The New York Giants report for training camp on Friday, beginning what shapes up as a critical season for the franchise.
The 2014 Super Bowl, as you most likely already know, will be held at MetLife Stadium -- the Giants home field. No team has ever played in a Super Bowl in its home stadium, and Giants' players made it plain during the offseason being the first team to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium is their goal.
The Giants will get a daily reminder every time they take the field for practice at the Timex Performance Center since MetLife looms in plain view of the Timex across the other side of the Meadowlands Sports Complex parking lot.
There are also other reasons why this is a significant season for the Giants.
The Giants won the 2008 and 2012 (or 2007/2011 depending on which way you look at it) Super Bowls. Yet, it's been a wild roller-coaster ride since that first Super Bowl title of of the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, and you can easily make the case that the non-Super Bowl seasons have been full of under-achievement.
-- In 2008, an 11-1 start turned into a staggering finish and an embarrasing first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Plaxico Burress. A second straight championship -- or at least a deep playoff run -- did not.
-- In 2009, a 5-0 start turned into a playoff-less 8-8 season. C.C. Brown happened. Bill Sheridan happened. Again, a playoff run for a team that appeared capable at the beginning of the season did not.
-- In 2010, the Giants won 10 games but could not win the games they had to down the stretch and missed the playoffs. Matt Dodge and DeSean Jackson happened. Playoffs, of course, did not.
Looking back on it, the 5-0 start in 20098 was probably a mirage. The 2008, 2010 and 2012 versions of the Giants, however, did not achieve nearly as much as they should have.
The Giants clearly need to find a way to get off this wild up-and-down roller-coaster and play consistent football. Forget the fact that the Super Bowl is at MetLife, falling short of the playoffs again in 2013 would make four out of five seasons during which that would have happened.
That, plainly, is not acceptable for a team led by a man who is one of the two greatest coaches in franchise history and quarterbacked by the best signal-caller the organization has ever had.
Manning may be around for many more years and have other chances, but the Coughlin/Manning era Giants are running out of time. Coughlin, 67. is the league's oldest coach and there is no telling how many years he has left. Also, there is no telling what happens once Coughlin is gone. If you remember what happened when Ray Handley followed Bill Parcells you know that's true. One great coach is not always followed by another.
So, an important season is indeed about to begin for the Giants. We could well be seeing the final run by this group before the Giants overhaul much of the talent surrounding Manning.
Training Camp Fund
I have now closed the Big Blue View Training Camp Fund. I can't thank those of you who donated enough, and I can't believe the outpouring of support. I had no idea what to expect, but I know I didn't expect what happened. How much was raised? An incredible $1,300, that's how much. That will fully cover at least two trips my home near Albany, N.Y. to the Timex Performance Center and probably help with more than that as there will -- hopefully -- be many trips to the Timex and MetLife in my future.
By the way, some of you asked for a mailing address to send a donation. I'm not going to do that, but I thank you for offering.
- J.R. Smith and Metta World Peace on the same NBA team? Does anyone other than the New York Knicks really think that is a good idea?
- Derek Jeter is gone -- again -- from the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez is apparently returning to the New York Yankees as early as Monday. The Yankees are proving they are still good at grabbing headlines. They probably aren't good enough to make the playoffs, though.
- Some people love Tiger Woods and others, well, let's say others wouldn't mind if he never won another tournament. Me? I desperately want to see him win the British Open on Sunday. Why? I admire greatness, and I would love to see Woods continue to close in on Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. The British Open would be his 15th.