The Giants reconvened Monday after their bye week with two realities lingering. The first was their 1-6 record and dashed playoff hopes. The second was the accusation from general manager Jerry Reese that the team did not play hungry enough to avoid the first.
Reese made his remarks last week as the players were heading out the door, but they still were reverberating around the locker room Monday. Was the problem in the first half of the season, as Reese put it, that the Giants were too high on themselves? Had they gotten complacent? Did they lack the fire that it takes to win in the NFL?
“Yes, because of the record,” linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen or I’ve been around it, where you’ve got a team that performed really well, a playoff-caliber team, a team that doesn’t start the way they want to the next year.”
Offensive lineman Justin Pugh was one of the players who seemed to fuel the potentially poisonous preseason hype surrounding the Giants. Several times he referred to them as the most talented Giants team he’d been part of. “I’m guilty of that because I’ve said it publicly,” he said.
However, each time he said it, he would add that it was meaningless, that the Giants needed to play hard and do all of the little things correctly for their season to be a success.
“It was never like: ‘We’re so good we don’t have to get ready to go play,’ ” Pugh said Monday. “That was never the feeling in here. Especially in the O-line room, because everyone was telling us how bad we were. That’s never been a feeling that we had.”
Still, Pugh did not deny that something has been missing.
“In the NFL, the hungriest team is going to win,” he said. “Games come down to inches, games come down to one play. Whoever wants it more, those are the teams that get those wins. Those are the teams that win those close games. If ‘hungry’ is the adjective we want to use for how we lost all those close games this year and won those same games last year, I can see where [Reese] is coming from with that.”
Ben McAdoo, the coach whose job it is to get the team ready to play physically and mentally, did not dismiss Reese’s theory. “Were we a hungry enough football team?” he said. “You can make a case that we weren’t.”
But he also said there were other issues at play.
“Each and every game, there are a variety of things that happen that put you on a path to either winning or losing, and the same can be said for a season,” McAdoo said. “So it’s difficult to point to just one thing and say it’s just one thing. We have to be careful of doing that.”
McAdoo and the Giants now will turn their attention to the remaining nine games, to a two-month grind to the finish line. Their initial goal of a fifth Lombardi Trophy is gone and their hunger has been brought into question, but they still have more games left to play than have been completed.
“It’s important for us to get better as a football team, and the thing I asked of these guys is just take it one game at a time and one play at a time,” McAdoo said. “Don’t hold on to what we did the first half, but let’s go out here and be the best team we can be in the second half of the season.”
Notes & quotes: CB Eli Apple, CB Janoris Jenkins and RB Paul Perkins were excused from Monday’s brief practice for personal reasons, McAdoo said . . . WR Sterling Shepard (ankle) did individual drills Monday and expects to play Sunday after missing the past two games . . . Pugh (back) and DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) worked on the side at practice.