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Giants might be on the right path, but it better lead to winning — soon

Giants went all-in to win now, so they need to win — now!

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Giants Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Is the glass half empty or half full for the 0-1 New York Giants? Well, that depends on whether you are the type of person who prefers to take the optimistic view or the pessimistic one.

The Giants are preferring to be optimistic. They are preferring to believe that the Jaguars, who fell one good half of football short of reaching the Super Bowl last season, everything they could handle. That there were things in the loss they could build on.

“I was encouraged by the way that we fought against one of the better teams in the league,” Odell Beckham Jr. said this week. “Unfortunately, we lost, but if you look at it, the game could’ve went either which way. We just didn’t make more plays than they made. I think we’re optimistic about it.”

“I’ve been involved in a lot of first games of the season – won about half of them, and lost about half of them. You just move forward,” head coach Pat Shurmur said.

“I think the mindset is keep working, keep grinding. The way you look at it, it’s the first game of the season with a new coach, new players, new schemes. Not everything is going to be perfect. There’s some good things,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Obviously, a lot we’re cleaning up as well. We just got to play better ball. We got to make some plays here and there, clean some things up, get on the same page with how we’re doing things. So, I think each week we’re going to learn a lot. We’re going to learn how to clean up this offense, how to clean up the mistakes that were made, and we’ll get better. There’s enough good things to build off, and know we can go out there and play better football.”

Shurmur has said a number of times that he likes the path the Giants are on. I have expressed the belief many times that the Giants as a team and an organization are in a far better place than they were a year. Maybe even two, three, four years ago.

I still believe those things to be true.

You don’t, however, get points for being on a good path. Or in a better place. You get points for winning. Period.

Bottom line last week was that the Giants let a winnable game, one that was in their grasp with just a couple more plays or a couple less bone-headed mistakes, slip away. You don’t get those opportunities back, and with only 16 such opportunities in an NFL season each one that goes by is damaging.

The Giants, with their decision to forsake the long-term future and go all-in on the present with Eli Manning, chose the path of winning. Now. Once again, being on a good path or in a better place is nice.

The Giants, though, have to win. To justify the path they took, trying to win in the short term with Manning, they actually have to win in the short term with Manning. Maybe not Super Bowl titles. I have said multiple times, though, that forsaking the future for the present means the present needs to be successful. If the Giants miss the playoffs, I don’t know how you term that successful.

One loss, of course, doesn’t doom the Giants to missing the playoffs. Two to start the season? That won’t eliminate them, but only 10 of 91 0-2 teams since 2007 have made the playoffs.

The Giants can talk around it all they want. They need, however, to win on Sunday night.

“We plan to come out and win. That’s always the goal is to win. I hate losing, anything. Whether it’s cards against Shep over there, (RB Jonathan Stewart) Stew, I don’t like losing,” Beckham said. “I need that [winning feeling]. There’s no feeling like winning. Just the overall feeling of everybody in the locker room and knowing we did what we had to do. We’ll live on this moment for a little bit. Cool, and then get back to work. Everybody here wants to win, and we know the importance of this game. We know you don’t want to get 0-2, and start the season off that way, even though it is a long season. You just want to start fast and finish fast, and finish strong, too.”

His teammates need that winning feeling, too. Soon. Or this is going to be just another also-ran season for the Giants.

Which brings me to Manning.

Pat Traina on Friday called the idea “ludicrous” that there is already an argument being pushed that the Giants would be better off if Sam Darnold was their starting quarterback right now instead of Manning.

She also mentioned that I was planning on getting to this topic myself. Which is true, and what I’m doing right now.

Look, Darnold played really well in his victorious NFL debut while Manning and the Giants left some points on the table in a season-opening loss. To argue after one game, though, that Darnold would give the Giants the better chance to win in 2018 is just silliness.

Remember, I’m viewing this through the lens of a guy who beat the drum for Darnold for months prior to the draft. He was, in my view, clearly the best quarterback in the draft and despite my belief in Manning the guy I would have taken at No. 2.

I get what the Giants did, though, and why they did it. They have Manning under contract this year and next, and they think he can still play. The best way to support him was to upgrade the talent around him, not use their No. 2 pick on a guy who would eventually take over for him.

Darnold, if Monday night was an indication, could be a really good NFL quarterback for a decade or more after Manning is done playing. It may well be that the Giants made the wrong long-term decision. We’ll find out down the road. Did they make the wrong short-term one? One game is hardly enough evidence to make that decision.