In the wake of the Giants' Super Bowl victory, people started to get a little carried away with themselves.
There were breathless declarations that Eli Manning was the best quarterback in the league and there were pleas to put Tom Coughlin in the Hall of Fame -- two things that would seem a bit more reasonable if they weren't totally reliant on the outcome of one game that could have easily been a loss.
That's not meant to denigrate the accomplishment; it's just a reminder that no one would make the same argument if Ahmad Bradshaw's fumble went the other way, or if Tom Brady put an inch more on his throw to Rob Gronkowski or if Kyle Williams could field a punt, or if Miles Austin caught a pass that was about as catchable as any pass in the history of the NFL while he was wide open behind the Giants defense.
The Giants' run to the Super Bowl title was a thing to savor, but it wasn't the entire story of their season.
Manning seems to realize that. In comments to the media after practice on Wednesday, Manning showed that he agreed with the old maxim that says you're only as good as your record.
"We got to have the mindset that we were a 9-7 team last year, not a Super Bowl-winning team," Manning said. "It’s not hard to sell it to me. You look at the film, you kind of take the big picture out of it and you look at the small picture, you look at individual plays, concepts of plays watching on film — we got to get better."
The message might seem a bit harsh after the way last season ended, but it is a good sign for the Giants. You need only look at teams like the Chargers to see how easy it is to become comfortable with underachieving for long swaths of the regular season before trying to put it all together at the last minute.
It has worked out for the Giants twice in the last five years, but it isn't a sustainable way to run a football team. Manning's admission as such is a strong sign for the Giants as they get to work defending the title.
Even stronger is the sign that Manning is finally ready to be a leader in both voice and performance. He will never be a loud, rah-rah guy, but this is Manning's team and it is a very positive development to see that he's embracing the responsibilities that come with that.
Hakeem Nicks might have broken his foot and there might be other major bumps as 2012 unfolds, but the Giants should be in good shape as long as Manning keeps bringing a realistic approach to leadership.