Giants Have Reeled Me Back In

A four-game winning streak has the Giants in first place in the NFC East

I went into this Giants season wanting things to be different. Deep down, I didn’t actually think they would be, but I just really wanted a football season. Not a season that’s over when there are still leaves on the trees in the Northeast, and not a season that ends before the Major League Baseball postseason begins. I wanted what I have had twice in the last nine years, and that’s a football season that carries into December. I wanted something I have had once in the last nine years: a 17th Giants game.

The Giants kicked off their 2020 season as I was entering my 16th consecutive hour sitting in a hospital chair waiting for my wife to give birth. Just as the game and the season were starting, it was time for the baby to come out.

Five or six hours later, I’m not sure exactly what time it was, other than that it was the early hours of Tuesday, Sept. 15, I was sitting in the dark eating saltine and graham crackers and chugging water out of Dixie cups like I was Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway returning home, not having seen food in a very long time. The hospital cafeteria was closed and my only options were to either wait a few more hours for breakfast before crushing the hospital’s surprisingly exceptional French toast or to try to make a meal out of the airplane-like snacks the nurse was able to gather for me.

I wasn’t tired, and with the blinds drawn in the room, without a clock I would have had no way of knowing what time of day, or even what day it was, as if I had been in trapped in a casino. The last nearly 24 hours were a blur. I had been up for nearly all of them. It was now early Tuesday morning, and I had essentially been up since Sunday morning.

On Sunday afternoon, during the Week 1 “Witching Hour” of the 1 p.m. games and right as the 4 p.m. slate was about to begin, we were instructed to go the hospital as it appeared as though my wife was in labor. We raced to the hospital, I dropped my wife off at the entrance and then while flying around the parking lot looking for an empty space, of which there was one, I tried to force my car into a into a very tight window, like an inexcusable Daniel Jones throw, and hit the car to my right. The car ended up belonging to my wife’s delivery nurse who couldn’t have been nicer about the incident, and a few weeks later, it was resolved for only $250, which I likely would have lost anyway on the 4 p.m. games if I hadn’t been in transit to the hospital as they were being played.

My wife wasn’t going to be admitted until they ran some tests, and because she had yet to be admitted, under COVID precautions, I couldn’t enter the hospital until she was admitted. The woman in the hospital lobby told me I could wait outside. So I did that, pacing the sidewalk for 30 minutes before going to the car. I ended up spending the next four-and-a-half hours in the car (good thing I didn’t “wait just outside the door” like the hospital front desk woman suggested), before it was determined my wife was in very early labor, but wasn’t far enough along to admit her.

We got back home at 9 p.m. and by midnight the contractions started to pick up. I spent the next three hours meticulously timing them as if I were the one holding the stopwatch at the NFL Combine, and around 3 a.m., it was back to the hospital. By 4 a.m., we were in the delivery room. They had my wife doing squats on a exercise ball, while I sat in the corner trying not to suffer the same type of back injury Aaron Hicks would have if he had had to sit in that same chair for as long as I did.

Fast forward nearly 24 hours and there I was sitting in the dark in a slightly upgraded hospital chair. Despite being in the previous chair which made a Metro North seat seem like the recliners Joey and Chandler had in their apartment for upwards of 16 hours, I had avoided the type of back injury Hicks had suffered from a 27-minute spring training coach bus ride that kept him out for nearly three months of the 2019 Yankees season. I tried to quietly chew and crunch on my packets of crackers while my wife slept in an enormous and luxurious-looking hospital bed (which I would find my way into for a few quicks naps over the next two days), and next to her, our newborn son was out cold, swaddled tightly with a winter hat on, somehow full off less than a shot of Similac. I curled up in my folding chair bed to watch Giants-Steelers, which I had recorded.

The Giants lost. They could have won, and should have won, but they didn’t, in what has become the never-ending theme with the franchise for just about an entire decade. They couldn’t punch it in on first-and-goal from the 3 after a Steelers’ muffed punt in the first quarter, then with a seven-point lead and a chance to make it a two-score game, Jones threw an interception, and later in the game, while trailing, with a chance to take the lead back, Jones threw another essentially game-ending interception. It was the type of loss that led ownership to inexplicably move on from Tom Coughlin, got Ben McAdoo fired midseason and ran Pat Shurmur out of town after two atrocious seasons. On their fourth head coach in six seasons, the Joe Judge era was starting the same way the previous three had their eras end. A head coach I finally liked or wanted to like was overseeing yet another 0-1 start to the season, while Jones, who I was against the Giants drafting and have remained against, ruined yet another game.

Six days later, the Giants lost in Chicago by four points and lost their best player for the season. 0-2. A week after that they were blown out by the defending NFC champions by 27 points. 0-3. A week after only managing to score nine points at home against the 49ers, the Giants scored nine points for the second straight week in a loss in Los Angeles to the Rams.

The Giants were 0-4 and I couldn’t care less about them. I desperately wanted things to be different under Judge and I wanted things to be different knowing for the foreseeable future my family’s life would indefinitely be spent at home with only occasional and necessary trips out of the house. Once the Yankees season would end (and it ended early again), I knew the 2020-2021 NHL season might not start on the planned Jan. 1 date and might never start at all. I was relying on the Giants to provide a sports world escape and the only source of entertainment that didn’t require wiping spit up or newborn poop, and instead, they were the laughingstock of the NFL, having become the worst team in the league over the last four seasons. I decided, like in recent seasons, I would watch the games with no actual emotional or monetary investment in them. My only reason for watching them had become wanting everyone to progress other than the quarterback to progress, so that maybe by spring 2021 they would have another general manager and another quarterback.

In Week 5, the Giants held a 14-3 first-quarter lead over the Cowboys, but by halftime they trailed 24-20. With a late 34-31 lead and Dak Prescott now out of the game and the season, the Giants allowed Andy Dalton to orchestrate an 11-play drive to tie the game at 34. With 1:56 left in the game, the Giants had the ball and a chance to win the game. Instead, after gaining 15 yards, they punted. The Cowboys took over with 52 seconds left and went 72 yards to set up a game-winning, 34-yard field goal. 0-5.

The Giants would finally get their first win under Judge a week later with a one-point, 20-19 win over Washington, made possible by Ron Rivera’s idiotic decision to go for 2 at the end of the fourth quarter rather than kick the extra point and go to overtime. But a week later, the Giants were back to losing games in the most Giants way possible. Leading by 11 with 6:17 left on Thursday Night Football in Philadelphia, the Giants would blow their two-score lead and lose thanks to their usual late-game defensive collapse coupled with Evan Engram dropping a wide-open pass off his hands, which would have allowed the Giants to run out the clock. 1-6.

Eleven days later on Monday Night Football, the Giants led the Buccaneers 7-3 after the first, 14-6 at half and 17-15 after the third. But Jones showed up just in time to ruin another game with two second-half interceptions. Despite Jones’ awful second-half play, the Giants scored a touchdown with 28 seconds left to pull within a two-point conversion of tying the game. The attempt obviously failed.

At 1-7, the Giants were on their way to once again picking at the top of the draft (if they could get some help from the Jets and Jaguars) or near the top of the draft (if they just continued to play as badly as they already had). The Giants had the fourth pick in the most recent draft, the sixth pick in 2019 and the second pick in 2018. After going 3-9 in 12 starts last season, Jones was now 4-16 as an NFL starter. Three of his four career wins had come against Washington, and the other in his first career start when the Buccaneers’ kicker missed a field goal and two extra points to give the Giants a one-point win.

In Week 9, Jones and the Giants played the only team they seem able to beat in Washington and they beat them once again. 2-7. The following week, the Giants beat the Eagles the way they should have three weeks prior. 3-7. Somehow, the Giants were only a half-game out of first place in NFC East because of the failures of the rest of the division, and I started to think, Hmm … maybe. But I had thought Hmm … maybe in past seasons where the Giants were still mathematically involved in the awful NFC East only to be let down with a heartbreaking performance along the way. I wanted to be back in on the Giants, but I knew I would be setting myself up for unnecessary angst over the next six weeks. 

A season-ending injury to Joe Burrow made the Giants a road favorite in Cincinnati in Week 12, and they eked out a two-point win. 4-7. But they also lost Jones to a hamstring injury, and after Eli Manning didn’t miss a game for an injury from 2004 through 2019, Jones was now going to miss his third of 25 games as starter. For as much of a non-Jones fan I have been, he was still a much better option (I think?) than Colt McCoy, who has barely played in actual games over the last 10 years. I chalked up the Week 13 game in Seattle with McCoy starting against the best home team in the league as a loss, thinking the Giants would have do damage over their final four games to reach the playoffs.

But the Giants defense showed up in Seattle in a way they haven’t in at least five years. Despite being a double-digit underdog, the Giants won 17-12 behind a serviceable McCoy performance. (Given Jones’ knack for turnovers, I’m not sure the Giants win if he plays in Seattle.) Because they’re the Giants and not everything can go their way for a weekend, even though the Eagles and Cowboys would lose their games, Washington pulled off their own upset, knocking off the undefeated Steelers in Pittsburgh. Now also 5-7, the only thing separating the Giants and Washington is the Giants’ 2-0 head-to-head record over them. (Thanks for going for 2, Rivera!)

Five weeks ago, at 1-7, the 2020 season was as lost as any Giants season has been since Coughlin stood at a podium and acted as though he were leaving on his volition as tears streamed down Manning’s face in the audience. At 1-7, the Giants were headed to another losing, postseason-less season, and one that would surely end in the overdue firing of Dave Gettleman. But now? At 5-7? On a four-game winning streak? There’s already talk about Gettleman returning in 2021 because of the team’s recent play and the way their young players have developed, as if the final four weeks are automatically going to go the Giants’ way, as if the last decade hasn’t taught anyone anything about the Giants.

The Giants are in first place and control their own destiny, but standing between them and the destiny of playing a 17th game this season are the Cardinals, Ravens, Browns and Cowboys. Aside from the Cowboys in Week 17, it’s as bad as it could get without having the Chiefs or Saints in there. I would feel a lot better if the Giants had yet to play the Bears or one of the Eagles games or even the Steelers or Buccaneers. The Cardinals are fighting for their own postseason berth, as are the Ravens, and the Browns just dismantled the Titans in Tennessee. The only game the Giants will be favored in is against the Cowboys, and the Cowboys will undoubtedly want to spoil their rival’s postseason chances in the final game of the season. The Giants already let Dalton beat them once this season.

I’m fully prepared to have my dream of Giants postseason football crushed. That’s what the Giants do. And if they are to go 1-3 or 0-4 between now and Week 17, it won’t surprise me. I won’t be upset with them. That’s who they are. I’ll be upset with myself for caring about them again this season when I should have known better.

The Giants have reeled me back in. I actually look forward to Sunday now. It’s no longer the end of the weekend, and the day in which I eat only foods covered in barbecue and buffalo sauce while drinking for 10-plus hours straight and losing money because of things like the Vikings losing to the Cowboys or the Ravens losing to the Patriots. Sunday is for the Giants again, and now it’s for real, meaningful December games again.