Daniel Jones threw five touchdown passes, including one in overtime, to give the Giants a victory when he faced Washington last December.
"Yeah, that was a big win for us," Jones said of the 41-35 decision. "An overtime win in a game where we battled and found a way to win. That was a thrilling moment. I think that’s what we’re pushing for as a team, to finish games and have wins like that. Certainly a good memory looking back at it."
It stands out not only because of the drama, with the Giants blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter before scoring in the extra period, but because of the rare result. It was impossible to know it at the time, but that Dec. 22 visit to FedEx Field was the last time the Giants won, well, anything.
In fact, during these last few years of putrid football that the Giants have played, the one thing that they have always been able to count on, for the most part, has been beating Washington.
Since the start of the 2017 season, the Giants have played 53 games and won just 12 of them. One-third of those victories have come against Washington. They are 4-2 against Washington during that span, 8-39 against everyone else in the league.
On Sunday, they get a chance to do it again. The winless Giants will host 1-4 Washington at MetLife Stadium, trying to bring home the first victory of this new era under Joe Judge against an opponent that has, in recent memory, always seemed to be able to produce the rare smile in the Giants’ postgame locker rooms.
For some young players, like Jones, wins against Washington are almost the only opportunities they have had to taste victory. Jones is 3-14 as a starter and two of those wins were against Washington. Now in his third season with the Giants, guard Will Hernandez has played every snap of every game. He has won just nine of those contests, three against Washington.
That doesn’t mean he is counting on this one.
"Every year is a new year," Hernandez said. "Every game is a new game, even if it’s the same team. You’re not playing the exact same team every week. It’s going to change. Any team can come out the next week and win. We’re not taking anything from the past into consideration. Every game is a new game, we just have to come out and play to win."
Hernandez admitted it does help to be familiar with a division opponent.
"Obviously, every year guys get better, guys improve, guys learn new things and new techniques, whatever," he said. "But they can only change so much. They’re not going to completely change their game, so yeah, we are definitely going to see things we’ve seen before. They’re going to make moves that we’ve seen before. That’s definitely going to help. We’re just going to try to use that to our advantage."
This version of the Washington team the Giants will face will be different, if for no other reason that that they dropped their racially insensitive nickname. They have a new coaching staff, too, headed by Ron Rivera. Still, oddsmakers know a trend when they see one. The Giants are favorites on Sunday for the first time all season. If they lose, it might be the last time they're favored as well.
In some ways, Washington and the Giants are alike. They are the two teams in the division in a rebuild, essentially racing to see who can develop first. The Giants might have a head start in that effort, given the play of Jones, whom they drafted in 2019. Washington already has benched Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback they selected after Jones that year. Beyond that, there are many similarities in the blueprints being used by both franchises, which should not be a surprise given that Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and Rivera worked closely together when they were in Carolina.
"This is a good football team we’re playing, I don’t care about the record," Rivera said. "This is the kind of team that they’re growing, they’re playing a lot of guys and you see improvement. This should be a very competitive game on Sunday."
Unlike Rivera, Joe Judge does not yet have a game ball over his new desk to signify a first victory. He has tied Ray Perkins for the worst start of any head coach in Giants history at 0-5.
Judge wasn’t buying into the idea that the Giants have any kind of inherent advantage over Washington despite such anomalous success against the team. In fact, he barely wanted to acknowledge that the Giants have ever faced Washington, even though they have played more games in their history against them than any other team.
"Look, regardless of the record, it’s our job to always expect everybody’s best, and that’s our job as coaches," he said. "Obviously I’ve watched all of the games from last year, I looked at it from different perspectives in terms of analyzing players individually into what we would have done with this year’s roster. That was really an early part of the process … I’m really only concerned with what we do this year."
If this year mimics the last few years, the Giants should be able to come away with their first win of the season.
If not? Well, they face Washington again in three weeks.