EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Reality checks do not come easy in the NFL. It takes an incredible amount of effort and focus and intensity to prepare oneself to play one of these games. So when it ends, and you look up at the scoreboard and you have been crushed again, and your record is 0-5, that is a hard thing to confront.
"I don't know," New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said when asked how he was coping with that exact situation in the wake of Sunday's 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. "I've never been 0-5 before."
Very few, if any, of these Giants have. Many of them were not even born the last time the Giants started 0-5, in the replacement-player season of 1987. This is uncharted territory, so if the appropriate perspective eludes them and their fans, allow me to assist:
The 2013 New York Giants are a horrible football team -- worse than they or their fans even realize, without any question one of the two worst teams in the NFL. The only thing keeping them out of the bottom spot is an historically bad Jacksonville Jaguars team, and truth be told the separation between the Jags and the Giants is not that great.
The Giants have been outscored by 100 points in their five games, the Jaguars by 112. The Giants have scored 31 more points than the Jags have, but they've also allowed 19 more.
ESPN Stats & Information tells us the Giants are the third team in NFL history to allow 30 or more points in each of its first five games, and the second (joining the storied 1954 Chicago Cardinals) to also turn the ball over at least three times in each of the first five. Their 182 points allowed are the fifth-most in league history through the first five games of a season and the most since 1967. The four teams in front of them on that list finished the seasons in question with a combined record of 10-40.
"We're going to keep trying," a stunned Giants general manager Jerry Reese told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor after Sunday's game. "That's all we can do, keep trying and just find a way to win a football game. We're just trying to win a game right now. That's our focus. Just win a game and go from there. There's no need to talk about anything else."
No time, either, since the Giants' next game is coming right up on Thursday night in Chicago. And no point, since there is no fixing this. The problems with this Giants team are so complete, so system-wide, that the only thing to do is limp through the rest of this season with as much pride as they can muster and then start from scratch in the offseason. The number of different ways in which they have lost games is so dizzying that it is hard to believe they have only lost the five.
There was the six-turnover opener in Dallas, the Peyton Manning buzzsaw here in Week 2, the seven-sack fiasco in Carolina and the lethargic mess they left stinking on the field in Kansas City last week, when they took a grand total of eight snaps in their opponent's territory all day.
Sunday's loss to the Eagles might have been the worst one yet, because the Giants teased themselves. The third quarter made them feel as though things were possible again. The defense held. Eli Manning led a couple of touchdown drives. They took the lead. The crowd got fired up.
"That was reminiscent of better times here," Tuck said. "And I think that's why you see guys a little bit more down."
Shockingly, it was Manning, their longtime rock, who did them in this time, throwing three interceptions in a span of nine throws. Add those to his three intentional-grounding penalties -- more in this one game than any other quarterback in the league had, total, in the entire month of September -- and you can put the blame for this game squarely on Manning. It was as though whoever's in charge of such things looked at the list of ways the Giants had not yet lost a game and picked "complete quarterback meltdown" off the shelf.
"I was very excited and confident that we were in a position to win the game," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who has never before been 0-5 as an NFL head coach -- not even with the expansion Jaguars of 1995. "Then we started giving them the ball in way-deep territory."
These Giants are in way-deep something, that is for sure, and there is no sign that they or you or Coughlin or Manning should expect it to get any better any time soon. Look down the schedule at games against sub-.500 teams like the Vikings and the Raiders and the Redskins, and imagine them as winnable if you like. But realize those teams are looking at those same dates -- at their games against the Giants -- as their best chances to win too. This here, Sunday at home against the reeling Eagles, was supposed to be the get-right game. They lost it by 15 points.
"We just need to pick it up," a defiant Antrel Rolle said. "That's the reality of it. We're 0-5 and we're losing games right here and this is not Giants football that we're playing."
The reality of it, though, is that it is. This is 2013 Giants football, shrouded in misery and replete with ample evidence that the Giants are one of the absolute worst teams in the league. If you need a while yet to let that reality sink in, take your time. Just do not look for things to get any better any time soon.