Giants coach Pat Shurmur

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Keidel: The Heat Is On Giants To Turn Things Around In 2019

Another Last-Place Finish Could Doom Shurmur, Gettleman

Jason Keidel
December 31, 2018 - 12:38 pm
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Had someone told you four months ago that Week 17 would see Saquon Barkley become just the third rookie in NFL history to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage and the Giants drop 35 points on the Cowboys, you might think it was a preamble to a playoff run.  

But instead Big Blue just blew another game -- to the Cowboys, to the Eagles, to the Falcons, to a conga line of clubs on their way to a soporific season that officially ended Sunday. The Giants left MetLife Stadium with a 5-11 record. Of their 11 losses, four came against teams that finished this season with losing records, five to teams that didn't make the playoffs and five within their division. 

And Sunday's 36-35 loss was especially appalling. Not just because it was a division rival. Not just because it was a way to end the season with at least a smirk. Not just because coach Pat Shurmur declared that the last few games of this forlorn season carry over to next year. 

This loss was most ugly because the Cowboys -- who had already clinched the NFC East -- had nothing to play for. Moreover, Dallas played without their all-world running back, Ezekiel Elliott, who accounts for much of their offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott, of whom many are undecided on his merits as a franchise quarterback, had his best game of the year.

The Cowboys' quarterback tossed four TD passes with a skeleton crew on the field. None of the four scores went to Amari Cooper, who has revived his career and the Cowboys' offense, finishing the game with just 31 yards. But Prescott did find Blake Jarwin for three touchdowns -- the only three the tight end has scored all season.

Even worse, Prescott had his memorable day without his Pro Bowl back and without one of his Pro Bowl linemen, both of whom sat out the game to prep for the playoffs -- foreign soil for the G-Men the last two years. Even worse, the Giants were winning, 35-28, with about 90 seconds left and the Cowboys backed against the fourth-down wall with 15 yards to go.  

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Just stop one play and win the game.

Yet Prescott scrambled around as though he were Fran Tarkenton, long enough to throw an astonishing touchdown pass to Cole Beasley, who lunged and snared the ball just as he was leaving the end zone. Replay showed Beasley scraped his knee along the green turf, making the TD official. The play was recorded as 32 yards, but between Prescott's place on the field and Beasley's circus catch left of the goal post, the football likely flew 45 yards.

Even after the miracle fourth down, the Cowboys were trailing, 35-34. But they went for two points rather than boot the ball and take the game to overtime. Again, Prescott rolled right and chucked a dart into the end zone, giving Dallas its one-point win. 

And perhaps worst of all was the throaty chorus from the stands after Beasley made his highlight-reel grab. There was so much cheering from the Cowboys fans who invaded the Meadowlands it felt like they played the game in Fort Worth. 

The Giants can't take solace in winning two more games than last year. Big Blue has set the bar too high for moral victories or consolation prizes. Dallas had such little incentive and such a dearth of dominant players in uniform that even Las Vegas made the Giants a six-point favorite. The Giants have found so many ways to lose it's hard to tell if they lack talent or toughness, if they need more inspiration or perspiration. 

If the Giants look down the bowels of MetLife, they will see the corporate beheading of Jets coach Todd Bowles, who went 24-40 in four years, each of the last three ending in the cellar in their division. This is the second straight year the G-Men have finished in last place -- they have an aggregate record of 8-24 over that span. 

The Jets may not have a coach, but they at least have a young, gifted quarterback who they believe will lead them to the other side of that .500 firewall that has burned them for so long. Big Blue has an over-the-hill QB, one of the worst offensive lines in the league and a mass of disparate parts on both sides of the ball.

The Giants finished 17th in the NFL in offense and 24th in defense. For the season, they scored 369 points while allowing 412 -- all consistent with a 5-11 club. They were also the worst fourth-quarter defense in the league, yielding an average of 10.6 points.  

If the Giants don't fix this gridiron mess and join the Jets next year with a third-straight trip to the bottom of their division, both Pat Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman could join Bowles in the NFL's recycle bin.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.