Jabrill Peppers is not taking this well.
“Man, nobody plays football to lose,” the safety said on Thursday with a scowl that has been etched on his face for the better part of two months.
That’s how long it has been since the Giants last won a game. Their last victory came on Sept. 29 against Washington, which means that they have gone all of October and most of November without a win. If they drop Sunday’s game against the Bears, it will be a seven-game skid through two full pages of the calendar. If they lose on Sunday, it will mean that they will go at least 62 days without a win, which would be the second-longest in-season stretch in Giants history by a day (and just because the 63-day losing streak in 1994 ended with a win in a Monday night game in Houston).
Peppers said he is tired not only of the losses but of the questions about them. That was evidenced by the terse responses he provided.
“Nobody likes to lose,” he grumbled.
Some less than others. While Peppers has been seething over the results of this season and the strain can be seen on his face, there are other parts of the locker room where it’s still possible to find a smile and even some light-hearted frivolity.
That’s to be expected, of course. Not every minute of every day need be spent dwelling on the drudgery that is this 2019 Giants season.
It’s interesting to contrast the feel of the majority of the Giants’ roster with that of, say, Tom Brady, who has been stomping through his news conferences voicing frustration that seems about to bubble into anger. He is so perturbed by what is happening with the Patriots that he looks as if he wants to punch someone in the face.
And they’re 9-1.
So are the 2-8 Giants ticked off enough? Have they become numb to or accepting of the losing?
“You should be mad,” said safety Antoine Bethea, a defensive captain. “Everybody should be upset.”
But are they?
Bethea said yes, even if they don't express it as visibly as Brady and Peppers do.
“People handle situations differently, but people are frustrated,” he said. “It’s not a situation where you say, ‘This guy isn’t walking around here with his fists balled up, so he doesn’t care.’ That’s not the case. Guys are all frustrated. Guys do want to get this thing turned around.”
Not all of them may know how. Wide receiver Golden Tate is a 10-year veteran who was on playoff teams in six of his nine previous seasons. The worst teams he ever played for finished 7-9. Now, because he was suspended early in the season and missed the two wins the Giants did post, he has yet to experience a victory with his new team.
“Not how I kind of imagined this going,” he said.
So what should the Giants do about it?
“I’ve never been in this situation, so I don’t really know how to answer your question,” he said. “But I can just imagine that at the end of the day we all have a job to do. No matter what the circumstances are, we’re supposed to show up to work and be professionals in what we do.”
Visible signs of dissatisfaction, while they may be part of human nature, don’t always help win football games. That’s why the Giants’ coaching staff is trying to channel whatever negatives the players are feeling toward the positive. They keep hammering home to the players (and the public in their comments) that they are “not far off,” that a handful of poor plays have overshadowed what have been mostly positive ones.
Even when the Giants try to fix obvious flaws, they do so with a mind toward the good things. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said during the bye week that he and rookie quarterback Daniel Jones watched video of all of his fumbles from this season. To counterbalance that, the very next plays they looked at were the explosive big gains they had accomplished.
“Just to kind of get that out of our system,” he said.
Now, if they could only get rid of the losing as easily as pulling up a different set of clips on a screen . . .
“I think everyone in the world would say they’re sick of losing,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of being sick of losing. I think Coach Shurmur made a couple of great points to our team, that it’s not about being sick of losing, it’s about what we’re willing to do to win. What are we willing to do to get the job done? I think that’s where we’re at.”
They’ve tried urgency. They’ve tried player meetings. They’ve gotten rid of the ping pong and the music and the other fun things that could distract them. Nothing has worked. So where they are at now is on the cusp of the longest win drought in nearly a century of Giants football.
“We know what we have to do,” Peppers said.
If they do it, they can rejoice. If they don’t, the misery will continue … palpable or otherwise.