Nobody said this season was going to be smooth.
The herky-jerky range of emotions this week when the previously unbeaten Giants lost to the Cowboys on Monday night showed just how much the early stages of bringing the franchise back to where it wants to wind up will be like teaching someone to operate a stick shift. There are going to be lurches and stalls, wins and losses, good days and bad.
Ideally, at some point in the not-so-distant future, all those bumps will be burnished to a sleeker riding experience. Isn’t that right, Brian Daboll?
“Yeah,” the head coach/driver’s ed instructor of the team said this week.
Then he sighed. “But they won’t.”
It wasn’t pessimism. It was reality in the NFL.
Even the teams that from outward appearances cruise through seasons have internal roller-coasters, Daboll said.
“I’ve been fortunate to be part of some successful teams and there were waves throughout those seasons whether that’s you lose a good player, you lose a couple of games in a row,” he said. “You’re going to face those tough times. You can either let tough times bring you down or you can try to stay consistent, improve on the things you can improve on, be positive when sometimes it’s hard to be positive and do the things we need to do to be better the next week.”
The Giants will try to get back into gear Sunday when they host the Bears. It will be their first time playing a game after a loss under Daboll. How they respond to that circumstance may be as important as whether or not they actually win.
“Own it, accept responsibility, fix the things we need to fix and move on,” Daboll said of his message to the team this week. “You’re going to have these … but you move on pretty quickly in this league whether you win or lose.”
That’s not to say the Giants will be content with losing to the Bears. Saquon Barkley has been waiting his whole career to be on a team with a record above .500. Dropping to 2-2 isn’t what he has in mind.
“You definitely would rather be 3-1 than 2-2,” the running back said. “You go in with the mindset of trying to win a game, trying to do whatever you can to win a game. If you can get to 3-1 in the first quarter of a season, obviously not looking too far ahead, we’re never satisfied, but I would say that’s a pretty good start.”
That’s all it would be, though, is a start. To this season and to this era.
The fact is the Giants are such novices at what Daboll and the coaching staff is trying to implement – from the playbook to the psyche – it’s almost impossible for them to master anything to the point of consistency. This is a team that isn’t currently capable of doing just about anything well three times in a row, whether that’s running individual plays or winning games.
“It’s still a new package and everybody’s out there, there’s different guys that have been playing in different spots that they’re learning new things,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said.
So rides the roller-coaster. Dips and turns. Loop-dee-loops.
Those, as Daboll noted, are present for everyone in the league. For teams like the Giants just starting out on it they tend to be more pronounced.
“It’s never as good as you think, never as bad as you think,” Daboll said. “There’s certain things from week to week that we need to improve on. But you win with class and you lose with class. When you lose, you lose with even more class.”
Meanwhile you just strap in, keep the lid on your coffee and hope your student drivers don’t burn out the clutch.