ATLANTA — As the losses have piled up, there seems to be a large, vocal and growing contingent of fans who are hoping for big things from the Giants.
The 2019 Giants.
Those fans already have written off this season as a bust and are actively rooting for their team to lose as many games as possible with an eye toward acquiring a better draft pick in April. Maybe they see what the pain of last year’s 3-13 record bore in Saquon Barkley. Or maybe they want another crack at a top-five pick, this time with an eye on a hotshot quarterback.
Whatever the reason, the cry is gaining volume:
Heading into Monday night’s game against the Falcons on a three-game losing streak, the current Giants players were well aware of the sentiment.
“I understand all of that,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard told Newsday when asked about the strange logic of wanting a team to fail in order to improve. “But us as players, we don’t look at it that way. We look at it as another ballgame and we’re going to go out and put our best foot forward and come away with a W. If we’re gonna do that, we might as well just lay down and let them win the game or forfeit the game. Nobody wants to do that.”
Odell Beckham Jr. would seem to be the current player who would gain the most from losing. He’s under contract with the Giants through the 2023 season, longer than anyone else on the roster (although at the current pace of off-field issues, it seems unlikely that he will see the end of his new extension while wearing a Giants uniform).
But Beckham hates two things: water, which we learned about last week, and losing, which we have known for some time.
“Can’t worry about what our record is,” he said. “Got to worry about this game, win this game, prepare for next week, win that game, go into the bye week, everybody gets some legs back, get some time off, clear your mind and come back and make a push. That’s how I’m looking at it. That’s what I could see.”
Of course, it’s not in players to tank. That has to come from above. The Giants’ coaches and front office have shown no interest in doing what, say, the Raiders have done by trading two cornerstone players for a load of 2019 draft picks. They sent Khalil Mack to the Bears, and on Monday, they shipped wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys.
With the trade deadline at the end of the month, there still may be time to use that kind of strategy. For now, though, it doesn’t seem to be one the Giants are considering.
It certainly would not go over well in the locker room.
“I don’t like that at all,” Shepard said of the possibility. “That’s just having a loser’s mentality. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ve never been taught to lose and be OK with losing. Not all people were raised that way or taught that winning is the way to go no matter what situation you’re in. You want to win ballgames . . . If you still have a chance, then why ever give up? Why ever give up, even if you don’t have a chance? Some people are built different.”
Notes & quotes: Giants CB Grant Haley said he didn’t care where he made his NFL debut, but doing it in his hometown of Atlanta was more than his family could have hoped for. “It’s definitely special,” said the undrafted rookie, who was promoted from the practice squad last week. “My mom, she’s excited, looking for tickets and stuff. She’s been my biggest supporter. For a moment like this, it’s special for her and everything that she’s been going through.” His mother, Dr. Carla Neal-Haley, has been battling a liver disease called PSC and is on the donor list . . . Fellow undrafted rookie Quadree Henderson also made his Giants debut Monday night . . . Inactive for the Giants were G Patrick Omameh, WR Jawill Davis, QB Kyle Lauletta, S Kamrin Moore, WR Russell Shepard, CB Mike Jordan and DT John Jenkins.