After a nine-minute news briefing during which he was peppered with questions about why his team is off to an 0-3 start, what role coaching is to blame for the nightmarish getaway, and whether the Giants are capable of finding answers, Giants coach Joe Judge stepped away from the lectern, walked two steps down from a makeshift stage and suddenly stopped.
He then looked straight into a room filled with reporters and television cameras.
"We’re going to be all right, guys," he said. "We’re going to be all right. Got that?"
Judge then departed the room, his message of hope having been delivered to an admittedly skeptical room.
Three weeks into the season, and just minutes after another mind-numbing loss — this one a 17-14 defeat at the buzzer against the previously winless Falcons at MetLife Stadium — and Judge was left to provide any shred of optimism moving forward.
On a sun-splashed afternoon that would see two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor and included his number being retired, the Giants got off to a promising start by carrying the play through much of the first half. But as has been the case through much of the team’s struggles since Manning last won a Super Bowl after the 2011 season, the team devolved into the disappointment Giants fans have come to know over the last decade.
The Giants had to settle for two field goals after continued red-zone issues and lost the initial lead late in the first half. And then they saw all the good will produced by Saquon Barkley’s fourth-quarter touchdown and Daniel Jones’ two-point conversion run to disappear when the Falcons tied it and crumble beneath the crushing disappointment of Younghoe Koo’s 40-yard field goal as time expired.
"We’re going to be all right. Got that?"
No, they are not going to be all right. Not after a winless start in what was supposed to be the soft part of the schedule. Not with a brutal upcoming stretch of games the next two months against the Saints, Cowboys, Rams, Panthers, defending AFC champion Kansas City, Las Vegas and defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. The Giants likely won't be favored in any of those games, and if form holds true, 0-3 is about to mushroom into 0-10.
And even Judge, who was hired last year with the notion that he would preside over this team for a decade or more, might not even be safe from a potential housecleaning that would undoubtedly include embattled general manager Dave Gettleman. After last year’s 0-5 start, this is hardly the way to engender trust in a fan base that has understandably grown despondent over the Giants’ continuing inability to fix a broken team.
The only thing that did go well on Sunday was the halftime ceremony honoring Manning. He was given a standing ovation by a near sellout crowd of 75,307 and re-enacted the two most famous passes of his career — the one in which David Tyree pinned the ball to his helmet in Super Bowl XLII and the sideline dart to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI. Yet there was a strong hint of the discontent surrounding the Giants’ current malaise when team president and co-owner John Mara was booed while introducing Manning.
The Giants’ second-half performance and subsequent loss only reinforced the frustration. There was a dropped interception attempt by cornerback Adoree' Jackson that might have put the game away. There was Judge’s unwillingness to go for it on 4th-and-4 from the Falcons’ 39. A costly pass interference penalty against Logan Ryan in the end zone. A fourth-quarter drive that fizzled when Jones was sacked for a 9-yard loss.
And then the defense’s inability to stop Matt Ryan & Co. on what turned out to be the game-winning drive.
Judge remains unbowed.
"I trust in the way the guys work on a day-in and day-out basis," he said. "They stay together as a team."
Jones, who has been mostly solid so far this season, called the 0-3 start "frustrating, but we have no choice but to let this motivate us, put our heads back down and go back to work."
Barkley, who scored his first touchdown since the 2019 season, is convinced better days are ahead.
"We’ve got something special," he said, "but I don’t know when it’s going to happen. We have to start believing in each other. When that happens, we’re going to have something special. Until then, we’re going to keep having losses at the end of games."
Judge insists it’s not hopeless, reinforcing his belief with his unexpected and unusual postgame message.
"We’re going to be all right," he said. "Got that?"
The answer is no.