The present still is pretty crummy for the Giants, even after Sunday's 36-7 win over the Titans. They're trudging through the final three weeks of the season with what inevitably will be a losing record, watching other teams gear up for a playoff run, and trying to figure out who will be sticking around and who won't.
But the future? If it's as bright as the glimpse we had of it Sunday, then things might be back to normal for Big Blue relatively soon.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Andre Williams became the first rookie teammates in NFL history to have at least 130 receiving yards and rushing yards, respectively, in the same game. Devon Kennard had two sacks for the second week in a row, including one bruiser that ended Zach Mettenberger's season. Jay Bromley, Weston Richburg . . . even Kerry Wynn was a contributor.
"It's encouraging because long have we invested in their playing time," coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Most of these guys . . . the fact that they've played some and they continue to play and they get experience and they've had a little taste of success from time to time, that's a good thing."
It hasn't always been. For most of the season, the reliance on inexperienced players has been one reason for the incongruous play. Now, though, inexperience seems to be morphing into something else. Promise? Sure. Expectations? That, too.
Beckham has jumped far ahead in this draft class, never looking rookie-ish from the moment he was healthy enough to be on the field. Others are building and improving. Most notable among them are Williams and Kennard.
"I'm very confident in our class and some of the guys we have," Kennard said. "It's pretty cool to see some of us having the success we're having."
Coughlin, who might or might not be around next year to enjoy what might or might not be the full fruit of the Class of 2014, seems to be enjoying their development. He and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo are finding new and creative ways to get the ball in Beckham's hands.
"I don't think amazed is the right word," Coughlin said. "I think we knew he was a very talented young man when we drafted him and the number of things he can do."
He noted that Kennard "can shock you on contact" and has been "the kind of thing you're looking for" at linebacker.
Throw in last year's draft class that includes Justin Pugh, Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore, and maybe the Giants have something percolating here.
Then again, that's far from guaranteed. Almost two years ago, the Giants played a moribund Eagles squad in the final game. Rueben Randle caught two touchdown passes, David Wilson caught a touchdown pass and it seemed as if the future was on display. Now Wilson isn't even playing football and there are times, thanks to the shadow of Beckham, that it feels as if Randle isn't, either.
What makes this crop different? So far, not much. A little more playing time as rookies. But the only way they can diverge from past groups is to continue improving.
Last week, after the loss to the Jaguars, Eli Manning said he didn't know how to teach his teammates to win. The key, it seems, is to let them figure it out on their own. That's what Beckham, Williams and Kennard are doing. Sunday was the first time all three played significant roles in a victory.
It probably won't be the last.
"Hopefully," Kennard said, "we can build from here."