Nate Solder has been a part of one of the great NFL teams of all time, winning two titles and playing in two other Super Bowls as part of the Patriots’ dynasty. The Giants’ left tackle knows what it takes to be a champion.
He also knows that there is never success without struggle.
“I’ve been through seven AFC Championship Games, and every one of those seasons was the same,” Solder said at his locker Monday, a day after the Giants lost to the Saints to fall to 1-3. “It was very difficult to be in it. It’s always a building process, there are a lot of unknowns, and people have expectations that are always hard to meet.”
The Patriots met most of those expectations, cementing the legacy of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era with two of the team’s five championships in Solder’s time there. He therefore is unwilling to concede anything despite his new team’s sluggish start.
The Giants may have entered the season with a win-now mentality, but after losing three of their first four games, serious doubts have surfaced about their ability to have a winning season, much less make the playoffs.
Those doubts persist outside the walls of the locker room. Inside, Solder and his teammates remain resolute that a difficult start won’t mushroom into a catastrophic season.
“Our expectations have to be higher than everybody’s,” said Solder, who signed a $62-million contract in the offseason, the richest deal for an offensive lineman. “Our intensity, in terms of making improvements, getting better every single day and not taking anything for granted, has to be as high as possible. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can control our effort and intensity.”
It is akin to the “just-do-your-job” mantra Belichick constantly preaches in New England, and Solder is convinced there is reason for hope moving forward.
It’s a similar vibe for Eli Manning, whose two Super Bowl victories came against Belichick’s Patriots. Manning remains unwilling to surrender to the gloom that has spread through a good portion of a skeptical Giants fan base.
“Obviously not where we want to be, but I see a team with a lot of new guys and new things going on,” he said Monday. “I feel like we’re getting close.”
Manning is ever the optimist, but it’s not easy to justify his optimism. After all, this is an offense that hasn’t scored as many as 30 points in a game since the 2015 season, and Manning’s willingness to play dink-and-dunk against teams that have found success playing zone defense sometimes has felt like a surrender of sorts.
He insists that simply isn’t the case. “You don’t have to have big plays to have good drives,” he said. “You want to get a couple of shots and get some plays down the field, and we took some. We just didn’t hit any.”
Coach Pat Shurmur acknowledged Monday that he should have gotten tailback Saquon Barkley more involved — he had only 10 carries for 44 yards — so credit the coach for some honest self-scouting. But Shurmur also knows he needs to get this offense to become far more functional. With so many other teams making it look easy to score points in bunches, the Giants are left hopelessly spinning their wheels.
Unless and until that changes, the losses will keep coming, but the two Super Bowl veterans of this team remain confident that it’s going to get better.
“Nothing can bring my optimism down,” Solder said. “My optimism is based on that I believe in these guys, I believe in the way they’re doing things. It’s not where we’re at now, it’s where we’re going to be in the future that’s important.”