East Rutherford, N.J.–There isn’t going to be a “next week” for the New York Giants, who closed out their 2013 NFL season with a 20-6 win over the Washington Redskins.
In many ways, that’s a good thing, as the Giants, who this season were ravished by injuries, suffered a few more crushing injuries. The most serious of which were to starting left tackle William Beatty, who suffered a fractured leg, and the high ankle sprain suffered by quarterback Eli Manning, who took one hit too many behind his putrid pass protection.
But in some strange ways, these New York Giants, who bounced back from an 0-6 start in which they looked lost, disorganized, and at times disinterested, made it just a little more tolerable for their suffering fans by winning seen out of their last ten games.
“Yeah, not bad,” said linebacker Jon Beason. “It’s tough, when you win games you feel like that’s what you’re supposed to do and then the ones you lose. You always look back at those and those are the ones that linger. Based on where we started, a great finish, upwards for next year, but still bittersweet.”
Granted there will be some people who will point out that six of those wins came against teams with unstable quarterback situations when they met the Giants.
However, it should be noted that in each of those games, none were shutouts, as the average scoring turned out to be 21.8 to 10.6 in favor of the Giants, who still had to go out there and so what was necessary to win.
“No matter how tough times may get, tough times never last, tough people always do and this is an extremely tough football team,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “This is the last game we had to go out there and showcase what we had for the 2013 season and closing it out with winning seven of our last ten games, we can’t ask for too much more than that.”
Still, for head coach Tom Coughlin, who bristled just a bit when he was asked if he definitely wanted to return next season, the second half record was a matter of too little, too late, even if he was pleased with how they stuck together and battled.
“If I want to look at it in extremes, the first thing is the 0-6 in my mind and how did that happen. The rest is the fact that we battled back from that. Again, when I said I was proud of this team, I am. I know it’s not what everybody wanted; I didn’t want it, either, but 7-9 is a heck of a lot better than 6-10.”
His players agreed.
“We could have folded. We could have just said, ‘Hey, we’re out of it,’ but we didn’t,” Beason said. Guys showed a lot of character and pride, individually and collectively as a team. When you do that, I think that’s important. Those are the type of guys you want in your locker room.”
Indeed, several guys earned the right to return. There was the stunning performance by Jerrel Jernigan, the forgotten wide receiver who has had three solid games in a row in relief of the injured Victor Cruz. This week, Jernigan accounted for 14 of the Giants 20 points with a 24-yard touchdown reception and a 49-yard touchdown run, the latter of which is the team’s longest run from scrimmage this season.
“It’s a great feeling to come out there, you know, the coaches have been telling me through the weeks that I’m getting my opportunity to go out there and make plays for the team and just wanted to let the coaching staff and organization know that I can make plays. Victor (Cruz) is down or whatever, but when he comes back, I also still want to be out there when he comes back,” Jernigan said.
There was also the play of Beason, acquired after the first month of the season in a trade with the Panthers. Beason once again finished as the team leader in tackles and one can only imagine just how much better he’ll be next year if he re-signs with the Giants and gets a chance to really wrap his head around the playbook.
There is also the play of Justin Pugh, the eager rookie right tackle who became the first Giants first-round draft pick to start all 16 games in his rookie season since some dude named Lawrence Taylor did it in 1981. Pugh, who played left tackle in college, has the versatility to play anywhere along the offensive line, and he might need to depending on what happens with Beatty’s recovery.
There are others– safety Will Hill, defensive end Damontre Moore, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and running back Peyton Hillis all come to mind as being guys who have proven that they deserve to come back in 2014 to compete.
Most importantly, Tom Coughlin, the Giants fiery head coach, who didn’t want to discuss his future so soon after the win, has shown by way of his ability to bring the team out of the doldrums following the deflating losses, that maybe he is the right man for the job.
“I can’t imagine playing for anyone else,” Rolle said.