“Talk is cheap, play the game,” said Ben McAdoo’s predecessor Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is gone but those words could never be more accurate for defining the NY Giants’ 2017 season.
There is plenty of talk abound by players mentioning ‘Super Bowl’ as the Gmen enter camp. After falling short of the playoffs for the last 4 seasons of Coughlin’s tenure, it’s no surprise that a change was needed. McAdoo came in and fired Jerry Palmieri as S&C coach, bringing in Aaron Wellman as his replacement. The team vaulted up from 3 consecutive seasons in the injury cellar to the top quartile of lower injuries. Combined with the team getting a successful trio of huge FA acquisitions, it found itself in the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 Super Bowl.
Enter 2017 Training Camp. With a “healthier” outlook, the 2016 playoffs and a lot of continuity from personnel, teammates are talking Super aspirations. At least we are hearing one correct word along with that cheap talk… WORK.
Without plenty of hard work, there is nothing. We talk about it a lot here on this NY Giants blog about the sacrifice required for success on the field. Given that everyone is playing dinged up to one degree or another in the NFL, the difference in level of play is small and requires extra suffering for that impact play that wins a game. Think Justin Tuck in the 2011 season. Right there is a guy whose body was in tatters, yet he talked about his turnaround late in the year, when he turned the pain off and the effort up. He suffered, I am sure. But that was part of how the team went from 7-7 to ripping off 6 straight wins for a title.
Tuck suffered. Everyone followed his lead and likely suffered a little more in order to win a title. Will a player run through a wall for his teammates? When everyone is on board with collective sacrifice, championship bonds are made.
Eli Apple showed up at camp 7 lbs stronger with ~ the same or slightly more speed. DJ Fluker showed up 35 lbs lighter and in better shape at 339 lbs. Hart & Flowers lost weight and are in better shape too. These are individual demonstrations of commitment. Extra effort and sacrifice have to be made by everybody.
Nothing is handed to you in the NFL. Right now everyone is talking about what their team looks like on paper. As an appreciative fan of the NFL’s history, I have watched many (most) of the “America’s Game” documentary reviews of former Super Bowl champions. What struck me about these players’ recountings was the common theme over and over: shared sacrifice. 5, 10, 20, ..40 years later these guys talk about the bond, the effort, the suffering and the sacrifices made by individuals to put the team over the top. It’s about talent and shared sacrifice. Football is a nasty game and the dynamic is different than other sports. Yes, hockey has injuries because of all of the contact, but most other team sports do not have the kind of contact that demands shared sacrifice.
The 2017 Giants have enough talent on paper to be a legitimate part of the Super Bowl conversation. With hard work and shared sacrifice they can win a Super Bowl. Will this team sacrifice for one another? We won’t know for sure until the season evolves. (1) There has to be a belief in the coaches. I believe that is there. (2) There also has to be continuity in the roster. That is certainly there. 9 Defensive starters and 8 Offensive starters come back.
If there is one element that is underrated it is continuity. Free Agency continually rips teams apart. How do you run through a wall for teammates when you don’t even know who your teammates are? How do you suffer for the benefit of your teammates if you do not know that that new free agent is going to suffer for you? It’s not happening without some kind of leadership and continuity. With another significant wave of FA signings in 2016, we accurately labeled 2016 a positive yet rebuilding year.
We’ve been critics of Reese for many things, but that trio of FA signings he brought in last year delivered character to that locker room. I’ll single out Damon Harrison for his effort and continuing desire to get better. These guys are there in their second season with the Giants. The high-priced FA turnover is not there in 2017, which is a good thing. No teammates are there to ask about whether they are there for a paycheck or to win. In fact, Brandon Marshall, the most ‘high profile’ FA signing, took less money to play for the Giants and a chance at a title. These are things you need to see for that chance of coming together as one team making collective sacrifices for a title. It’s all there. The players, the talent, the continuity, the commitment. If the work and sacrifice is made, a Super Bowl is possible.