Brian Daboll set the appropriate tone Wednesday, stepping aside so a doctor, a psychologist and a chaplain could speak to his team. In the wake of the traumatic NFL event, the Giants needed to talk about their physical, mental and spiritual health before they could give any thought to their regular-season finale in Philadelphia.
Should the Giants and the Eagles and the rest of the league even be playing this weekend? It’s a legitimate question as Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital after his heart stopped beating on the field Monday night. Saquon Barkley said it’s a conversation he wants to have with teammates and family members, and that “it’s going to be tough” for the Giants to be ready to fully engage by kickoff Sunday.
The star running back called Wednesday’s team prayer the most important part of the day for a reason. And in the end, not a single NFL player should be asked to lace ’em up in Week 18, or 19, or 20, or 21, if he doesn’t believe he is ready to go.
But it sure appears they will play football in a few days, and the Giants sure seem prepared to show up at the Linc for a game that has no impact on their postseason position. They will be the sixth seed in the NFC tournament — win, lose, or draw.
They should play to win anyway. It’s the right thing to do on every level.
“I think that’s part of the heart and pride of Giants teams,” safety Julian Love said, “that toughness about, ‘No, we go out there to compete and to play.’ ”
Love was just 9 years old in 2007, when Tom Coughlin’s Giants had no playoff odds to enhance entering their final regular-season game and yet famously put up a furious fight with the 15-0 Patriots, losing 38-35 while gaining the confidence required to beat the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
“That’s a situation that I think resembles what the Giants organization is,” Love said. “So we’ll see how we go about it this week. I wouldn’t mind playing at all.
“It’s a division opponent. It’s somebody I don’t like very much, and they got the best of us by a lot last game. … Now we have some good momentum. We played the last two games pretty good. We want to just dominate an opponent we might see in the playoffs. … Right now, everyone in the locker room is full steam ahead this week until we’re told otherwise.”
As a Bills coach last year, and as the leader of a Giants team with many Buffalo connections, Daboll was emotional as he arrived at Wednesday’s press conference with a Giants cap graced by Hamlin’s No. 3. The frightening and tragic injury, Daboll said, “weighs heavy on everybody’s hearts and minds,” so declaring his approach for the 13-3 Eagles was something rightfully low on his priority list.
Asked if he saw value in gaining momentum the way the 2007 Giants did, as opposed to resting and protecting key starters, Daboll said, “What happened in ’07, or five years [ago] — we’re going to do what we think is right for our team.” He might be willing to disclose his plan Friday.
So be it. But this really shouldn’t be too difficult a call. The Giants were blown out by Philly last month, and have an opportunity here to prove they can play with the current No. 1 seed in case they meet again later in the playoffs. As Daboll said after Sunday’s shredding of the Colts, “Our goal — it’ll never be just to make the playoffs.”
He wants his own Super Bowl ring to go with the five he helped Bill Belichick win in New England. That’s probably going to take a few years, but then again, you never know in the NFL. Crazier things have happened in sports than these Giants going on a spirited postseason run.
“I’m preparing to play, and that’s my job,” said Daniel Jones, who added that he will do whatever his head coach instructs him to do. Jones said he’s never had a conversation with Eli Manning about the 2007 team’s way of doing business.
The 2022 Giants need an early 2023 boost, and they should follow the lead of Eli’s first title team. After that loss unbeaten New England, Patriots center Dan Koppen told his counterpart, Shaun O’Hara, that the Giants were the best team they’d faced and an opponent they didn’t care to see in the Super Bowl.
“We gained all the momentum in the world in that game,” said Zak DeOssie, Giants long snapper. One Giants team official said the losing players walked off the field believing they had physically imposed their will on the Patriots.
“We knew if we played them again that we’d beat them,” the official said.
Fifteen years after a Super Bowl triumph that ranks as the Giants’ greatest all-time moment, so much has changed about the NFL … with a couple of notable exceptions:
1) The sport is still extremely dangerous.
2) Winning breeds winning.
If the league goes ahead with its scheduled game in Philly, the Giants should try to score more points than the Eagles score.