The Giants’ unprecedented road to the wild card starts now
Now that the Giants finally have victory No. 1, all they need to do is keep winning.
No NFL team has ever started 0-5 and made the playoffs. That’s not just a big hole to climb out — it’s an earthquake-sized crater.
But there has to be a first time for everything.
The Giants locker room was on the verge of imploding last week, but can now bond and rally around a common goal after their huge upset in Denver on Sunday night: Let’s make history together.
First, some reality. The NFC East title is out of the question.
The Eagles are 5-1. The Giants are 1-5. Washington or Dallas may catch the Eagles, but the Giants are four games back with 10 games left and they already lost in Philadelphia.
So, let’s concentrate on the wild card. Remember, there are two of them.
The Packers are likely without Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone, for the rest of the season. Brett Hundley is now the QB unless the Packers attempt to talk Wisconsin native Tony Romo out of the television booth. The Vikings are starting Case Keenum. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting in Tampa if Jameis Winston’s shoulder does not respond quickly. Washington barely beat the 49ers by two points at home.
Want some turmoil?
How about the Cowboys being without Zeke Elliott for the next six games unless the NFLPA attorneys work some magic in the courtroom this week and get his suspension put on hold again. The Falcons warmed up for their Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots this weekend by blowing a 17-0 halftime lead at home and losing to the Dolphins. The good news: That’s not as bad as blowing a 28-3 lead with 17 minutes left in the Super Bowl.
Cam Newton is not the same player he was in his MVP season two years ago. Are we sure the Rams and Jared Goff are for real? Basically, there are no sure things in the NFC.
The Giants have zero margin for error and need to put together a long, long winning streak to get themselves back into contention. The mathematics work against them but the next step is giving the Seahawks their third loss when they play at MetLife on Sunday. Seattle hasn’t been the same since Pete Carroll didn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
If the Giants can get to the bye at 2-5, they can take a deep breath and make a run for it. They’ve played only two of their first six games at home, and although they’ve lost them both, you figure they will do a better job protecting their home field.
I suggested after the Giants started 0-2 and had scored only 13 points that Ben McAdoo hand over the play calling to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. He waited until the Giants were 0-5 to put his ego aside and do what was best for the team. He needs to concentrate on being the head coach of the entire team.
Even though the Giants are without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the rest of the season and Sterling Shepard could be weeks away from playing, McAdoo’s move energized the team in the 23-10 victory over the Broncos.
Okay, so the offense managed just one touchdown and three field goals — Janoris Jenkins’ pick-six accounted for the other touchdown. Sullivan had no choice but to commit to the run and it worked. The Giants’ roots are in power football, which they got away from with the pass-happy McAdoo. Maybe they were not a good running team because McAdoo refused to stick with it. The injuries to the wide receivers make running the ball essential.
There is Giants precedent for the head coach to take a step back as the play caller and create a spark. Back in 1999, Jim Fassel was dealing with the death of his mother the week before playing the Jets and delegated the play calling to Sean Payton. The Giants scored 41 points on the Jets, whose coaching staff included Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
“If I can fire myself from my job, I can fire anybody else,” Fassel said.
The switch happened in the 12th game and came too late to save the Giants. But the next year they went to the Super Bowl and scored 41 points against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.
By 2002, Fassel took the job back. The Giants were 7-9 in 2001 and 3-4 in 2002 after a 17-3 loss to the Eagles. The offense had scored only seven touchdowns in seven games. Payton’s mother had recently died and Fassel knew the strain that put on him three years earlier. He became the play caller again.
The Giants offense took off with Fassel back in control and they won seven of their last nine games to make the playoffs. They scored 38 points in a playoff collapse against the 49ers. After the season, Fassel said the staff and ownership told him he needed to keep calling plays in 2003. Payton wanted out and took a job with Parcells in Dallas, which set him on a path to be the Saints head coach. Fassel was fired by the Giants after going 4-12 in 2003 and never was able to get another NFL head coaching job.
The 2017 Giants are not a bad team. They just were playing badly. They blew fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back weeks in Philly and Tampa and each time lost on a field goal on the final play. Then they blew a fourth-quarter lead to the winless Chargers at home.
Is it too late to regroup?
Jason Pierre-Paul fired up the Giants in their pregame huddle Sunday night shouting, “We’re all we got. We’re all we need.”
They need to stick together and chase history.