Year after year after year, the Giants sing the same old song about the high expectations mandated by a standard set by the likes of Charlie Conerly and Frank Gifford and the four Super Bowl championship teams of Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.
And year after year, the Giants wind up singing the blues.
But as the 2021 Giants — one and all, veterans and rookies — gathered together for the first time at Tuesday’s minicamp, only the booming voice of Joe Judge sounded louder than the opportunity that is knocking for them this season.
The NFC Least is ripe for the taking, and the most talented Giants team certainly in the 15-33 Dave Gettleman Era — that’s not saying much, granted — has no excuse not to take it.
The 2021 Mets have shown us what camaraderie can mean for a team’s fortunes, and Judge established the right culture and the right locker room as the precocious rookie head coach.
Camaraderie can only take you so far. Camaraderie can help turn a 4-12 team into a 6-10 team.
With his second-year quarterback learning a new offensive system, with Saquon Barkley sidelined for the last 14 games, with a rookie left tackle on a vulnerable offensive line temporarily buckled by the firing of its offensive line coach, with cornerback DeAndre Baker self-destructing, the Giants were more Little Engine That Could than Big Blue Locomotive.
The Giants haven’t won a division crown since the 2011 season, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick might recall how that season ended.
It is time to win one.
This is no six-win team. Barring bad fortune and grievous personnel miscalculations, particularly on Daniel Jones and the offensive line, there is no reason why this cannot, should not, be a playoff team.
For what it’s worth, of the 22 current Giants starters, 11 have been drafted in the first and second rounds. That doesn’t count 2021 first-round pick receiver/returner Kadarius Toney or second-round outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari or 2020 second-round pick safety Xavier McKinney, all of whom figure to have important roles.
The Giants are in that large group of teams with a number of ifs … but if the power brokers didn’t think that it was finally past the time to consider themselves in rebuilding mode, they wouldn’t have splurged in free agency on WR Kenny Golladay ($72 million) and CB Adoree Jackson ($39 million).
The biggest if is Jones. If he cannot make a significant third-year leap now armed with Golladay and Toney and the eventual return of Barkley, then the Giants will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
I believe he is made of the right franchise quarterback stuff and will be the leader and distributor the Giants need him to be.
“That’s my boy,” Golladay said.
His boy won’t say it publicly, but this is make-or-break for him.
“We’ve all got to perform in the NFL, and you’re expected to perform at a certain level,” Jones said. “So certainly understand that, but right now, the only way to get there is to focus on what we’re doing here every day at practice.”
Of course, kid, of course.
Then: If the young offensive line grows up together. If Barkley returns close to who he was.If offensive coordinator Jason Garrett feels emboldened by his new toys and shows up with more nerve and creativity.
If Lorenzo Carter or Ojulari or Oshane Ximines can bring the heat. If Leonard Williams can ignore the pressure of being a $21 million man and build on his breakout 2020 season.
If Toney, who didn’t finish practice, can figure out how to stop slipping. “He’s a real twitchy and explosive athlete,” Jones said.
The Cowboys welcome Dak Prescott back, but will left tackle Tyron Smith at 30 return healthy and hold up following neck surgery? Can new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn manufacture a pass rush behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory? Is there a quality free safety in the house. Can Ezekiel Elliott stop fumbling? Is coach Mike McCarthy the answer for Jerry Jones?
The Washington Football Team features 38-year-old journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, he of the Fitzmagic-Fitztragic split personality. Is second-round draft pick Samuel Cosmi the cure at left tackle? The last team to repeat as NFC East champs was the 2004 Eagles.
I peg the Eagles last in the division. There is a question mark at cornerback opposite Darius Slay, and though first-round pick WR Devonta Smith is the real deal, the biggest question mark is quarterback Jalen Hurts. Who will miss tight end Zach Ertz when and if he is traded.
The strength of the Giants is their secondary, with Logan Ryan supplying peerless leadership, and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
“We definitely got some more horses in the stable this year as you know,” Ryan said, “but it’s a team sport. I mean, you have to come together and execute. To me it’s about execution and details and want-to and winning games is all that matters. I don’t play this game to have losing records and try to get one game better than 6-10. We have to take it one step at a time and the message is to build a foundation and embrace it.”
The foundation was built last season. It’s time to house a division championship at 1925 Giants Drive.