There is no escape from the losing.
That’s what the Giants are learning this season as they tumble through a schedule that is only halfway completed and has featured one win in eight games.
That record, it follows them everywhere.
Home. To the store. Online.
It’s the worst part about losing all of these games, many players said when asked during the past week how the disappointment of this season is weighing on them. They come to work and deal with football every day, but the burden of losing never takes a day off. It hounds these Giants during their time away from the team’s facility just as much as it looms over their time in meeting rooms and on the practice fields.
“It impacts your life because it’s on your mind a lot,” linebacker Devon Kennard said. “It definitely affects you off the field. It’s on your mind. You want to get it right.”
“It’s difficult,” defensive tackle Jay Bromley added. “You don’t enjoy it. You don’t enjoy putting that on film, you don’t enjoy your family watching it. It’s just something you want to get right so you feel better about yourself.”
The suffering goes beyond the players.
“It’s very hard,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “At the end of the day, it isn’t just your feelings, it’s what people are saying around you. It’s your close ones, your loved ones. Your kids, they hear it when they go to school.”
Eli Manning wasn’t even born the last time the Giants found themselves in this kind of predicament. You have to go back to 1980, a season many consider rock bottom for the franchise, to find a template for this rate of despair. That year, as in this one, the team won only once in its first eight games. The latest, a 51-17 loss to the Rams last Sunday, made it feel even worse.
“It’s tough,” Manning said. “Of course you’re going to be down and disappointed. Getting beat and getting beat badly, it’s always tough. It wouldn’t be natural if it didn’t hurt.”
Manning, over the years, has become a master at surfing the crests and troughs. In the locker room and in meetings, he tries to remain steady and even-headed.
Of course, there are moments when he’d like to throw the film clicker against the wall or lash out after watching any of the bad plays committed by him or his teammates.
He refuses to do that.
“That doesn’t fix anything. That’s not going to help us win the next game,’’ he said. “So I got to just keep preparing and working and keep getting some young guys up to speed and have confidence in them and knowing that we can go win this next game.”
Some might ask how the Giants can do it. How can they keep showing up day after day, loss after loss?
“Because you love it,” running back Orleans Darkwa said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating, but this is what you do for a living. If you don’t love it, you’re not going to be here long. That’s why you grind every day, because you love this game and you have a passion for it. If you don’t have a passion for this game, the NFL will kick you out in a heartbeat.
“You’re not coming in here losing with a smile on your face,” he added, “but you’re doing what you love.”
Sometimes, though, it can be hard to take.
“There’s a lot more hate on social media, that’s for sure,” Kennard said. “You have to block all of that out. I’m about to [shut down] all of my accounts.”
“If the fans keep getting worse, yeah.”
Bromley said it’s important not to listen to outsiders regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
“It’s just the flip side of it,” he said. “Last year we were a phenomenal team at this point and this year we’re not. You have the diehard fans who still stay positive and encourage you, but you also have the guys who are going to crap on us every chance they get. You don’t listen to either of them. You don’t place your happiness in the hands of the crowd.”
This level of losing is new for everyone, even Manning. But, he said, he can draw some lessons from past failures.
“We’ve gone through losing streaks before,” he said. “We’ve lost three or four in a row and don’t see the bright side of things, and we’ve come out of it. I think you just rely on your preparation, on practicing well, having confidence in your players and trusting them and, you know, you bounce out of it. For whatever reason, completions start to show up, defense gets you a turnover, you return a kick. Something kind of gets you going and you make the plays that you’ve been trained to make and it works out for you.”
And maybe the losing ends.
“Go out there, get a win and just change the mentality, the feel, the vibe in the whole building,” offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. “You’ll come in and the woman at the front desk, she’ll be smiling. Everyone will be a little bit happier.”
“There’s a lot more hate on social media, that’s for sure.” — Deon Kennard