1ST & ‘10’
The Giants can’t give their fans a playoff game this season. They can’t even give them a meaningful game from here on out. But what they can provide is Sunday’s game against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, which promises to be one of the more emotional and electric atmospheres of the season.
It will feel, in many ways, like closure for an era that brought the Giants two Super Bowl titles.
Eli Manning returns as the starting quarterback, and the ovation he gets when he takes the field should be tremendous. With no guarantees that he’ll start again for the Giants in a home game, fans will want to shower him with 14 years’ worth of adulation.
“We’re going to compete, we’re going to work hard, we’re trying to go beat the Dallas Cowboys,” Manning said. “I appreciate all the support that the fans have given me this past week, it’s been overwhelming. And I appreciate them so much for all the texts, the letters, the way they expressed their appreciation for me. So I’d appreciate it if they came out on Sunday and cheered the team on.”
How long the ovations last will depend a lot on the Giants themselves. A few three-and-outs or an early turnover will undoubtedly sour the party. And there will be plenty of Cowboys fans on hand to nudge the momentum in the opposite direction should the Giants fall behind.
So much will change by the time the 2018 season starts. There will be a new head coach, a new front office. There very well could be a new starting quarterback.
But the ringing of the appreciation for Manning and what he has meant to the Giants since he arrived in New York in 2004 should still be loud enough Sunday to continue echoing through the stadium next September.
If anyone understands the challenges facing Steve Spagnuolo as interim head coach this week, it is the man across the field on the other sideline. Jason Garrett served in that uncertain role for the Cowboys in 2010 before he landed the full-time gig.
“It was a collective challenge,” Garrett said of his experience. “We had to somehow, someway, process what had happened and then get our sights set on a ballgame that we were going to play in six days.”
Garrett’s first game was against the Giants at MetLife Stadium and the Cowboys won, 33-20.
“I can only speak to our situation here when it happened and I do think our guys responded the right way,” Garrett said. “It really was about just getting back to work and focusing on what we needed to do each day in our preparation for the game and that’s really what we focused our attention on.”
‘PLAYING FOR PRIDE’
Olivier Vernon is one of the few Giants with experience in midseason coaching changes. He was playing for the Dolphins two years ago when the team fired Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start and Dan Campbell took over as interim head coach. Now he is with the Giants, who fired Ben McAdoo this week and replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo.
Vernon said the timing of the decisions makes them very different.
“When I was with the Dolphins, it was a little earlier in the season,” Vernon said. “Right now, this time, toward the end of the season, the guys’ mentality is playing for pride right now. Playing for pride, try to get these wins, still going out there and fighting. And that’s really the mentality right now that we’ve got in this locker room.”
Vernon said the change doesn’t affect him all that much as a veteran.
“It’s not tough at all,” he said. “If I was a rookie, then it’d be different, but knowing the business side of this organization, this is the NFL. You kind of block it out by just doing your job. My job is more important to me, and for my teammates and for my guys that I play on defense with, than worrying about what’s going on outside.”
Consecutive games the Giants have held the Cowboys to 20 points or fewer. The Giants are 3-1 in those games.
Combined record of the 38 previous interim head coaches in their season debuts in the role since 1990.
Years since the Giants last wore white jerseys at home, on Sept. 3, 2000. They will wear their all-white “color rush” uniforms Sunday, the same uniforms they wore last year in Philadelphia.
Time that Steve Spag nuolo and Jason Garrett have faced each other as head coaches. Garrett’s Cowboys beat Spagnuolo’s Rams, 34-7, on Oct. 23, 2011.