Are the Giants’ frustrations spilling out of the locker room?

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll argues with a referee during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are experiencing a rough season, and frustrations are starting to boil over as their recent 17-49 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys showcased yet another disappointing performance. This game not only highlighted their struggles on the field, but it also exposed underlying tensions within the team’s locker room. Sideline arguments, frustrations with losing, and players declining to comment on the defeat have all raised concerns about the leadership within the team.

Saquon Barkley has an “animated discussion” with Brian Daboll on the sideline

During the second quarter of the game with the Giants down 7-0, cornerback Cor’Dale Flott intercepted a pass from Dak Prescott, giving Big Blue an excellent scoring opportunity with the ball on the Cowboys’ 12-yard line.

Despite having excellent field position, the offense was unable to take advantage and fell short once again. On their first three downs, they only managed to gain eight yards. In a bold move, they decided to go for it on fourth-and-two from the Dallas four-yard line. Unfortunately, running back Saquon Barkley was stopped for no gain, and they ended up turning the ball over on downs.

Following the unsuccessful conversion, Barkley engaged in an “animated discussion” with Head Coach Brian Daboll, as reported by Fox’s Tom Rinaldi. There was also clear frustration from the team’s receiving corps as well.

The questionable play call undoubtedly added fuel to the fire, but Barkley took responsibility and refrained from blaming the Giants’ coaching staff.

“There was an animated conversation but I don’t think it was (anything). I mean we didn’t get the conversation on the fourth (down), and was I frustrated we didn’t get it? Yes, but there was no argument or nothing like that. It was football. … I’m not going to get too much into the details, but you know, as a player, as a competitor, you want the ball in your hands and just leave it at that. I didn’t convert it.”

Saquon Barkley according to The Athletic

Giants’ wide receivers let their frustration show

This incident is not an isolated occurrence but rather a manifestation of ongoing struggles for the Giants. WR Darius Slayton, typically composed, found himself involved in a heated conversation with position coach Mike Groh, clearly expressing his frustration with the continuous trend of losses.

When questioned about the situation, Slayton acknowledged that his emotions got the better of him.

Despite rumors of a conflict between Slayton and fellow receiver Shepard after Slayton’s encounter with Groh, both players denied any tension between them. Shepard clarified that their sideline encounter was merely an attempt to calm down and motivate Slayton.

“Listen that is my brother, like my mother’s kids. Never that. Never that. It was straight me motivating him to go out there. That’s the honest truth.”

Sterling Shepard on Darius Slayton

Mum is the word from the team’s defensive captains

Perhaps more telling than the on-field tensions was the aftermath of the loss. Captains Dexter Lawrence II and Xavier McKinney chose not to comment to reporters on the loss. As leaders in the Giants’ locker room, their silence sends a clear message to their teammates. A leader should be at the forefront, ready to face tough questions and demonstrate professionalism, regardless of the outcome.

Although Lawrence has stated that his not commenting had nothing to do with being frustrated with the loss, he has previously expressed his frustration with losing, suggesting a history of discontent. Meanwhile, McKinney has openly expressed his unhappiness throughout the season and even claimed that the voices of the team’s leaders were not being heard. Although not all captains shared the same sentiment as McKinney, his perspective should not be disregarded.

When leaders display signs of frustration and discontent, it can significantly impact team morale and cohesion. Seeing Lawrence and McKinney abstain from addressing the media signals discord within the team. If the leaders are showing signs of mental defeat, this sentiment will likely spread throughout the entire Giants locker room.

Given their abysmal record of 2-8, it is undeniable that the team is burdened by the weight of their failures. Daboll must find ways to motivate and inspire his team, ensuring that their emotional distress does not impede their performance on the field. If this issue is not addressed, the Giants’ downward spiral will only continue.

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