No team in our division likes to talk as much as the New York Giants like to talk, and Tuesday it was apparently Jason Pierre-Paul's turn to do the proclaiming and pontificating. According to ESPNNewYork.com, the fourth-year Giants defensive end said the following things:
1. He's tired of the up-and-down aspect of every Giants season and insists that it has to be different this year. (This is something every Giants player is required to say publicly, but not necessarily do anything about, every year.)
2. He was not overweight when he reported to camp last year, as coach Tom Coughlin has suggested.
3. He has not yet attained his full potential as an NFL player.
I'm not even going to get into No. 2, because that's silly stuff and likely to be worked out between Pierre-Paul and his coach. But when I read the comments I was struck by the thought that No. 3 could be just the thing to help Pierre-Paul do his part to address No. 1.
Within the seasons themselves, the Giants of recent years have indeed been inconsistent, more often than not starting out hot and playing poorly in November and early December. But in the big picture, the Giants are one of the most consistent teams in the league year-to-year. Their regular-season records over the last four years are, in chronological order, 8-8, 10-6, 9-7 and 9-7. They made the playoffs in just one of those four seasons (not the 10-6 one, oddly), and converted into a Super Bowl title.
What made that 9-7 2011 season different from those that surround it? The Giants' truly outstanding, hyper-talented players all elevated their games to the highest levels at the most critical times. Pierre-Paul and quarterback Eli Manning were tremendous throughout that season, but the Giants really perked up and started playing like a championship team in late December when guys like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Hakeem Nicks perked up, got healthy and played to the level of their star-caliber talent.
So that's the thing. If the Giants really are sick of each season going the same way and always being on the fringe of playoff contention as a result, the truly great talents on their roster are the ones who can elevate them beyond that. If they want to be one of the great teams in the league, from start to finish, then Pierre-Paul attaining the vast potential to which he says he has yet to rise would be the kind of thing that would help. Another consistently brilliant year from Manning, a healthy one for Nicks, a return to early-career form for Tuck ... these are the kinds of things that need to happen over 16 full games in order for the Giants to go from being a good team to a great one.
If that's the goal, then Pierre-Paul is one of the guys holding the keys. He showed in 2011 that he could take over games. He's still just 24 years old. What he says about being able to outdo the outstanding performance we've already seen from him is believable. If he does it -- if he elevates his game beyond that 2011 level and puts a statistically disappointing 2012 season behind him -- then that helps the Giants' chances of going from good to great. Others would need to help, too, but Pierre-Paul is one of the guys on this Giants team with the ability to have that kind of impact.