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John Mara stands behind his assessment of his Giants: 'I have expectations'

John Mara, CEO and president of the New

John Mara, CEO and president of the New York Giants, speaks with the media regarding the end of the season at the Quest Diagnostic Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

It was the final answer to the final question of a final news conference for John Mara last season, but the Giants co-owner's one-sentence reply continues to reverberate throughout the organization.

The day after the Giants concluded a 6-10 season, the last question posed to a grim-faced Mara in his year-end briefing was whether he considered 2015 a "win-or-else proposition for a lot of people in this franchise."

Mara paused a moment and offered an icy reply:

"I do not think that is an unfair statement."

Reminded of that answer Thursday, when his players reported for the start of training camp, Mara upped the stakes and proclaimed that this team as currently constituted is good enough to win it all this season. There thus was no need to reiterate his stance that jobs are on the line.

"This is the NFL. People have expectations," he said. "Our fans have expectations. I have expectations. We've been out of the playoffs three years in a row, and it's time to put a stop to that."

He took it a step further. Lamenting the fact that two of his starters -- Jason Pierre-Paul, who reportedly had a finger amputated as the result of a fireworks injury, and Will Beatty, who is out with a torn pectoral muscle -- Mara raised the bar of expectation to the highest level.

"I do think we have enough talent here that we can be in the playoffs and contend for a championship," he said. "That's what I still believe, and that's what my expectation is."

Gauntlet thrown.

Mara has been a part of four Super Bowl championship seasons -- two as the team's president and two as patriarch Wellington Mara's right-hand man -- so there is power behind his words. Even with all the vulnerabilities on his roster -- starting with Pierre-Paul, the team's best pass rusher -- Mara is convinced that there is enough strength to contend for a title.

He sees an offense that still has Eli Manning in his prime and boasts what could be the best one-two receiving punch in Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, who is nearly 100 percent after undergoing knee surgery last October. And there are several foundation players on defense, including cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as linebackers Jon Beason and Jameel McClain and pass rushers Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore and the newly acquired George Selvie.

But you can't underestimate the uncertainty of Pierre-Paul's situation, especially on a team that desperately needs pass-rushing ends for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system.

With Pierre-Paul, the Giants have a potentially dominant player, even if he does have a tendency to go through pronounced periods of ineffectiveness. Without him, there is a decided drop-off.

No excuses are being offered by the owner, only a demand for excellence.

Evidently, the message is shared by coach Tom Coughlin and his players.

Although you won't find the coach parroting Mara's title talk -- Coughlin never makes such bold statements -- he is hopeful about what lies ahead.

"I expect [the players] to work hard. I expect them to compete like heck," he said. "I feel good about today, but we take it one day at a time."

His players are much more willing to buy into the Super Bowl talk from the owner.

"Yeah, of course," guard Justin Pugh said when asked if there is enough talent here to win it all. "The goal is to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen."

Amukamara said the defense, even without Pierre-Paul and the prospect of starting two rookie safeties, can hold up its end of the deal.

"I would agree we definitely do have the talent," he said.

And Beason has a message for the skeptics who might question Mara's assessment of the roster.

Said the linebacker, "When you look at the pieces here, you say, 'You know what? There's a chance to be special.' I think on paper, we have a chance. And if people think we don't? Good."

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