EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We are at the point in the New York Giants' season when fans want to fire the coach and replace the quarterback and talk about all the very rash moves they'd like to see in the offseason because they want blood.
You pay -- with your money and your heart -- to follow this team, and you're just sick of it all. The Giants are 3-7, worse after 10 games than they were last year, and all but assured of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. You're hurting, and no one can blame you.
But what's wrong with the Giants isn't the coach. You can't watch these past two games and think they're not playing hard for Tom Coughlin. Until Eli Manning threw five interceptions Sunday in a 16-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, you really couldn't put it on the quarterback -- not this season.
The problem with the Giants is a roster that eroded due to years of lousy drafting and remains in the early stages of an extensive and much-needed rebuild. The Giants entered the past offseason with more than one offseason's worth of work to do, and they'll hit this offseason with a great deal more still to do. No matter who the coach and quarterback are next year or the year after, the Giants retain a crying, fundamental need to fix their foundation -- specifically the offensive line.
It was just too easy for the 49ers' pass rush Sunday, especially once starting right tackle Justin Pugh went out early in the game with a quad injury. The 49ers ran every kind of pass-rush game they could think of at the right side of the Giants' offensive line, where Charles Brown and John Jerry were overwhelmed even when they were one-on-one, and they whacked and harassed Manning all day. They sacked him twice and hit him seven times.
You can say Manning should handle pressure better than he did, and you'd be right. But it's the organization's job to keep the pressure off Manning, and it's painfully obvious this organization still isn't doing a good enough job of it.
"He had great pressure today," Coughlin said of Manning. "I don't think anybody's going to argue with that one, especially when they run a simple T-E up front and hit him full-steam two or three times today."
It's troubling that Jerry and Brown are playing full games at right guard and right tackle this late in the season. The Giants went into free agency and the draft with a mandate to fix the line, and part of what they claimed to do was find enough veteran depth to cover them in case of injury this year. But while Brown and Jerry are both veterans, they're cheap, Band-Aid solutions to a significant problem that can only be fixed through drafting and development. As much fun as rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is, you can still make a convincing case that a first-round offensive lineman would have been a better choice if the Giants were really thinking long-term about their foundation.
They did take Weston Richburg in the second round, and he has started every game so far at left guard. They did sign free-agent guard Geoff Schwartz, who has yet to play because of a toe injury. But the fact that so many leaks still remain speaks to the severity of the problems they were confronting the past offseason. They're still in the early stages of this project. Is Pugh a long-term answer at tackle, or does he need to move to guard? Is Will Beatty really a franchise cornerstone at left tackle, or do they need to make a major investment there? Is Richburg's future at center, or is J.D. Walton a keeper?
The team coming to town next week, the Dallas Cowboys, provides a prime example of what the Giants need to do. After years of neglecting the line and paying the price with underachieving teams, the Cowboys have used their first-round pick on an offensive lineman in three of the past four years and now boast one of the best lines in the league. It's not brain surgery. Looking for cheap solutions in free agency or the middle rounds of the draft is no way to build the most important part of your offensive foundation. You have to spend -- either free-agent money or high picks or both -- to build the line you need in today's NFL.
The Giants have started to at least look like a team that gets this, as they took Pugh in the first round in 2013 and Richburg early in the second this year, but they need to keep after it. They need to make the line a high priority item on which they spend significant resources. Because whatever they end up doing with Manning, and whoever's coaching them into the future, they're not going to be able to score points reliably until they're better up front.