EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It almost seems as if New York Giants coach Ray Handley is trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. Each week, he tries to find the proper mesh for his anemic offense; each week, he faces the same problem: not nearly enough points.
Yet Handley remains unwilling to try one solution to jump-start the team's moribund attack. He isn't ready to let Phil Simms replace Jeff Hostetler and try to revive an offense that has yet to score more than 23 points in a game and is 21st in the NFL with 138 points in nine games.
Handley said immediately after Monday's 30-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, in which the Giants' offense totaled only 180 yards, that he at least would consider a switch to Simms. But yesterday, he said he would keep Hostetler at quarterback.
"As I stated when I made the decision [to name Hostetler the starter in the preseason], if I felt that the play of the quarterback was the reason we weren't playing well offensively, then I'd make the change," Handley said. "Consequently, I didn't feel the play of the quarterback is the reason we're not playing well offensively, so I won't make the change."
By sticking with Hostetler, Handley may be creating more problems for the 4-5 Giants. If they continue to stagger out of playoff contention, his unwillingness to bend at quarterback might even threaten Handley's future as the Giants' coach.
Yet at the same time, he may be heading off other potential dilemmas that could be equally damaging.
Consider the ramifications of making a change at this point:
* Hostetler might lose confidence in his ability, which would add to the uncertainty the quarterback already is feeling. And if Handley plans to keep Hostetler as his quarterback in future seasons, Hostetler might lose faith in the Giants, the coach and, most important, himself.
Hostetler, 30, is beginning to experience the growth process that starting quarterbacks usually face when they are much younger.
* Nevertheless, by sticking with Hostetler, Handley also faces the chance that many of his other players will lose faith in the coach. The players must be convinced Handley is willing to do whatever it takes to win, and if that means subverting Hostetler's ego for the time being, then so be it.
While there is not an outcry among the players for Simms, mostly because they understand the Giants' problems run far deeper than the quarterback, Handley's unwillingness to try anything could hurt morale further.
The question for Handley now is: Will he ever pull the trigger on a quarterback change if all else fails?