A team that began its season in search of a fifth Lombardi trophy is still looking for its first victory, and Ben McAdoo has adjusted the goals to something more immediate.
“I think number one is we can’t worry about playoffs this week, we just have to get a win,” the Giants coach said on Monday. “That’s number one. We can’t accomplish going to the playoffs or getting a playoff berth or anything like that this week. All we can focus on is the way we prepare so we can go down and perform well in Tampa.”
The Giants play the Bucs on Sunday knowing that no team has emerged from an 0-3 start to make the postseason since the 1998 Bills. The Giants still have a chance, of course. They trail in the NFC East by just two games.
“I believe in this team,” McAdoo said. “I believe in the potential of this team. It starts with me and we need to keep fighting to get better and we need to keep fighting to get the win. Got to get that first one.”
McAdoo has never been in this situation in his coaching career. Some of his players have.
“When I first got in the league, a long time ago, they always said the first one’s a hard one,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said after the game. “Sometimes it comes Week 1. Sometimes it don’t come for a while.”
Casillas was on the 2013 Bucs team that started 0-8. With the bye thrown in that stretch, they did not win until Nov. 11.
“Of course, we don’t want to get there,” he said. “We’re approaching Week 4 right now, and we’re hoping to get a W this week. And we’ve got to put everything, all eggs, in one basket, focus on the details, and try to get that win.”
Eli Manning was the quarterback of the 2013 Giants that started 0-6 and did not win until Oct. 21. They then won four in a row.
“We have to still believe we’re a good team and still believe we can get on a hot streak,” Manning said in his weekly radio interview on WFAN on Monday. “We just have to get that first win . . . Let those wins come, let them come to us. Once you get one they can be contagious and you can get a bunch of them.”
There was some glimmer of hope amidst the despair of Sunday’s locker room. After 11 quarters of ineffective offensive football, the team erupted for 24 points in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 loss to the Eagles.
“I think we’re going to be OK,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “At least we found something that works for us as an offense. If we play the way that we played in the second half for a full game I think we’re going to be dangerous.”
“We were in better position to be successful,” Manning said, “and that’s a start.”
McAdoo has been coaching since 2001 when he was a graduate assistant at Michigan State and this is the first time he’s ever been 0-3 to start a season. The four-game losing streak going back to last year’s playoff loss is one of the longest of his career; he was on staffs that lost seven straight with the 2005 49ers and the 2014 Giants, five straight with those ’05 Niners as well, and went through an 0-4-1 stretch with the 2013 Packers (who made the playoffs despite not winning a game between Oct. 27 and Dec. 8 that year).
How McAdoo handles this adversity will define the season, and possibly his future with the organization. But for now, he just wants to get a win.
“The three D’s, the cause of irritation: Denied, delayed and disappointed,” he said. “We keep learning hard lessons on things we already know the answers to.”