Expectations for the Giants in 2021 are . . . mixed.
Depending on whom you ask, and maybe even when you ask, the Giants either are a team on the cusp of making a playoff push — with the potential to make some postseason noise — or just a different version of the floundering franchise they have spent the past few years personifying, doomed for another fall and winter of heartbreak.
Joe Judge has heard all of the prognostications. So have his players.
"There's a lot of expectations externally," the coach said at minicamp this past week. "We can't do anything about that until we take care of the little things inside, so the expectations are there to improve at our job every day and put the team first."
For the next few weeks, that will have to be done individually. The Giants have two more OTAs this week — voluntary workouts that, given the conclusion of the mandatory minicamp this past week, are likely to be sparsely populated — before they head into the darkest depths of the offseason. They’ll be scattered around the country, maybe even the world, and won’t reassemble until the end of July.
That’s a lot of time for them to veer off the narrow course Judge has set for them. It’s why before they departed, Judge took time to speak to each of them in their small position groups.
Coaches often will deliver something of a valedictory address at the end of the offseason program. Tom Coughlin was famous for his end-of-minicamp orations to the entire roster that sometimes would last 20 minutes or longer. Judge delivered no such stump speech to the masses as the team left the field for the final time before training camp on Thursday, but his message undoubtedly was similar to the age-old warnings that have rained down on NFL players for decades.
"Generally speaking, we are going to talk to the team about training, being in shape, making the right decisions off the field," he said of those chats. "There are a lot of resources for us in this building and it is important for us to stay connected throughout the summer. When they need something, we are always available. Generally that’s the message."
Because even though the setting will have changed, the internal expectations of the players will remain the same.
"I talk to the team all the time about expectations, but right now at this time of year, the expectation for them is to come in, get in shape, do their job the best they can and work as hard as they can, to pay attention and make decisions that put the team first," Judge said. "That's it."