won the Super Bowl:
1. He would hold the Lombardi Trophy in his hands during a halftime ceremony honoring the 10-year anniversary of his New York Giants' epic victory over the 18-0 New England Patriots.
2. He would watch live as the former assistant who replaced him, Ben McAdoo, coached like a hopeless rookie at the start of his sophomore year.
Coughlin isn't enthusiastically rooting for McAdoo to lose the way the New York Giants coach lost the home opener to the Detroit Lions by a 24-10 count. But people who know the 71-year-old Jaguars executive say he was more devastated than he publicly let on when he was forced out after the 2015 season. Coughlin is human, and it's perfectly human for a two-time Super Bowl champ separated from a job he adored to hope his successor reminds everyone why he was so valuable in the first place.
On that front, McAdoo is making Coughlin more popular with New Yorkers now than he was during his final four playoff-free seasons.
"Put this game on me," the Giants coach told his players in the locker room.
"Put this game on me," the Giants coach told the reporters in the interview room.
Actually, we'll do McAdoo one better. We'll put the entire 0-2 start on him, even though the hobbled Odell Beckham Jr. couldn't go against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 and couldn't rise even halfway to his otherworldly standards against the Lions on Monday night. The Giants have scored 13 points in eight quarters of play; they haven't scored fewer points in their first two games since they managed seven points in the first two games of 1947, when you could buy a gallon of gas for 15 cents.
So far, McAdoo's offense is worth less than that in 2017.
The coach asked for the blame Monday night, but then he placed full culpability for the fourth-and-goal, delay-of-game flag squarely on Eli Manning's shoulder pads.
"Sloppy quarterback play," McAdoo said of the penalty that turned a touchdown attempt into a field goal. Although Manning later admitted that the quarterback is always at fault on delay-of-game calls, McAdoo didn't need to fire that spiral into the back of a two-time Super Bowl MVP who is usually among the league leaders in all accountability metrics.
Bottom line: McAdoo did not have his team ready to start the season. Cast as credible contenders, the Giants were outclassed by the Cowboys on the road last week and by the Lions at home on Monday. They have the same record as their tanking co-tenants, the New York Jets, and they're the only team in the NFC East that isn't 1-1.
"We talk about playing complete, complementary football," McAdoo said. "By no stretch of the imagination did we get that done tonight."
The Giants were an undisciplined, inefficient mess. They recovered a Matthew Stafford fumble in the second quarter and on the very next play handed the ball back to Detroit on a Manning interception. Brandon Marshall dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball down the sideline that helped kill a fourth-quarter possession, and two plays later, the Lions' Jamal Agnew was taking a punt back 88 yards for a score.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers was regularly steamrollered by Ezekiel Ansah, who was responsible for three of Detroit's five sacks. The Giants' running backs managed a grand total of 62 yards after opening with 35 against Dallas, leaving them one fullback dive short of 100 for the year. Fans booed McAdoo's decision to run the ball on third-and-13 on the Giants' opening series and booed again throughout the night. The one time the coach and the crowd were in agreement -- on McAdoo's choice to go for it on fourth down at the 2 --- Manning's apparent preoccupation with a potential blitz pickup rained on the parade as the play clock bled to zero.
"I've got to call a timeout or get it snapped," the quarterback said.
At 36 years old and trying to get by without a healthy Beckham, a productive running game and a functioning line, Manning has looked like a shadow of his former self. But until he plays a full season at this level, Manning has earned the benefit of the doubt. He did once win a championship after an 0-2 start, with the same 2007 Giants who were honored at halftime.
"The defense is playing tough," Manning said. "The offense has got to do our part. We've got to make the plays, and we've got to handle our part of the equation to fix this."
When asked earlier how the offense can be fixed, Manning said, "We've just got to figure out what's our best personnel, what's our best style, how we're going to be able to move the ball."
That sounds like McAdoo's job, and nobody knows if he's capable of doing it. He was never a head coach on any level -- high school included -- before taking over the Giants. Upon arriving in New York as offensive coordinator in 2014, McAdoo's claim to fame was serving as Aaron Rodgers' quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. Of course, being Aaron Rodgers' quarterbacks coach would've been a little like being Luciano Pavarotti's vocals coach. There are only so many ways to screw that up.
Right now, McAdoo is running a McAdon't offense that is almost impossible to watch. The Giants have failed to score 20 points in eight consecutive games. They've failed to score 30 points in any game with McAdoo as head coach.
"The whole offense needs work," he conceded. "We're not in rhythm right now. ... We have to analyze everything we're doing. I mean, we can't pull points out of a hat."
McAdoo said he will consider personnel changes. Asked if he will consider surrendering his playcalling responsibilities, McAdoo said, "We'll consider everything. Yep."
His time for considering is up. McAdoo needs to come out from behind his ever-conspicuous chart, hand over the playcalling to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and focus on the big-picture issues weighing down his team. He needs to be less of a system operator and much more of a motivator and manager.
He has already compromised this year's long-term goals of a deep playoff run and of perhaps winning a title for the first time since Coughlin won his second after the 2011 season. The Giants face three of their next four games on the road against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Denver. If McAdoo doesn't grab hold of his team sooner rather than later, he won't have to bother asking people to assign him the blame.