Standing in a room where a year ago almost to the day the Giants had celebrated a victory, handed rookie coach Ben McAdoo the game ball and embarked on an 11-win season that brought them to the playoffs, Olivier Vernon chose not to remember that moment.
Instead he recalled one from a few weeks later in the season, when they went to Green Bay and lost their third in a row to drop their record to 2-3. How all the hoopla and happiness from beating the Cowboys in the opener had already faded to near despair.
“It doesn’t really matter,” the defensive end said Sunday night, shortly after the Giants lost their opener at Dallas, 19-3. “It’s all about how you finish.”
If the Giants are looking for any reinforcement of that concept, they’re in luck. The personifications of it will be with them Monday night.
That’s when the 2007 Giants will be honored during halftime of the home opener against the Lions, feted for the 10th anniversary of their Super Bowl-winning season. That team began its season just as dreadfully as this one has. In fact, it may have been worse. The 2007 Giants were trounced in their first two games, thought they would be without quarterback Eli Manning for several weeks with a shoulder injury, and had a coach, Tom Coughlin, whose job security was slipping through his fingers.
They wound up being one of the most beloved teams in franchise history.
Let’s hold off on planning the big 2027 reunion for this year’s squad. But there is no reason to bury them yet, either. It’s impossible to say where this season will end up.
Losing the opener, of course, is not a harbinger of glory. The Giants dropped their first game each year from 2011 through 2015. They had a winning record in just two of those five seasons and made the playoffs just once. Sometimes being 0-1 is just a speed bump. Sometimes it is the first step into an abyss, as it was when the Giants started 0-6 in 2013.
Manning has seen 0-1 go in many different directions. He said he was entirely surprised by the way the Giants performed Sunday to make him 5-8 in Week 1, even after such limited time on the field this summer.
“In two (preseason) games we played a quarter and a half,” Manning said Monday on WFAN. “So to play four quarters, you have to put it all together. You have some new guys out there, new faces. There were some nerves going. I think that first week there’s always going to be a little bit of sloppiness at times, and hopefully you can overcome it by making big plays. We didn’t make those big plays, and we needed to.”
It didn’t help that their big-play player, Odell Beckham Jr., stood on the sideline because of an ankle injury.
The toughest job for Ben McAdoo this week won’t be fixing the offense. It will be fixing the mindset of the players. Getting them to block out the sounds of the funeral march playing in the background and focus on moving forward.
“A lot goes into every game in this league, and this just happened to be the first one,” McAdoo said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Didn’t go the way we planned. But we need to understand it’s one of sixteen.”
The players seem to have gotten that message.
“We’ve got 15 games to go,” Vernon said on the somber surroundings Sunday night. “(The loss) is not a telltale sign of who we are and we know better than that, so we’ll be all right.”