For years, whenever there was a bad pass along the way, Giants fans could always look back and say, with confidence and certainty, “Well, at least it’s not as bad. than before. At least it’s not as bad as the 60s and 70s.”
For true believers, it’s shorthand for “1964-80.” Those 17 years have haunted Giants fans, 17 straight seasons in which the team failed to qualify for the playoffs and when its operation became a dyspeptic, dysfunctional calamity.
“As I live these years, only one word comes to mind,” John Mara told me a few years ago. “Hell.”
Mara was a kid then, growing up in Westchester County, going to school in British Columbia, and fall after fall was the same thing: hopeful offseason moves, draft picks optimists, maybe a new coach to inject some enthusiasm. And in December, 17 terrible years in a row, the Giants would make offseason plans that didn’t include even a brief playoff stoppage.
“The fans still have scars,” said Mara, now the team’s co-owner. “I know I do.”
It’s John Mara’s particular form of personal torture that he recently helped oversee precisely the kind of perilous path that filled so many of his own nightmares as a young Giants fan whose own father owned the crew.
It’s been so bad. The Giants, since 2012, have been just a decade in obscurity – and there was an outlier of an 11-5 season in 2016, a year that looks more and more like a figment of someone’s imagination. one – but at least during those 17-year droughts of the 1960s and 1970s, there were regular seasonal spasms of hope. There were a few 7-7s. There was a 9-5 and an 8-6. All of these could have been mirages, quickly replaced by slapstick. But it was something.
The last 10 years… well, they’ve been something, okay, but not nearly the same connotation. There was one three-win season, two four-year seasons, one five-win season and two six-win seasons. There’s only been one season in which the last game of the year had any relevance, and that was in 2020, when the NFC East was so hilarious and historically awful that the record 6- 10 from the Giants gave them a real playoff shot.
It’s telling that there have been four coaches during this 10-year reign of villainy (five if you include Steve Spaguolo’s four-game cameo as a replacement for Ben McAdoo in 2017).
“We have to do better,” Mara said last winter.
That’s when he officially tore up the plan and started over, hiring Joe Schoen from the Bills’ front office to be the new general manager, then watching Schoen hire Brian Daboll from the Buffalo coaching staff to be the head coach. Both men have done well in their first months on the job, giving a clear understanding of what needs to be done here. Schoen had a nice first draft. Daboll seems an instant infusion of life and energy.
So far, so good.
Now comes the hardest part. Now comes the part where people really start keeping score. Look, early in Joe Judge’s tenure as head coach, it was impossible to find anyone – player, costume, observer – who wasn’t convinced that his off-the-beaten-track methods were untainted. genius. Less than a year and a half later, he was a laughing stock in his own right whose firing was almost considered a mercy killing.
And the Schoen/Daboll era presents an additional hurdle in that it will be virtually impossible – and certainly unfair – to use the most obvious metric – wins and losses – to judge their initial progress. The Giants are going to be terrible again this year, there’s no doubt about it, although a weak division could bring some useful wins.
But what we will be looking for is more subtle than gains and losses. We need to see real progress. We need to see professionalism, of which there has been surprisingly little in recent years. We have to see, once and for all, what Daniel Jones is, if he is a quarterback you build a future around or a placeholder for anyone.
Even that horrible 17-year run in the NFL wilderness came to an end once Wellington and Tim Mara agreed to hire George Young. But remember: It even took Young a few coaching hires to get it right and four years to build a legitimate contender. There’s no instant fix, not in the NFL. It looks like the Giants are back on track, though.
Now is the time to learn for sure. From now on.
New York Post