The New York Giants are not only fading in this dismal season, tempers are getting short.
For the first time — at least publically — a rift could be developing between the struggling, mistake-prone offense and a defense that has been asked time and time again to keep the team in games.
The frustration boiled over Sunday after a 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Safety Antrel Rolle said some teammates lacked passion, heart and even a pulse, comments clearly directed toward the offense.
Tight end Brandon Myers later tweeted he was “cussed out” for telling people they played well, and denied not being passionate.
“Am I surprised by it? No!” coach Tom Coughlin said of the rift Monday, a day after the Giants (5-9) were guaranteed their first losing season since 2004. “I was surprised by some of what was made of it. But we have an outstanding group of guys, and they are competitive and it was a difficult loss in a frustrating year, to be honest with you, and so some of that came out.
“But today is a day of, as I put it, healing again, recognizing who we are.”
For the record, the Giants are a team that has missed the playoffs four of the past five seasons. The offense that was supposed to carry the team has been pathetic. It gained 181 yards against the league’s top-ranked defense. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is having one of his worst seasons. He threw a career-high five interceptions Sunday, pushing his total to 25, tying his single-season high.
Rolle defended his comments Monday. All the defense wants is to see the offense as a whole show more fight and passion. He insisted that he was encouraging them to be better, not seeking to divide the team.
“I didn’t say anything out of anger,” said Rolle, who has been the Giants’ best player with a career-high six interceptions and a team-best 84 tackles. “I said what I felt needed to be said.”
Myers seemingly took it personally.
“If ppl on this team wanna take shots at me an say I have no passion they are mistaken,” he tweeted after the game. “I give everything I have each an every week.”
Myers was apologetic Monday, noting that he overreacted, got emotional and hit the button on the tweet before thinking about what he was saying. He said none of his teammates confronted him after the game, and said his actions showed poor judgment.
“It was an emotional game, and the way we were playing was frustrating,” Myers said. “There are better ways to go about it. Talk about it and be men. Everybody has each other’s backs. We have to move on. It’s not an issue.”
Being out of the playoffs, the Giants placed a lot of emphasis on the game, believing it was a way to gain some respect in a bad season. Instead, they were embarrassed.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, a co-captain along with Rolle, insisted there isn’t a divide growing in the locker room.
“We’re all professionals, we understand what our duties are and what we’re called to do, and when we’re not getting that job done it needs to be somebody that will light a fire,” he said. “I think that’s all that was yesterday.”
The Giants have games at Detroit on Sunday and then home on Dec. 29 against Washington.
Manning hopes the offense can find some answers in the final two games. The chatter after Sunday’s game didn’t bother him, including Coughlin calling the offense’s performance ‘pathetic.’
“There wasn’t anything said that I don’t think that was totally undeserved,” he said. “Offensively, I don’t know whatever word you want to use to describe it is probably pretty accurate. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t a good outing by us and that’s disappointing and upsetting.”
Coughlin did not have a medical update on receiver Victor Cruz, who was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a concussion and a sprained knee. He is two yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season.