The NFL is done with the Giants. At least until April, when they figure to have one of the top five picks.
Sunday’s loss to the Jets dropped their record to 2-8, handing them their third straight non-winning season and making them an afterthought for the remaining seven weeks of the season.
They’ll be out of sight and out of mind next weekend during their bye, but even when they return, they’ll just be that fuzzy, undefined blob in the background of the pro football landscape.
Fans, too, are ready to give up on this season. Their favorite players either aren’t playing (Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram), aren’t healthy enough to play well (Saquon Barkley) or aren’t quite ready to play at a consistently high level (Daniel Jones).
But the Giants themselves?
They insist that they are not giving up. With six fairly meaningless games remaining on their schedule, the players whom the Giants brought in to help define their new culture will get to work on that aspect of their jobs. They haven’t been able to steer the team to victories in 2019, so they might as well steer them toward victories in future seasons.
Which is why wide receiver Golden Tate essentially declared himself the sheriff of the locker room’s psyche, on the lookout for those who might be ready — like the outside world — to bail on this incarnation of the Giants.
“I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t let anyone in this locker room or anyone in this organization get discouraged,” he said after Sunday’s 34-27 loss to the Jets. “I’ll say it until the wheels fall off, I think we are a good team. We have a great foundation, we just have to put it all together for 60 minutes. We can’t be spotty.”
Their play has been. Their mindset, so far, has been steady.
“After a loss like this, I try to make sure I’m checking in with guys,” Tate said. “ ‘Hey, how are you feelin’? Are you healthy? Are you feeling good?’ Everybody seems like they’ve got their head on their shoulders.”
Safety and special teams captain Michael Thomas agreed.
“I can say this, looking at [Markus Golden across the locker room] right now, thinking about [Antoine Bethea] and all the players we have in this locker room, man, nobody is going to fold and nobody is going to lay down,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and a lot to play for. Whatever happens, we’re going to take it in stride like grown men and keep moving forward.”
Teams sometimes do crumble under the weight of losing. It happened to the Giants in 2017, and that was a year after they went to the playoffs. The key for this team is teaching the younger players to buy into the mentality that the veterans are espousing.
Pat Shurmur said one of the keys for the remainder of this season is to get the rookies and inexperienced players time on the field to improve and start looking toward the future, but he also said he wants to “raise them right.” He said he wants to see “winning effort” from the Giants in the final six games.
The thinking is that the actual wins themselves will follow.
“We have six games coming no matter what, so we’re going to keep fighting and keep improving every week,” guard Kevin Zeitler said. “No matter what we say, no matter what we do, they’re coming. So we have to keep going.”
It’s part of being a pro. It’s a lesson not everyone has to learn. Some are lucky enough to play their entire careers on winning teams. Others, though, have to fight through the misery to get there.
“At the end of the day, you play for the name on your jersey and the name on the back of your jersey,” said safety Jabrill Peppers, who has played on three losing teams. “We are all prideful guys. I’m not worried about guys checking out. We have a much-needed bye week, rest some guys up, get some guys healthy, and we are going to come out of this thing like we want to, and that’s ready to play some damn football.”