Giants’ character-over-talent crusade went way too far

The first crack in the House of Culture revealed itself after the Giants’ eighth straight loss.

Pat Shurmur is going to patch it. The hot-seat head coach is going to hope the foundation put in place for bad times — sturdy so far — holds the roof from caving in because it is too late to have buyer’s remorse.

Janoris Jenkins, one of few accomplished veterans left on the Giants, called out the coaching staff for his usage in a struggling defense. The Packers threw their way to a 31-13 victory by avoiding Jenkins — who stays on the left side of the field and doesn’t shadow top receivers — and targeting the four first- and second-year cornerbacks.

“I’m not sure that’s what he was doing,” Shurmur said when asked about Jenkins criticizing the coaching staff’s scheme. “That may be the impression. I think coaches and players talk about a lot of things behind the scenes. But obviously, anything that we do, we should do behind the scenes.”

The Giants have stayed the course on the way to a 2-10 record. Lots of talk of being close, young and optimistic. Few instances of finger-pointing or lack of effort.

Even a players-only team meeting called by Jenkins and some others in a rare moment of public frustration after a loss in Detroit never fully came to fruition as emotions calmed. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones draws rave reviews for commanding a huddle, but he still is growing into running a locker room.

“With a lot of that stuff, it’s important for me to understand I’m still a rookie and still learning a lot from guys who played a lot more football than me,” Jones said. “But in terms of having those [tough] conversations or approaching people, I’m certainly comfortable and willing to do that.”

It’s a stark contrast to the way things crumbled in 2017 around Ben McAdoo, who was fired with a 13-15 record and a playoff appearance after 28 games. Shurmur is 7-21 through the same point in his tenure after replacing McAdoo.

The Giants prepared for doomsday by bringing in high-character players, but it is alarmingly clear general manager Dave Gettleman went too far in that direction: They sacrificed veteran talent for culture and now simply are not good enough every week for coaching or momentum or hustle to make up the gap.

Time to regret the offseason?

“Unfortunately we don’t have the win total we’re looking for,” Shurmur said. “We believe in guys that are certainly talented enough to play that are good teammates. You need both. I regret that our record isn’t much better. That’s the only thing I regret. Our job is to get better, and when it’s not, it obviously falls on my shoulders.”

In fairness, it’s a better question for Gettleman, who has not given an interview since July.

“I know we are frustrated, coaches are frustrated, fans are frustrated, everyone is frustrated,” Saquon Barkley said. “I do believe we have not only the right guys on the team but the right guys on our staff to get it done. I just know it.”

Odell Beckham Jr. was not the only headache-causing talent shipped out. Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul all were on the team inherited by this regime. All were not shy to speak their minds.

Jenkins was one of the few selected to stay because it was felt his competitiveness could be a good example in the secondary, where the Giants are youngest.

After Jenkins begged the Giants to “use me the way I need to be used,” he left to take care of a family illness, Shurmur said. Coach and player will meet soon to get on the same page.

“I know Rabbit real well. He’s a spirited guy, and he wants to have an impact on the game,” Shurmur said. “I think his assessment we’re the only team that doesn’t travel [cornerbacks to specific receiver matchups] isn’t quite accurate.”

When the Giants tried to travel Jenkins, rookie first-round pick and starter DeAndre Baker had a difficult time digesting his changing assignments. Shurmur acknowledged as much without naming names.

So, the Giants have built a young team. But is it a promising young team?

Trading veterans for mid-round draft picks to get a younger roster is easy. Restocking the cupboard with comparable talent is difficult.

“Obviously, experience is your best teacher. … But at the end of the day, we’re all professionals and we all get paid to do our job,” 34-year-old safety Antoine Bethea said, “and we can’t use youth as an excuse anymore.”

For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast:

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