How bad was Sunday's loss to the Eagles?
It got Eli Manning to step up and finally assume the role of leader for the first time in his career. Long known for his spastic body language and overly emotive facial expressions, Manning went a different route on Monday and addressed his teammates at Giants headquarters.
His message was just about the only one you could send in the wake of such humiliation.
"We don't have time to moan, it's not the time right now to start going in the tank or start slacking off or being in a bad mood. Now's the time we got to be excited, you kind of have to look at the bright side of things, you got to be optimistic that, hey, we got a great opportunity to make the playoffs. We got to go in, play a big game in Green Bay. We just got to take care of our business. We're going to be the one to decide whether we make the playoffs and what happens. It's only us."
He's right, it is only up to them. And there really is nothing to be gained by wallowing in misery. That's true in life and it is true in football. To quote the master, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the race.
What's less clear is whether or not self-reliance is a good thing for the Giants at this point in time.
Oh, sure, you'd rather control your fate than sit there and realize you need help from other teams to make the playoffs. The problem is that these Giants have spent the last three years shrinking away from chances to set their own course. That's problematic and more than a little amusing given the way their head coach is represented by most of the media.
It is hard to read or listen to something about Tom Coughlin without coming across some combination of words like disciplinarian, authoritative, respected by players, no-nonsense and accountable. The reality of the team he coaches, with one brief and notable exception in early 2008, has never reflected any of those things.
They always lack discipline, often lack the ability to finish what they start and never seem to do a very good job of executing Coughlin's vision. You know that by the way he throws temper tantrum after temper tantrum on the sideline or holds passive-aggressive press conferences. Some have expressed disgust for those who raised an eyebrow for the way Coughlin verbally assaulted Matt Dodge on the sideline after his fateful punt. They ask what Lombardi would do in that situation and the answer is obvious.
He'd never be in it because Dodge would have been cut shortly after the second time he dropped a snap from the center. You don't get to coddle mediocrity and then earn praise for pointing it out. Coughlin's done that for a long time, but it's looking like he'll need his team to break their habits if he's going to keep getting chances to do it in 2011 and beyond.
For better or worse, that's another piece of the future that's up to Eli and the rest of them.