Sunday, September 15, 2013
Living in '07 won't rescue Giants in '13
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Yeah, the New York Giants started the 2007 season 0-2 and went on to win the Super Bowl. So what? That has about as much to do with the current team's predicament as the price of Rocky Mountain oysters in downtown Denver.
After a stinker of a 41-23 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night dropped the 2013 Giants to 0-2, you knew you were going to hear and read all about '07, because in the NFL it's always about one thing that's happened in the past that's a little bit like the thing that's happening now.
It's hogwash, though. Straight-up hooey. The Giants can't be trading on yesterday in an effort to fix today's problem. This right here is a whole new challenge for Tom Coughlin and the Giants' veterans, and one of the few positives for them right now is that at least they know that.
"That was a different team," said guard Chris Snee, shaking his head before the question was even finished. "We'll see what kind of team we have, what kind of fight we have. I hope that we have the same fight that that team had, because that was a great team."
The 2013 Giants, to this point, are anything but. Their franchise quarterback, Eli Manning, has thrown seven interceptions in the first two games of the season. They rushed for 23 yards Sunday night on 19 carries, which is kind of like not running the ball at all. And the defense? Please. We heard a bunch of stuff last week and a bunch more Sunday night about how the defense played well. But the Giants have allowed an average of 374.5 yards per game. If that's the defense playing well, what's it going to look like when it doesn't?
"At times, we got to the quarterback, but we just didn't get a handle on him," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "I don't feel like we put that kind of pressure on him tonight."
They didn't, and Peyton Manning picked them apart. It may have taken a while, and the two-way sloppiness of the first half may have kept the Giants in the game into the third quarter. But there was no point at which you felt as though they were in control, and by the end of it there was little doubt that they were outclassed.
So now what? Bring up 6-year-old ghosts and hope to inspire this group with tales of Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress and David Tyree's helmet? Good luck with that. The Giants' leaders know it's going to take more than glory-days stories to get this straightened out. And they know they don't have a lot of time to do it.
The Giants' next two games are on the road, and if they don't win either of those it's going to be pretty tough to find examples of 0-4 teams that finished as champions. So it's on Coughlin right now to find the right buttons to press. Which is why it was interesting that he seemed calmer Sunday night than he had seven nights earlier in Dallas.
"I could stand up here and be fiery if that's what everybody wants," Coughlin said. "But there's a little bit of a hole in my stomach, too. I'm greatly disappointed. We have 14 games to go. We've been 0-2 before and been able to fight out of it. But the performance level has to come up."
The slow-starting Giants will rely on Tom Coughlin to take the right approach at the right time.
Coughlin is an outstanding coach, and one of the things that makes him that is his ability to identify the correct way to approach the players he has and the situation at hand. We've all heard the story about how he stunned his 7-7 Giants the day after a loss to the Redskins late in the 2011 season by being upbeat and encouraging and positive, and how they won their next six games to claim the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title. That was a case of a coach knowing the right approach for the people and the moment, and that's his challenge right now -- to find the correct approach for this team and this moment, not to try and recycle one from six years ago or even two.
"The important thing is just to be thick-skinned [Monday], take a look at the tape and realize we have a tough Carolina team next week that's in the same situation we are," Snee said. "That, and we have 14 games to go."
The Giants have some things going for them. Everyone else in the NFC East lost Sunday, too, so they're only one game out of first place. Their September schedule always looked like it was going to be a killer, but from mid-October through November it's sponge soft. But the biggest thing they have going for them may be the top-to-bottom, organization-wide faith in the guy in the head coach's office to set the tone that needs to be set so they can recover.
"Still a long season," defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "And a lot of great things can happen if we approach it the right way, and a lot of bad things can happen if we don't."
It's on the locker room leaders such as Tuck and Snee and Manning and most of all Coughlin to find a way to get this Giants team to the point where it can compete against the best teams in the league. Because if only one thing came out of Sunday night's performance, it's the absolute certainty that, right now, they can't.