Saquon Barkley is still adjusting to the NFL game.
Not so much on the field, where he seems to be fitting right in. It’s more the perspective of the pro level that he is trying to wrap his mind around.
“In college, you lose two games and our season is completely over,” the rookie running back said on Wednesday. “You don’t even get a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship game. Done.”
In the NFL, an 0-2 start is a glitch. It’s certainly a big one — only 11 percent of teams that start winless in the first two weeks have made the postseason since 1990 — but not one that can’t be overcome.
“Obviously you can’t be like ‘Oh, it’s just another loss and we’ll get ‘em at the end of the year,’” Barkley said. “You can’t have that mindset. But you also have to have the mindset that it’s a long season, it’s a long grind . . . We’re so close. We’re so close. I think maybe a lot of people are overreacting, I guess you could say, with a 0-2 start.”
Not the Giants. While the world around them spins in panic, frustration and anger, they are following the lead of their head coach and trying to remain calm in the face of calamity.
“I think it’s hard to evaluate a team and a season after two weeks, I really do,” Pat Shurmur said.
He was talking about the Texans when he said it, another 0-2 team that the Giants will face on Sunday, but the subtext was clear.
Shurmur later recalled seeing a New York tabloid backpage in 2007 when he was an assistant in Philadelphia. It had photos of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and the headline was “Will They Survive?” That team started 0-2 as well.
“Then, low and behold, they won a Super Bowl,” Shurmur said. “Now, that doesn’t say what’s going to happen, but you just have to play it out and keep playing. That’s the important piece. That’s, I think, what we as competitors embrace. If this was easy, everybody could do it. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way we wanted the first two games, but we just get back to work and try to put it all on the table for Houston.”
The Giants seem to be embracing Shurmur's approach.
“Broad and basic, that’s his personality,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “He doesn’t get upset. He’s not that type of coach. What is getting upset going to do anyway? Screaming and yelling, to me that’s a waste of our time. You’re getting riled up for what reason? We have to fix the things we need to fix and that’s the bottom line . . . You just take those on the chin and you move on.”
Added center John Greco, who played for Shurmur with the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns: “What you see is what you get . . . Never too high, never too low.”
That attitude is being put to the test with these early struggles. The Giants are in desperate need of a victory, even if they refuse to act desperately.
“This is a new group, new philosophies, new plays, and we’ve just got to keep grinding through,” Shurmur said. “I’ve been other places where it starts this way a little bit, the defense a little bit ahead of the offense, and then it gets going.”
The Giants need to get going quickly. Or else their season will be over quickly. That reality doesn’t change from college to the NFL.
“Once you get one win,” Barkley said, “it can start clicking for you and everything can turn around in the season.”
Getting that one on Sunday would be helpful.