PHILADELPHIA — A few weeks ago, Damon Harrison stood in front of the team and made a confession of sorts.
“I don’t know how to win,” he told his teammates, according to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “I’ve never been to the Super Bowl or the playoffs. But I know guys who have.”
That’s when the big defensive tackle called upon those guys — Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Jonathan Casillas, to name just a few because there are just a few — to blaze the path.
“He said: ‘You all are the guys who we have to follow, have to model ourselves after,’” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “That’s the approach most guys have to take.”
Have to because so few of them have done it themselves. Of the 53 active Giants players, only 16 have participated in a postseason NFL game.
“I counted it up last week,” Justin Pugh said. “It’s crazy.”
It’s also about to change. The Giants had a chance to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2011 with a victory over the Eagles Thursday night in Philadelphia. They certainly did not look like a playoff team when they fell behind 14-0 early in the game, but even without a win their odds of making the playoffs remain extremely high with a good chance they’ll get in this weekend.
The Giants entered Thursday night needing to either win or get a win from the Cowboys, Vikings, Saints or Panthers in the coming days to get in.
Whenever they do make it, the majority of them will share it as first-timers.
“That’s kind of special that we’re doing this together as a family, as a unit,” Pugh said, referring to the complete lack of playoff experience among the five starting offensive linemen. “We’re all in these uncharted waters together, so that’s something special. There is something to be said about that. And we’re going to continue try to figure it out as we go. There’s one way to gain experience: go out and get it.”
Rodgers-Cromartie has been part of two Super Bowl teams, but has not won the big game. He said he thinks the last few games for the Giants have provided a nice opportunity for those who never have experienced the playoffs to get a sense of what they’re like.
He also remembers what it was like when his Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season with virtually no playoff experience on the roster.
“The one thing I know about it, man, when a team catches fire and has an understanding, it jells for them,” he said. “It comes together for them.”
Just as it seems to be doing for the Giants.
“I view it like we’re hungry,” Pugh said. “Teams that have been there consistently, they have the experience, and that’s great, but they’ve been there before and they could be complacent.”
Plus, Pugh said, the Giants may not have a lot of individual experience in postseason football but they have it where it counts.
“I don’t know how many other teams that are going to be in the playoffs can say they have multiple championships . . . and then they can point at their quarterback and say ‘Look, we have two Super Bowl MVPs here, too,’” he said of Manning. “Probably the Patriots are the only other team that can do that.”
Notes & quotes:: CB Janoris Jenkins tested his injured back in pregame warmups but was declared inactive. Doing drills under the watchful eyes of strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese, Jenkins never seemed to reach full speed. Rookie Eli Apple and Rodgers-Cromartie started at cornerback. Jenkins was limited in practices for the Giants during the week and considered questionable for the game. He suffered a bruised back against the Lions on Sunday when he was kneed there by teammate Trevin Wade while making a tackle . . . WR Victor Cruz visited the corner of the end zone during warmups at Lincoln Financial Field in pregame warmups and reflected for a moment on the spot where he tore his patellar tendon in Oct. 2014, an injury that led to him missing nearly two years of action. Cruz said he would not avoid that area of the field and in fact he went directly to it . . . Pugh, a Philadelphia-area product, was a gameday captain for the Giants.