It's hard to imagine defending champions heading into their title defense with less fanfare than the Giants have received this summer.
Blame it on the Saints' bounty program, the endless stream of concussed players suing the NFL, the inability of NFL players to stay out of jail (Giants tackle David Diehl included) and some guy named Tim Tebow for grabbing the spotlight away from the Giants. Or don't blame them, since it seems the Giants don't want to spend much time talking about their title.
They'd much rather talk about the 6-6 start to the regular season that left them on the brink of elimination from the playoffs before they had a chance to put together a run to the Super Bowl title. As the team gathered for training camp on Thursday, Tom Coughlin said the question he's asking everyone around the team is "What kind of team are we?", a question that gets to the heart of what the Giants need to be thinking about this season.
As good as players like Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are, the Giants know after last season that there's only so much of their own destiny that they can control. They know that they lost to the Packers in the regular season because of a referee's call, that they beat the Cardinals the same way and that they won the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl with the help of fumbles, the recovery of which is a matter of luck instead of skill.
They also know that going 9-7 might not be good enough to win the division this time around and that it might not even be a good enough record to land them a Wild Card spot. So they need to do a better job of the things they can control than they did last season because waiting around for everything to click isn't a privilege extended every season.
It's exactly the right note to sound. Championship teams have every right to be confident, but that confidence can sometimes morph into complacency because of the feeling that they can just flip the switch at the end of the season and make everything right.
Focusing on the start, instead of the finish, means that complacency has no place to take root. It means Victor Cruz can spend all offseason appearing everywhere that there's a red carpet, making for some embarrassing moments at Red Lobsters all over the Garden State, but that he's still a guy making $540,000 for a team that wants him to prove he can do it when teams are waiting for him.
The motto for the Giants last season was "Finish." The Giants pulled that off quite well.
The motto for this season should be "Start."
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