Bad as it was to lose to the Seattle Seahawks 36-25 at home Oct. 9 — “probably the most miserable feeling weve had around here in a long time, coach Tom Coughlin said afterward — the New York Giants had more wretchedness to come.
There was a four-game losing streak. They lost five of six to fall to 7-7 ahead of a Christmas Eve game against the rival Jets, who where 8-6 and also in the playoff hunt. Facebook had a Fire Tom Coughlin/Hire Bill Cowher page, and blogs and mainstream media were grousing for the white-haired head of the oldest coach in the NFL.
The Seahawks too, were 7-7, but after clobbering the Bears in Chicago 38-14, football optimism prevailed in Seattle while Christmas gloom in Gotham was thick.
The consensus forecasts were that a loss to the Jets certainly would cost Coughlin his job.
Instead, the Giants won 29-14. The next week, they beat the Cowboys 31-14 to win the NFC East with a modest 9-7 record.
In the playoffs, they beat Atlanta 24-2, Green Bay 37-20 and San Francisco, 20-17, all on the road. And as you may have heard Sunday, beat the favored New England Patriots 21-17 to win Super Bowl XLVII.
So, class, what have we learned?
Since the Giants are the best team in football today, and three months earlier were punched out at home by the Seahawks, it means either the Giants became really good really fast, or the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 in the NFL is the breaks on a handful of plays.
While the former choice is certainly a factor, I would chose the latter as a much bigger Chunk O’ Truth. (Oh, yeah, the Seahawks might be a little better than 7-9 would indicate, too.)
No, extreme parity is not really breaking news to students of the NFL, but it was reinforced Sunday by one of the bigger “I told you so’s” from the Giants in recent sports history.
It can be argued that the point would be moot if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass on the Super Bowl’s final play ended up in the nearby hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Actually, a reversal of the outcome still makes the point.
The Patriots could just as easily have won as lost. And if the Giants had lost on the Hail Mary, it would have little diminished the feat of five consecutive wins after losing five of six prior to the Jets game.
It’s that close in the NFL, and a big reason why it’s the most successful sport on the planet. As tightly scripted as coaches like to make NFL games, the Giants had three fumbles skitter through half the cornfield stubble in Indiana and recovered them all. How random is that?
Even though it’s the Giants’ second championship in four years, the vast majority of Giants fans on Christmas Eve had no sense of dynasty, only despair and futility. Now they’re loading up on confetti for the parade down Broadway Tuesday.
Non-New York sports fans can load up their contempt for another Big Apple championship, but in the NFL, championships are far less about money than in baseball and basketball.
Besides, how can you not be happy for Coughlin and MVP quarterback Eli Manning? He was derided by some when he answered “yes” to the question of whether he was an elite quarterback, but a playoff-season QB rating of 103 says it better than even he, brother Peyton and dad Archie could brag up.
The rally to the pinnacle Coughlin and his team made from the misery of losing to the Seahawks and six other teams is fuel for the imagination of fans of every woebegone team. Not saying it’s the Seahawks turn next season, but hey, they won that game with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.
Slap palm to forehead now.