John Mara and Giants fans have at least one thing in common.
They’re both weary of his annual pleas for patience as the team rebuilds, the latest of which came on Wednesday at his season-capping news conference.
"I know it’s a tough ask," the co-owner of the franchise said. "I know they’re tired of hearing me say that."
He added that he is as well.
"I’m tired of sitting up here at the end of the year trying to explain what went wrong and why I feel optimistic about the future," he said.
But despite a campaign that ended with a fourth-straight losing season, with no playoff game for the eighth time in nine years, Mara maintained his optimism and invited the fans to join him in a "leap of faith" that things will get better. Soon.
"Obviously I am not pleased with the number of games we won, I am disappointed that we couldn’t do better than 6-10, but I did see progress in the building," he said. "I think the quality of the people we have in the locker room has improved a great deal. I think we have some great leaders down there. I think we have established the basis for a foundation that can have continued success going forward and I am excited about the future of the franchise."
That’s why, he said, he is keeping Dave Gettleman as general manager for a fourth season despite his having overseen the worst record in the NFL during that period.
Mara did make it clear, though, that when he stands in front of cameras and microphones at the end of the 2021 season, he does not intend to be making the same request for patience.
"I’d like to see our team win more games," he said. "I’d like to see us get back into the playoffs… I want to feel at the end of next year that we have taken a significant step forward, that it’s not another six-win season or something like that. We need to win more games."
Next year’s state-of-the-franchise address?
"I want to do it after a winning season."
That’s the charge for Gettleman and coach Joe Judge. They set the foundation in 2020, now they need to build upon it.
"Our football team made quality strides from beginning to end," Gettleman said. "We certainly have areas to improve upon, but Joe and his staff had a very productive year and now, as we enter our roster-building season, we have full realization there is still work to do… We’re gonna fix this. We’re going to fix this."
It was a year of struggles both on and off the field. Mara noted the "huge financial hit" the Giants and the NFL took without fans in attendance at games and said it was "eerie" to be there watching games in the empty stadiums. He noted the early loss of running back Saquon Barkley with a torn ACL in Week 2, calling it "brutal" and a "gut punch." The season began with the team losing its first five games and having a 1-7 record at the midway point.
"I’m thinking: ‘Where are the results? Where are the results?’" Mara said of that period.
He also spoke about the disappointment of not making the playoffs on the final day of the season, not so much because the Eagles did not beat Washington but because the Giants had come up one win short of making that game irrelevant.
"We would have taken it," he said of the potential postseason berth, "but we didn’t deserve it."
The Giants did play better in the second half of the season with a 5-3 record. Those three losses to Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore not only knocked the Giants from the first-place perch they held briefly in early December but indicated just how far they are from competing with some of the top teams in the league.
They also meant Mara’s inbox was filled. He said he tends to receive many more letters and emails from fans during losing streaks than he does during the good times, and this year was no different.
"I think most of our fans believe we are making progress," Mara said of those correspondences. "There are always going to be fans who are critical, and rightfully so."
On Wednesday he addressed all of them with the message he tells them individually through those exchanges.
"I am sincere in the belief that we are making progress here," he said. "I think there is reason for optimism. I feel good about the way the personnel decisions were made this year and we have some opportunities in the draft and free agency to improve the roster even further. I think, if our fans continue to stay patient with us, that they will see a winning team pretty soon."