By Jason Keidel
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Even when they looked baffled. Even when they sounded befuddled. Even when there was no hope. Even when there’s morbid failure on the field, there’s a nobility to the Giants that says even more about them than yards or points.
There’s a certain, symphonic harmony to the Giants that, in the absence of a good season, spoke to a good team. Call it Kool-Aid, Esprit de Corps or just old-fashioned faith, the Giants don’t quit, even at quitting time.
You’ll notice that fine franchises don’t change coaches every other year. They don’t panic. They don’t implode. They don’t go public with their problems. They don’t go Dez Bryant on the sidelines. (Can you imagine a mouthy wideout barking at Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick or Mike Tomlin during a game?)
Despite their inelegant start, there was an elegant homogeny to Big Blue. Though it sounded like a stupid, corporate cadence, chanting good thoughts while the house burned down, there’s a logic to the Big Blue Omerta that kept the team together.
We all laughed at Eli Manning when he belched his weekly bromides at Mike Francesa. You could practically see him thumbing his overalls while he’d “Oh, gosh” his way past another galling performance, which usually included a pick-six, hands on his helmet and a befuddled stroll to the sideline.
Then they eventually won a game. And we said it was dumb beating dumber, that the Vikings, sans a pro quarterback and with an injured halfback, were the only team they could beat, and even then could only beat them at home. Then they won again, on the road, against a team that pummeled them at MetLife a few weeks ago.
Maybe persistence indeed overcomes resistance. Maybe there’s a karmic tide that comes with consistency and optimism. Their 0-6 start looked a lot like a 1-15 finish. Not anymore.
No one really thinks the Giants can make the playoffs, or even come close. But sometimes failure says more about a coach, a QB or a football club. As paradoxical as it sounds, this forgettable season explains why they had those two unforgettable seasons.
Though the Jets have had a more competitive and compelling team this year, they invariably collapse on themselves. It’s not an accident that they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the ’60s. They’ve never had a monolith in the owner’s box or on the sideline. The closest they came was with Parcells, until his wanderlust bent his compass yet again.
One thing that you don’t hear with the Giants is self-pity, finger-pointing or excuses. Justin Tuck said he would deal with the first person who blamed the coach for their woeful season. And that was that.
The Cowboys, always equal parts talent and torment, melt at the first sign of resistance. Bryant can say he was trying to rally the troops all he wants. But does anyone really think he was reciting Tony Robbins with 12 seconds left while he was shouting at Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware stepped in? Is it just a coincidence that these spats almost invariably occur on losing teams with overly loquacious wide receivers whose fingers are equally void of Super Bowl rings?
Among the many things we love about football is that it exposes not only weakness but also sickness. A house divided and such. Teams with a me-first aura always find ways to falter, even when they’re better than everyone else. The Giants weren’t the most gifted team either time they won the Super Bowl under Tom Coughlin. But they were more united.
Speaking of Coughlin — the old, weathered monument to discipline — he won those Super Bowls right after calls for his vocational head. 10 years and a Hall of Fame resume later, the last laugh is on the red-faced, bespectacled disciplinarian who changed just enough to cater to the key demo.
It may indeed be time for the coach to go, but not because he did anything wrong. Sometimes a run ends, no matter who leads it. Yet the message remains the same with the Giants, and that message resonates just as loudly in loss as it does in victory.
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