It was, more than anything else, a symbol of this Giants season. And now, like the hopes and dreams that it represented, it is gone.
The countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII calendar, which general manager Jerry Reese posted in the locker room during the preseason, has been removed following Sunday's loss to the Chargers that eliminated the Giants from playoff consideration. For a little more than four months it hung on the bulletin board silently -- yet somehow loudly -- ticking off the number of days until a champion would be crowned across the parking lot at MetLife Stadium.
"It has no reason to be up right now,'' Antrel Rolle said.
It was installed to give the players a sense of urgency. At times it almost seemed to be mocking them, like when the Giants lost their first six games. Most of the time the players said they simply ignored it, walking past without giving it a glance.
And yet its absence represents the first concrete and tangible difference between the Giants being in the playoff hunt . . . and not.
"It's how the season went,'' said running back Andre Brown, whose locker is positioned with perhaps the best view of where the calendar once hung. "It's a bit of a letdown that it's still not up there.''
Tom Coughlin never really embraced the idea of the calendar, shrugging it off at the start of training camp when Reese proposed the idea publicly. So when it became about as useful as a sundial at night, Coughlin's attitude toward the daily reminder of days remaining until the Super Bowl -- it would have read 52 today -- went from apathy to disdain.
Asked if the countdown would be removed, Coughlin said brusquely: "I didn't put it up, so I'm not taking it down.''
The countdown seemed to have the least impact on those whom it was intended to inspire the most: the players.
"I didn't even notice it was down,'' Eli Manning said. "I didn't really notice when it was up, either . . . I don't notice a lot of things on that board. It's not something I looked at and paid attention to or looked at what number day it was on. It was up there and I kind of just left it at that.''
Jon Beason, the linebacker who joined the Giants in midseason, said he didn't see it until a week ago when he was in the locker room and a team staffer came in to change the number.
Said Victor Cruz: "We'd see it every now and then, but it doesn't have our focus every day that we walk in through there.''
Cruz said he "absolutely'' thought the Giants would be able to fulfill the promise of that calendar and become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. But, it wasn't those ever-changing pieces of paper that convinced him of it.
"It's just a number on a board at the end of the day,'' Cruz said. "We didn't need a number on a board to distinguish what we want, what our goals were. They were already clear-cut in front of us and we didn't get it done.''
At least now the Giants won't have to face the daily numerical reminder of those shattered expectations.
"I don't know if it's a tangible reminder, but I know there's no need for it to be up right now,'' Justin Tuck said. "We can't reach that goal, so for us we move on to our next goal, and that's just trying to win some football games.''