Twenty-first century Giants fans are terribly spoiled. If they think an 0-5 start, not two years since the team won a fourth Super Bowl, is a test of patience, how might they have endured 1976?
In 1976, the Giants lost their first nine games. Nine. They did not finally get a victory until mid-November, and did so then -- 12-9 over the Washington Redskins -- while failing to score a touchdown for a fourth consecutive game.
Their quarterback completed exactly three passes (not counting two to the Redskins) in 14 attempts. For 26 yards.
That quarterback was well-worn veteran Norm Snead, in his third tour with the Giants at 37, and seeing action only because an elbow injury had sidelined Craig Morton.
During his 2 1/2 seasons as a Giants, Morton never was treated well by hometown fans for committing the sins of having a porous offensive line and receivers who often ran improper routes or dropped passes.
Still, the wisdom of spectator demands during Morton's time -- "We want Snead! We want Snead!" -- was destroyed when they got Snead.
It was a season of remedial football. The Giants arrived at their ninth straight loss leading the league in penalties. Holding violations had become so chronic that a list of the guilty players was posted on the team bulletin board by the coaches. Guard Doug Van Horn, a 10-year veteran, was presented a special jacket. On the back were the sarcastic words, "To Elmer [as in glue], who HOLDS the offensive line together."
When the Giants lost for a seventh time in late October, 27-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it brought the only midseason firing of a head coach in team history. Bill Arnsparger, hailed upon arrival as the defensive architect of the only unbeaten team in league history -- he was a 1972 Miami Dolphins assistant to Don Shula -- was shown the door halfway through his third year.
There were player grumblings of Arnsparger's relentless criticism and assistant coach complaints that he never was open to their suggestions.
The salvaging job -- for the '76 Giants truly were the NFL version of the Costa Concordia, that half-sunk Italian cruise liner that foundered for 20 months -- went to little-known assistant John McVay.
A former teammate of Arnsparger's at Miami (Ohio) University, the so-called Cradle of Coaches, McVay had been a head coach at Dayton University and at Memphis in the short-lived World Football League but had spent the first nine games of 1976 fetching sandwiches for the staff and keeping track of kickers' hang times.
Still to come, two years later during that dreadful era of Giants incompetence, was the infamous Moby Fumble (Thar the Giants Blow It!), when quarterback Joe Pisarcik was ordered to hand off rather than kneel to run out the clock against the Eagles and his botched exchange with Larry Csonka became Philadelphia defensive back Herman Edwards' winning 26-yard score.
McVay was fired at the end of '78, though he had not called the doomed "Pro 65-Up" play against Philadelphia. (Offensive coordinator Bob Gibson had; he was fired the morning after the game.)
It was McVay who began to reverse some of the organization's worst decisions.
Just before that 12-9 victory over Washington in 1976, McVay cut wide receiver Danny Buggs, the Giants' 1975 first-round draft pick, who never caught a forward pass in two seasons. McVay also eased out the No. 2 pick from '75, lineman Al Simpson, by replacing him with WFL refugee Ron Mikolajczyk, one of those role-playing pro wrestlers in the off-season.
The day McVay took over, a news photographer recording the new head man's first practice session told McVay that he was a Giants ticket-holder -- Section 305 in Giants Stadium. "If you have any plays," responded McVay, whose congenial personality stood in stark relief against the stern Arnsparger, "send 'em down Sunday."
Under McVay, the Giants went 3-4 the rest of the season.
Anyway, it wasn't a lack of imaginative plays that made '76 such a trial. During Arnsparger's time, the team tried two tight ends on first down, double slots, double wings, I-formations, pro sets, the tight end spread wide, fake punts, fake field goals, a quick kick.
The day before Giants director of operations Andy Robustelli at last fired Arnsparger, he considered that, "you know, our people -- our players -- may not be good enough to win . . . "
Not the case in 2013. Whether currently being done in by injuries, poor decisions, occasional lapses in execution, the opponents' good work (never forget, there is another professional team on the field), or all of the above -- compared to 1976, when the Giants were a profoundly overmatched troupe slogging through the worst start in franchise history, Giants fans these days are downright pampered.