Reimer: Robert Kraft and John Mara no longer in same class after embarrassing Eli Manning fiasco

Alex Reimer
December 06, 2017 - 1:14 pm

Andrew Innerarity-USA TODAY Sports

The Kraft, Mara and Tisch families are linked as three of football’s great dynasties. The New York Times published an entire feature story about their bond prior to Super Bowl XLVI. At that point, the Patriots and Giants were both on top of the NFL. Their fortunates have gone in opposite directions since. 

The Giants have replaced the Jets as New York’s laughingstock this season, bumbling their way to a destructive 2-10 campaign. The team was pillaged with bad press last week when it decided to bench Eli Manning, ending his streak of 210 consecutive starts. 

The Giants should not value Manning’s streak over the long-term viability of the franchise. It is perfectly reasonable to bench a struggling older quarterback at the end of a lost season. The problem is, the Giants did it in cowardly fashion. Former head coach Ben McAdoo purposed a plan to have Manning start each game and then sit at halftime. Owner John Mara, supposedly one of the great football men of our time, admits he signed off on the foolishness. 

Manning, unsurprisingly, declined the insulting offer. 

Geno Smith, who failed with the Jets for four seasons, was mediocre against the Raiders last week. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired Monday, with Mara saying it was “pointless” to wait any longer to make changes. That’s a plausible explanation. The Giants never eclipsed the 30-point threshold during McAdoo’s tenure and it’s apparent the players did not respect him. McAdoo suspended cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins and benched corner Eli Apple for disciplinary reasons this season. The head coach’s lax atmosphere seemed to part of his undoing

But firing McAdoo just one week after he alienated the greatest quarterback in franchise history –– with ownership approval –– indicates the Giants lack any sort of plan. Manning is back in the starting lineup this week, while rookie quarterback Davis Webb will sit on the bench. So the Giants ousted Manning for the sake of watching Geno Smith for one game. It was a pointless exercise. 

The Patriots, obviously, have not been forced to deal with any sort of quarterback or coaching crisis over the last 17 years. But still, it’s difficult to imagine the Krafts bungling two major decisions in those areas like Mara and his partner, Steve Tisch. The Giants come across as a juvenile operation, not one of the league’s premier franchises. The Browns fire coaches after less than two seasons. That kind of chaos isn't supposed to consume dignitaries like Mara and Tisch. 

But that’s exactly what happened, and now the Giants are at the bottom. A quick turnaround is possible, given the injuries to their receiving corps and expected high draft position. The Manning fiasco, however, was perhaps the most mismanaged situation across the league all year. It erases some of the Mara and Tisch allure.

Of course, that should have been erased last year when Mara said he kept kicker Josh Brown on the team, despite knowing he had abused his wife. Mara claimed he didn’t know the “extent” of Brown’s transgressions, but was aware that NFL security was forced to intervene when Brown tried to attack his wife at the 2016 Pro Bowl. Nonetheless, the Giants re-signed the kicker. 

NFL owners should not be held responsible for their players’ behavior. No rational person blames Robert Kraft for Aaron Hernandez. But Mara knew Brown was involved in at least two domestic violence disputes –– at the Pro Bowl and when he was arrested in May 2015. Talk about callous. 

Kraft may share power with several peers on NFL committees. But when it comes to success and stability, there is nobody in his class. Mara and Tisch are his latest peers tasked with putting out a dumpster fire. 

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