When it comes to winning, Jerry Reese said the Giants still have some learning to do.
"It's a learned mentality, a learned behavior that you have to close games out," the general manager said on Tuesday. "It's a learned behavior that when you have a chance to close teams out, step on their neck. You have to do that."
Reese said that the most irritating part of 2014 for him was that the Giants didn't. They had chances to in all facets. Their offense could have done it on first-and-goal from the 4 against the 49ers. Their defense could have done it on the game-winning drive by the Cowboys. And even the special teams came up short; Josh Brown's one missed field goal came in the game at Jacksonville, which Reese pointed out the Giants would have won with those three points.
"That's what bugs me the most about our season," he said.
The difference in personnel, he said, is not very big from the rosters that won Super Bowls in the last few years. And Reese said that injuries were a factor, but the Giants still had opportunities.
"We were there in spite of all the injuries and attrition that happened to the roster," he said. "We were there."
But they never learned how to win. At least not until it was too late. It was a similar observation to the one Eli Manning made after the Jacksonville game, a seventh-straight loss, when he noted that the team needed to figure out to win.
"Some teams that we had under Coach Coughlin, they had been here for some years and we had a pretty tight roster, didn't have to make a lot of changes," Reese said. "When you get a new group of guys, they have to learn how to play together and have that mentality with each other. Somebody has to rise up right here right now on defense. 'We have to make this stop right here.' I don't know if we have enough players to do that. . . . I think it's a thing that grows when players are together longer. Most of the players on this roster will be back next year and I think that's something that we have to learn and grow as a team."
The Giants have had such issues before. In 2010, for instance, they lost several games late including the heart-breaking collapse against the Eagles. A year later Coughlin returned with the mantra of "Finish!" and the Giants took it all the way to the Super Bowl.
There's no guarantee that these disappointments will turn into the learning experiences that Reese wants. But at the very least, it's something to try to figure out before the 2015 season begins.
"We had some chances to close some teams out and we didn't do it," Reese said. "I think that's something we'll talk about this offseason, to be able to close teams out."