Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 30, 2006: I’ve read and heard a lot of commentary in recent weeks saying that one isn’t a real fan if one doesn’t want the Giants to make the playoffs. I guess I’m not a real fan. I know in my heart that this team is emotionally done with the 2006 NFL season. And the last thing I want to see is the Giants getting killed by Philadelphia or Dallas in the first-round of the playoffs on national television. Let’s end this torture now and focus on the future.
That said, I do have mixed emotions. I can’t root against the Giants. Once the game starts, I will live and die with every play as usual. I despise the Redskins. And I know that once the season is over I will be going through Giants’ football withdrawal until the preseason starts again in August (though I do love the offseason gossip, free agency, and the draft).
If you read my Giants-Titans game review, you know I felt the team was emotionally done after that loss. I believe whatever vestiges of hope were extinguished in the losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, as I covered in my Giants-Saints game preview. There has been a lot of talk that the team has “quit.” I think “quit” is too strong a word and not entirely accurate. After all, Strahan didn’t have to play last week, but he did. Lot’s of guys like Shockey and Pierce have been playing hurt. I think the team has lost its confidence in itself and its coaching staff (its “mojo” if you will). I think it is mentally fatigued and different players are responding differently. Some players are still fighting hard. Some players have tuned Coughlin out. Others are thinking about life after football. The losing streak, injuries, and media circus have sapped the team’s strength, energy, and esprit de corps. On top of that, the demotion of John Hufnagel reeks of desperation and the players know it. I think BBI poster Daniel in MI said it best when he wrote:
Parcells talks about this in his book that players “quit” in very subtle ways, they don’t want to LOOK like they have, but the hustle, the willingness to stick your nose in there, and the energy level are gone. So, they make it look like they tried without giving it their all. It may not even be conscious.
I think these guys had been playing pretty damn hard for a long time, heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. Even Tom Coughlin said the effort has been there (until this past week). But, I think after the last loss, they all knew in their hearts that they’re not on a championship team now, and so they’re ready to end it and start again fresh next year.
It’s just a bad situation and the quicker it ends, the better. I sense that most Giants’ fans feel the same way. Emotionally, this is not a championship-caliber club. The players need a mental enema. And physically, with Strahan, Petitgout, Toomer, Arrington, and Tuck done for the season and Eli Manning struggling, it would be difficult to compete with even the better teams in the mediocre NFC right now.
Am I saying that the Giants have no chance against the Redskins? Of course not. The Redskins are not very good, although they have been playing much better in recent weeks. Moreover, they are missing a lot of their own key players (i.e., LB Marcus Washington, CB Shawn Springs, HB Clinton Portis). But these Redskins know that Joe Gibbs and his staff will be back in 2007; the Giants don’t believe Coughlin will be back. Advantage – Redskins.
What I do expect, regardless of who wins, is one ugly football game.
It’s sad when the offseason ends up being more exciting than the actual football season. The 2006 offseason with free agency and draft happenings was certainly more interesting than the 2006 regular season. So we find ourselves in a position similar to fans of the Washington Redskins – offseason paper champions, but a crappy football team.
The 2007 offseason is certainly going to be interesting again. There are rumors that the Giants may be able to wiggle Bill Belichick or Scott Pioli away from the Patriots. There is talk of Charlie Weis. Expectations are rising among Giants’ fans. It’s time for new ownership to stand up and deliver. If not, they run the risk of more and more fans leaving games during the third quarter of future home games.
This Giants-Redskins game doesn’t interest me much. What interests me is what happens during the first week or so in January. If the Giants do not announce the hiring of one of their own internal candidates (Jerry Reese, David Gettleman, Kevin Abrams) for the general manager vacancy immediately after the season is over, and nothing happens while the Patriots are still playing in the post-season, it will only fuel speculation that Belichick or Pioli/Weis are real possibilities. That’s “the game” to watch.