EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Each week in the NFL, a team's coach speaks via conference call to the members of the media who cover that week's opponent. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin engaged in this ritual Wednesday and was asked whether he'd consider benching Eli Manning in light of the quarterback's 15 interceptions so far this year.
"Like a lot of the questions I get, you wouldn't want to know what I think of it," Coughlin said Thursday. "I just quickly dismissed that question. He's the guy. We're going to win again with Eli."
The dichotomy here is striking. The 1-4 Minnesota Vikings are coming to town for a "Monday Night Football" game in which they will employ their third different starting quarterback in four weeks -- Tampa Bay Bucs cast-off Josh Freeman. Most teams who start the season the way the Vikings and the Giants have will do things like bench their quarterback. Some of them fire their coaches.
But that's not going to happen with the 0-6 Giants. Their season was done by mid-October, but they're not firing their coach or benching their quarterback. And while fans often seem inclined to want blood in these types of situations, if you're a Giants fan you have to look at this stability as a good thing.
"I know in the NFL, or in anything you do, it's always a case of 'What have you done for me lately?'" Manning said Thursday. "And each year you have to prove that you deserve your position and earn your role. So obviously, I have to play at a higher level. But I know I can do that."
So do the Giants, and that's one reason to feel better about where things stand. This is not a playoff team, clearly, and it's a team that's going to need a lot of significant roster work in the offseason. But in the meantime, it's a team whose leadership won't allow it to quit on the season and a team whose rebuild won't have to include a hunt for a franchise quarterback. Those are both significant things, so let's take them one at a time.
First of all, while the chances of the Giants reaching the playoffs from 0-6 are infinitesimal, it still matters that they try to win their games. They are being paid to give an honest effort. People are still paying for tickets and parking. Teams that quit on their seasons are the teams that get their coaches canned and find themselves having to start over all the time. The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles quit, and it was heinous and ugly. No fan wants to go through that, even if it means a higher draft pick. It's a horrible weekly feeling to know your team isn't trying. Coughlin and Manning and the rest of the leaders will ensure that doesn't happen here. You don't have to have been around long to notice that.
"I've been on a lot of teams, and this team really holds itself together well," said running back Peyton Hillis, who signed with the Giants on Wednesday and practiced with them for the first time Thursday. "I don't know if it's the years in the same system, people banding together, whatever, but it's really good. Nobody here is down or feeling sorry for themselves."
The Giants strive not to take their record out on the field with them; some of them say it's hard to leave it in the locker room, while others say it's easy. But the success they've had together has built a belief in each other that makes them want to continue to play hard, and the support Manning and Coughlin -- two-time Super Bowl winners -- have in the locker room is evidence of a strong foundation on which to build for the future. Unlike the Vikings, or the Jaguars, or any number of other teams sitting at or near the bottoms of their divisions right now, the Giants don't go week to week wondering and changing who their quarterback is. They won't go into the offseason wondering, either. Knowing who your quarterback is makes a difference.
"It has a major impact," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday, on his own conference call with those of us who cover the Giants. "Everything on your team revolves around that position. To go into a ballgame with that position in flux, it affects a lot of things. It's not ideal by any means."
So consider this a dose of perspective if you're an angry Giants fan who wants to know what's going to change. The answer, at least at the key positions of coach and quarterback, is that nothing's going to change.
The Giants have to eat this. They made this 0-6 start. Manning threw those 15 interceptions. He can't go back in time and unthrow them. All he can do is focus on the present and the future. And while it might be small consolation for a season gone too soon, the Giants will be better in the present and the future for the stability that Coughlin and Manning represent.