Harry Carson watched with the same disappointment as any other Giants fan as the team lost its third straight game on Sunday, ruining a perfect sun-splashed afternoon at MetLife Stadium the same day as Eli Manning was inducted into the Ring of Honor and had his No. 10 retired.
Now the Hall of Fame linebacker wants to do his part. He called me on Monday morning to share his plan.
"I saw where Blake Martinez got hurt," the Hall of Fame linebacker said of the Giants’ current linebacker, who suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to Atlanta. "So, I’m looking at the situation like, even with bad knees and a bad back, maybe I could fill in, stop the interior run from tackle-to-tackle. If they called me and asked me to come and play, I’d have to give it some thought."
Carson is 67 years old.
"But I’m thinking, maybe this is why they didn’t retire my number," said Carson, whose No. 53 really should be retired. "Maybe they didn’t retire it so I could come back and play now."
He was kidding.
If anyone can speak to the current malaise surrounding New York football, it’s Carson. With the Giants and Jets now a combined 0-6, and with the schedules for both teams not letting up any time soon, this has the look of the kind of season that Carson was all too accustomed to during his early years with the Giants. The 1970’s were a lost decade for both teams, with not a playoff game among them.
Life may be coming full circle, because the New York teams are officially the least successful of all NFL teams since 2017. The records of both teams since the start of that season: 18-49.
Some more miserable stats: With both teams combining for an 0-6 record in September, they are a combined 20-49 in September games over the last 10 seasons, with just one winning record during the month for each team.
The Giants had hoped the addition of key free agents Kenny Golladay on offense and Adoree' Jackson on defense would infuse some much-needed talent for a potential playoff run. But during their 0-3 start, the Giants have scored just 56 points, and Jackson’s botched interception attempt in the end zone was the turning point in Sunday’s loss to the previously winless Falcons.
The Jets are even worse. They’ve scored just 20 points in three games, tied for the fewest through three games in franchise history. They had the same total in Joe Namath’s final season with the team in 1976.
"They’re going through adversity," Carson said. "I’ve been there multiple times, and I know there are a lot of people who are disappointed."
If any team’s fans have a right to be more disappointed by this dreary getaway, it’s the Giants. They showed some promise toward the second half of last season before falling out of playoff contention, they’d made a commitment to surrounding Daniel Jones with more talent and their schedule wasn’t onerous at the start. Home to Denver, at Washington and home to Atlanta should have ended with a 2-1 record, and perhaps 3-0 with a break here and there. Instead, the Giants threw away what appeared to be the soft part of their schedule with zero wins, and they now face a stretch of games against better competition that could effectively end their season by November.
Truth be told, it feels in many ways like their season is already over. But given the unexpected twists and turns in almost every NFL season, it’s too soon to go that far.
At least the Jets have a more reasonable set of excuses for their winless start. They’re going with a rookie quarterback, a first-year coach and offensive coordinator, a second-year defensive coordinator, and they’ve got the youngest roster in the NFL. It’s understandable they’ve yet to win a game, but the fact that they were non-competitive in Sunday’s 26-0 loss to Denver was disturbing, nevertheless.
The Jets likely won’t be favored in any of their remaining games, and there is sure to be more misery ahead. Coach Robert Saleh is now banking on the idea that the experience his fledgling team gets now will serve it well in the future.
Then again, Jets fans have heard that one before, only to be disappointed in the end.
Perhaps Carson can provide a blueprint for players now going through what feels like a lost season. Carson was one of the rare bright spots in New York football during the lost decade of the ‘70’s. A hard-hitting middle linebacker who played extremely well despite his team producing one losing season after another, Carson looked inside himself for motivation.
"I’m quite familiar with going through adversity," he said. "I just went out and played, regardless of what the score was, not worrying about what was going on around me. When I walked off the field, I’d ask myself, ‘Did I give it my all? Did I do the best I can?’ If the answer is yes, then you can live with the loss. If you can say, ‘I did the best I could to help this team win,’ when you have that mentality, that’s the thing that will get you through this."
In the meantime, Carson will suffer in silence like every other New York fan.
Then again …
"Maybe Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks and I could come back," Carson quipped. "Leonard Marshall and Jim Burt have some good football left in them. If we all came back in a package deal, I think we could make some progress. Just saying."
New York Football Follies
If it feels as if the Giants and Jets have been bad for a while now, you’re not dreaming. Since the start of the 2017 season, the New York teams are tied for the fewest wins in the entire NFL.