EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin had said his starting offense would play 15 to 18 plays in Thursday night's preseason finale, but they'd only played eight after two possessions and Coughlin decided that was enough.
"If they wanted to play more," the head coach of the New York Giants said, "they should have made some first downs."
A fitting epitaph for a five-game preseason in which the Giants won all five games but felt good about none. Starting quarterback Eli Manning played in all five of the games and ended up 20-for-41 for 188 yards and a touchdown. The first-team offense showed some decent signs of being able to run the ball effectively, but the passing game showed nothing but confusion.
After an offseason that brought a new offensive coordinator, a new system and at least six new starters on the offensive side of the ball, the preseason ended with a creepy feeling that very little has been solved. Coughlin locked in Thursday night on a first-quarter Manning incomplete pass intended for Rueben Randle.
"Again, the missed connection between Rueben Randle and Eli," Coughlin said. "'I thought this, he thought that...' Everybody in this room is tired of hearing that stuff. There's no place for that."
That was supposed to be last-year stuff. And the source of Coughlin's frustration is that these five preseason games -- as well as the practices that surrounded them -- did little to convince anyone that the last-year stuff had been left in 2013. The pass protection is still a question mark, Manning's not on the same page as his receivers, and now there are no more exhibition games left and only 10 days until the first game that counts.
"There are things we've got to improve on," Manning shrugged. "But that's why we have another week of practice."
The Giants don't sound worried, and maybe that's because worry isn't going to do them any good at this point. The season's going to start whether they're ready or not, and it's going to start without anyone convinced the offense is going to click right away. Just because they haven't proven anything on the field that would give them confidence doesn't mean they can afford to go into the season without it.
"You have to have confidence," Coughlin said. "We've had preseasons before where we haven't had a lot of numbers with our first offense. Hopefully, we can carry over."
There's a lot of hope around these parts. A lot of relatively blind faith in the ability of these players to perform better in the real games than they did in the fake ones. The one encouraging thing is that the Giants' belief in themselves seems sincere. They do not appear discouraged.
"It was the right route. It just wasn't timed right," Randle said of the play that angered his coach. "I guess he was expecting me to run it quicker since it was press. I'm pretty sure, with something simple like that, we can get it fixed. Not that big of a deal."
The regular season will offer the Giants a chance to prove that their brave preseason talk has been accurate. And it'll do that soon. Rookie offensive lineman Weston Richburg, pressed into duty this week as the starting left guard in place of the injured Geoff Schwartz, might have summed it all up when asked if he was ready to handle that job.
"I don't have a choice," Richburg said.
Ready or not, here the season comes. The Giants believe they're ready, even if they haven't proven it.