Giants can host, and play, in Super Bowl XLVIII
The Giants missed out on a chance to make franchise history last year, failing in their pursuit of becoming the first repeat Super Bowl champions. This time, they'll take a crack at another record.
In fact, it's one of the first things offensive tackle Will Beatty heard when he walked into the weight room Monday for the first day of off-season conditioning work.
"They told us straight up that no team has ever hosted the Super Bowl and played in it," Beatty said Thursday. "That's your goal. Whatever we do now is to work toward that goal. That is our purpose."
The Super Bowl comes to the New York metropolitan area for the first time next Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium, giving the Giants a chance to become the first team that plays in the host city to actually play in the game. Last year's Saints were the latest team to fail in its dream of playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
The Jets have the same opportunity as the Giants, but let's not pretend they're actually in position to get there. This will be a rebuilding year for newly hired general manager John Idzik and incumbent coach Rex Ryan, and there's little chance we'll see the Jets playing in January, let alone February.
But the Giants, just a year removed from their second Super Bowl championship over the previous five seasons, are certainly in the mix of championship contenders. There are still some question marks on the roster -- most notably at linebacker and depth along the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary. And yes, they'll be a lot better off with a resolution to the Victor Cruz contract situation. But with Eli Manning still in his prime, and with Jason Pierre-Paul headlining a defense that is capable of being one of the better units in the league, it's not unreasonable to think there's at least a chance they can break the hometown Super Bowl jinx.
"We're all aware of where it's played," said veteran guard Chris Snee, a mainstay on the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams. "When we came in here on Monday or any Monday for the first day of the offseason program, it's always with that goal of playing in the Super Bowl. So this year just happens to be at MetLife and obviously we're aware that no team has ever played in their home stadium. But that doesn't change our goal at all. We're an excited bunch here and we've had enthusiastic workouts so far. The goal is always in our mind."
Newly signed tight end Brandon Myers is particularly excited about the possibilities, especially after coming over from Oakland, where the Raiders were about as far from Super Bowl contention as the Black Hole is from New York.
"I came here to win some football games and to make the playoffs," he said. "I've never been in the playoffs. That excites me to be around guys who expect to win and fans that expect to win. So I'm excited."
Manning understands the possibilities, too.
"Obviously, it would be very special to play it in your home stadium in front of your home crowd," he said. "That would obviously be very, very unique and great, but ultimately our focus this year is kind of one day at a time and making sure we're getting better, we're making the playoffs and then from there hopefully we can make a strong run and have the opportunity to win a championship."
With next week's draft offering a chance for general manager Jerry Reese to bring in more talent to compete with what's already in the building, there is a legitimate sense of optimism. Reese wouldn't tip his hand about which direction the Giants will go in, but given his track record, the Giants can expect a healthy infusion of talent to an already competitive base.
Competition around the NFC East is fierce. Washington comes off a surprising divisional win behind rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is expected to recover from a knee injury and be ready for at least the early part of the season. The Cowboys have re-upped quarterback Tony Romo and figure to be contenders. And the Eagles, with new head coach Chip Kelly, will offer a unique challenge with the coach's up-tempo offense.
There are also daunting challenges outside the division. The 49ers return most of their starters after a stirring run to the Super Bowl behind electrifying quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Seahawks have made a number of free-agent signings to bolster an already impressive defense to complement quarterback sensation Russell Wilson. The Packers are not far away, and the Vikings are coming off a playoff run. The Saints have Sean Payton back on the sidelines after a one-year suspension, and the Falcons look ready to take yet another step after Matt Ryan finally got his first playoff win last season.
The Giants certainly aren't the favorites to emerge from that group. Then again, they weren't the favorites heading into the two seasons they wound up winning it all.
So the dream of making hometown Super Bowl history is legitimate.
"We just didn't want [the Super Bowl] here, we wanted to host it and play in it," Beatty said. "Knowing that we still have the core group of guys that can get us there, we have that. You're good enough to do it. Now, you have to make sure you're prepared, make sure you're working each week with that in mind."