It is another week in the life of the Giants, this one filled with uncertainty with the quarterback. Daniel Jones is in the concussion protocol and, as he appears to be progressing nicely, it will be a close call to get him medical clearance in time for Sunday’s game against the Rams.
The availability of the most important player on the field is a huge deal, but less so with the Giants. Many fans — assessing cursory, unscientific social media scrolling — actually seem to prefer that Jones sit this one out, looking long term rather than what awaits the Giants in Week 6.
This is the problem with the Giants. For far too long, there is no short term for them in the first half of too many seasons. The anticipation that leads into every opener painstakingly gives way to a numbness that gets into the bloodstream of players who have been around long enough to sense where this long and winding road is headed.
The Giants are 1-4 and in sole possession of last place in the NFC East — which is actually a difficult spot to claim, considering the mediocrity in the division, outside of the Cowboys. Newcomers might be able to push forward, oblivious to what has gone on around here for the past four years. Those who have been in the building during all or most of this depressing stretch try to stay positive, but human nature is the most relentless foe of them all.
“Yeah, it’s tough, but you have to keep plugging,’’ Sterling Shepard said Wednesday. “Whatever we’ve done in the past to figure out kind of midway through the season, we have to hurry up and do it now.’’
It is tempting to want to transport Shepard to a different era of Giants football. He’s as solid as they come and deserves better than this. He broke in as a rookie in 2016, the Giants won 11 games and went to the playoffs. Since then, when the Giants start playing, they start losing, and just like that, the season is gone. They were 0-5 after five games in 2017. Then 1-4. Then 2-3. Then 0-5. Now they are 1-4. It usually gets worse before it gets better.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter, in his fourth season with the Giants, cannot find the right words. He was asked if it is getting to the point when his team, already three games out of first place, is in trouble.
“Was that a question?’’ he said.
Yes, it was a question.
“Is it getting to the point where we’re in trouble? I wouldn’t say so,’’ Carter said. “I would say that we have everything in front of us. We have 12 games left. I’ve been here for four years, and I don’t think — we’ve had way worse starts and I don’t think we’ve been out of it at the end when it comes to December and at the end of the year, January, playing those football games.
“I’m not worried about being out of it or anything.’’
It is easy to pull apart Carter’s reasoning, but what is the use? It is all he knows with the Giants.
Shepard, the longest-tenured Giants player, is the lone survivor of the 2016 draft class. He is 30-55 in his Giants career. Evan Engram, the only remaining player from the 2017 draft class, is 19-50. The 2018 class is represented by Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez and Carter; they are 16-37. The Giants selected 10 players in the 2019 draft; just five remain on the roster: Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Oshane Ximines, Julian Love and Darius Slayton. That group is 11-26 since slipping on the Giants uniform.
Eight players from the Class of 2020 are still here, led by starting left tackle Andrew Thomas and starting free safety Xavier McKinney. It is a new bunch with the same results: 7-14 thus far.
It is difficult to blot out the stains losing leaves as residue.
Bill Parcells took over the Jets in 1997 after Rich Kotite went 1-15 in 1996 and during that first season identified the task he accepted.
“I’m too old to do this,’’ Parcells said. “These guys here, I tell you, this is hard. We’re doing a little better, but it’s hard. When a team’s 1-15, they just get beat down, mentally.’’
So many Giants are beat down, mentally, whether they know it or not. Joe Judge, responsible for just 21 games into this losing trend, said he does not detect any sign that defeat has become habit-forming.
“To me, it’s all about actions,’’ Judge said. “Guys can come in and they can sing a good song and they can whistle by the graveyard and all that kind of stuff, but when you come to work, how intent are you in getting better and how intent are you going to practice on the field?
“Have I seen any signs? No, I’ve seen our guys come in and prepare hard and work hard on the field, and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing today again.’’
With that, Judge took the field for practice, another workday for the Giants, coming off another loss.