An optimist sees a glass as half-full. Jerry Reese sees the Giants' glass as three-quarters empty.
As in the Giants' failure to make the playoffs in three of the last four years. Never mind that they were 27-21 in those three seasons that ended with disappointment and that the fourth ended with the team winning the Super Bowl. The general manager opened training camp Saturday by putting everyone in the organization "on notice" and reminding them that their accomplishments during the past four seasons are not enough.
"All I know is that we've been in the playoffs one time in the last four years, and that's really not acceptable for us," Reese said just before the team he assembled took the field for its first practice of the preseason. "That's not our standards. That's not what we shoot for. We want to put everybody on notice -- myself, everybody is on notice that that's not our standard."
And in case anyone misses his message, he'll have a daily reminder. Reese said he will have a calendar in the locker room that will tick off the number of days until Super Bowl XLVIII. As of Saturday, that number was 190 days.
It's not every year that a general manager keeps a running clock in his head -- or in the locker room, for that matter -- for the Super Bowl. But this is not an ordinary year. The Super Bowl will be played just across the parking lot ("at MetLife Stadium over there," Reese said with a quick glance), and the Giants do not want to be spectators when it arrives on Feb. 2.
"That makes me think about a sense of urgency for our team," Reese said of the countdown. "When you look at it and you see that number jump out at you, 190 days, that's really not that far away. The sense of urgency really jumps out at me. [The countdown is] so guys can see how urgent it is to be ready to go every week. You can't let games get away from you and expect to make it to the playoffs. We have to have a sense of urgency going into this season."
Tom Coughlin agreed. Not that he had much choice. He's ostensibly one of those "on notice."
"When Jerry came in and showed it to me, his point was that it's not very far away," Coughlin said. "I'm fine with it."
But when asked how many days there are until the Super Bowl, Coughlin smiled.
"I don't know," he said. "What day is today? It's training camp."
The days blend together at this time of year, and so do the seasons. The perception of the Giants is that they are a model franchise that wins consistently. Reese wants no part of that thinking, picking apart the flawed seasons like scabs while glossing over the successes. He seems to dwell so much on the failures that he referred to the team's record in 2010 at 6-10 and not 10-6, putting the number of losses first.
Reese conceded that teams with 10 wins usually make the playoffs. And he said he thought the 8-8 team in 2009 was "one of our best teams." Neither of those squads played in the postseason.
"We've been close, but close is not good enough," he said. "Nothing takes away the sting except getting in the tournament and having a chance to win the Super Bowl. Again, one playoff trip in the last four years is just below our standards. We want to do better. We will do better."
And if not? If the Giants miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years? Then the clock will be ticking on a lot of jobs, not just the upcoming Super Bowl.