Giants head coach Joe Judge, right, greets his players during...

Giants head coach Joe Judge, right, greets his players during warmups before an NFL game against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday. Credit: AP/Michael Ainsworth

The Giants did just about the best thing any team can do in any given season in 2007. They won the Super Bowl. They toppled a string of what were, on paper, much better teams, including one that hadn’t lost a game all year. It was an amazing story.

Even the beginning of that tale took on a legend of its own. They’d dropped their first two games and were on the verge of a third straight when a goal-line stand saved them and sent them on their path to the Lombardi Trophy. It was a 22-week-long Disney movie.

But while the rings and the banners and the tributes were well-deserved and have been rehashed for the past 14 years, that 0-2 start remained, for a time, the worst part of the Giants’ journey toward the ultimate success. For years, whenever the Giants lost a string of games, or started a season in less than ideal fashion, they would harken back to 2007 and the turnaround. We were 0-2 then, they’d say. We wound up winning a Super Bowl, they’d say. We can do it again, they’d say.

They never did. And, by the way, no one has since.

There isn’t anyone left in the Giants' locker room who still leans on that crutch. Years of slow starts to seasons have replaced that one time when it all worked out for the best. But there was something said this week, after the Giants fell to 1-4 in a rout at the hands of the Cowboys, that harkened to the kind of desperate logic that once permeated the entire organization.

"I’ve been here for four years and we’ve had way worse starts," linebacker Lorenzo Carter said on Monday, "and I don’t think we’ve been out of it at the end when it comes to December and at the end of the year."

The team started 1-7 in 2018 and finished in last place in the NFC East, five games out. In 2019, they started 0-2, won two in a row, then lost nine straight. They finished in third place and, once again, five games out of first. So what is Carter talking about?

Clearly last year, when the Giants seemed to have convinced themselves that despite their 0-5 start and their 6-10 final record that they were one Nate Sudfeld appearance away from making the playoffs. Yes, they were in it until the final game of the season, but that was a mathematical anomaly based on one of the most dreadful years of play by an entire division in the history of the NFL. The Giants deserved better than to have Sudfeld control their fate, but they were far from deserving of a postseason berth.

If that’s the gossamer thread these Giants are sewing their plans with — that they’ve been worse and still contended to the final weekend — that’s a far worse narrative to cling to than the 0-2 turned Super Bowl champs Cinderella legend that was told for a generation of players. At least the Giants’ hopes after 2007 were all based on a team that won it all. Pinning optimism on the 2020 Giants is striving for mediocrity.

Last week, after the Giants beat the Saints, and for a moment all was right in the Big Blue Universe, Joe Judge said, repeatedly, that "results are the most deceiving thing in mankind." In other words, winning the wrong way can be more dangerous than losing the right way.

Now, based on the Carter quote, the Giants have to rid themselves of the mindset that getting close late in the season is the result they are chasing. But they also have to recognize how deceiving last year’s final day of the season was.

Can the Giants come back from this early-season hole? It’s possible. They should keep fighting and playing hard and not give up. There are 12 games remaining. As strong as the 4-1 Cowboys have looked, collapses do happen. Just ask the 2012 Giants, who were 6-2 and in control of the division at the midway point of that season but crumbled to a third-place finish, a result John Mara recalls as one of the most disappointing and frustrating of his lifetime with the team.

To suggest that these Giants can climb back into contention because they did it last year from a worse position — and only a game worse at the time, mind you — is destructive, delusional and, as Judge might say, "deceiving."

Take the lesson of 2007: Don’t give up. Keep working. Continue to improve. Don’t be intimidated by anyone. But also take the lesson of all the years since 2007: When something special happens, the worst thing you can do is bank on it happening again.

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