Harry Carson understands what the Giants have been going through in this, their most difficult season since the dark days of the mid-1970s, when failure was the inevitable result and crushing disappointment the underlying emotion.
"I know where these guys are, because I've been there," the Hall of Fame linebacker said. "It's hard, because when you start losing, it's hard to figure out a way out of that box because there's so much negativity around. The fans are wondering what's going on. Everybody's looking for an answer, and the only thing you can do is just go out and try and play and have fun and take it one play at a time."
Easier said than done. Especially at 0-6.
Carson remembers the last time a Giants team sank to such depths. He was a rookie linebacker in 1976, when the Giants started 0-9. And you think it's ugly now?
"It was the first year that Giants Stadium was opened, and we didn't open the season until October," Carson recalled. "The fans expected different results in a new stadium."
Instead, they got more of the losing that had defined those miserable years. The fans grew more incensed as the losses mounted. Bill Arnsparger was fired when the record hit 0-7 after a 27-0 home loss to the Steelers. John McVay's first game didn't go much better.
"We were playing Philadelphia at home, and we went into the locker room at halftime and the fans were booing and they were throwing stuff," Carson said. "They were throwing oranges, toilet paper, golf balls."
The Giants lost, 10-0, and finished at 3-11.
"I understand where [today's Giants] are, and I feel for them, because I knew exactly what they were going through," said Carson, who retired after the 1988 season. "You put the money aside, at the end of the day, you're still a football player, and you have that sense of pride.
"I think in a lot of ways the money they make now, which is much more than we made, makes it tougher. People look at you differently. They look at what's being paid to players compared to the average person, so what you're making becomes a contributing factor. People will say, 'Well, he's making $4 million, so he should be better.' It contributes to the pressure the players feel."
Carson also can empathize with the players in another respect: He knows what it's like to underperform after getting to the top. Today's Giants are less than two years removed from a Super Bowl championship season, and Carson's final season with the Giants came at a similar time. The Giants won their first Super Bowl after the 1986 season and failed to make the playoffs two years later, even though they finished with a 10-6 record.
"We were playing the Lions [in Week 7], and as we were going off the field at halftime, the fans were booing and throwing things on the field, just like they did in 1976," Carson said. "When we got in at halftime, I just exploded. I started yelling, cursing, challenging the guys, and the coaches couldn't make any adjustments because they couldn't talk over me."
The Giants won the game, 30-10, but a season-ending loss to the Jets, coupled with the 49ers' home loss to the Rams, knocked them out of playoff contention. As the Rams were beating the 49ers, Giants quarterback Phil Simms told a reporter, "I'm just sitting here watching the 49ers lay down like dogs."
A win by the 49ers, who had been beaten by the Giants in the 1986 playoffs, would have put the Giants in the postseason.
"We were playing [lousy]football and we were at home and the fans refused to accept what they were seeing," Carson said of the first half against the Lions. "That took me back to 1976 when people were throwing [stuff] on the field. That's why I exploded. We had righted theship and become more respectable and competitive and we won a championship. Two years later, we were like ---- ."
Two seasons after beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants now are buried in last place. Only a miracle run will save them now.
"Unfortunately, this team has gotten old very quickly at various positions, and hopefully with 10 games left to play, some of those players will be able to rise up and do a little something extra," Carson said. "It has to be up to every player to recommit himself to doing better."
Too bad Carson no longer is in the locker room excoriating his fellow players. This team could use him right about now.