When Jay Bromley came to the Giants as a third-round pick in 2014, the kid from Queens would walk past the trophy case in the lobby of the team’s headquarters whenever he had the chance. There, behind the glass, were the four Lombardi Trophies the franchise had earned over the years.
It was impressive. It made Bromley feel as if he were part of something great. Like maybe he had a hand in them, even though he hadn’t been there when they were won.
Over the years, especially since last year, Bromley’s perspective of that case has shifted. No longer does he see the four silver trophies, though they are still very much there. Instead, he sees the fifth. Or at least the place where the fifth might go.
“It’s always the mindset, trying to put a fifth trophy in the case,” Bromley said. “That’s what we strive for as a team goal.”
Ben McAdoo made that the unabashed goal when he became head coach for the 2016 season. The Giants had an 11-5 record and a playoff berth, all positive steps for a franchise that had not been to the playoffs in four years, but came up short of that ultimate finish line.
So they’ll it try again, this time seemingly better equipped to handle the rigors of a long NFL season, the offensive pitfalls that haunted them a year ago, and the 19 or 20 potential opponents who stand in their way.
Until then, the Giants’ facility remains a shrine to champions of the past almost taunting the current players. Bromley’s strolls past the trophy case have turned from awe to desire, a case that now seems half empty rather than half full. Odell Beckham Jr. has spoken about the banners in the fieldhouse that honor the Super Bowl winners, all of the names of the players and coaches on them. He wondered aloud during this preseason where they will find the room to hang the next one. With his name on it.
There is also a wall in the Giants’ main meeting room where pictures of championship teams going back to 1934 are hung. Last year McAdoo made room for the next title-winning team with an empty space on that wall. The space is still there. Waiting.
“You look at that,” cornerback Eli Apple said, “and you think: How will we look up there?”
This may be the year they find out. The defense, the strength of the team a year ago, appears poised for even better things. Jason Pierre-Paul looks ready to dominate, safety Landon Collins could be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, and Olivier Vernon is healthy, unlike last year, when he spent the first two months of the season playing with a shattered hand.
“You always want to get better, you don’t want to stay the same,” Pierre-Paul said. “So I think it’s going to be a great defense.”
They added weapons on offense, signing free agent Brandon Marshall to be paired with Beckham and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round. Sterling Shepard is expected to make a jump in his second season. And while the offensive line is still the team’s biggest question mark, it is certainly better than it was last year. A team that did not score 30 or more points in any game last year will have to improve in that all-important area, but the Giants have given every indication they will.
“If we do everything right, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to move the ball the way we want to and efficiently,” Shepard said. “We just have to do what we do.”
Last year was the first time many of the Giants reached the playoffs. It ended poorly, with a 38-13 loss to the Packers, but there were lessons learned from the experience. When McAdoo first met with the team in the spring, he showed them video from the postgame locker room in Lambeau Field. The sullen faces, the teary eyes, the disappointed countenances.
Remember that feeling was his message. Use it.
It’s just one of the ways that 2017 feels like a continuation from 2016. Progress was made then. Now it’s time to finish the job.
“We saw what we were capable of last year, and now we don’t want to take a step back,” Bromley said. “We want to take a step forward.”
And maybe next year they can focus on where the sixth trophy will go.