EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sorry!
A day after a no-show performance led to their being eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in five years, coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning apologized to New York Giants fans for a no-show performance in a 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the team's final game at Giants Stadium.
"I apologize. I'm sorry. I wish I had an answer," Manning said Monday in a very quiet locker room that didn't have many players standing around to talk. "I wish we could have come out and played better football. I don't have the answer to why it happened or why it has happened kind of throughout the season where we have been up and down in our play."
Most players said what concerned them was the team's lack of pride with so much on the line. The Giants (8-7) had everything to gain. If they won their final two games and either Green Bay or Dallas lost one, they were going to the playoffs.
Instead, the Giants showed nothing after the opening series, fell behind 31-0 and walked off the field embarrassed.
Now all that's left is a game at Minnesota on Sunday against the playoff-bound Vikings, a contest in which the players hope to either redeem themselves or show management they want to be around next season.
It's not the end expected of a team that started the season 5-0, but it marks the fourth time in five seasons the Giants have struggled late. The exception was 2007, when New York won the Super Bowl with a late-season run.
"I do think the one thing that I want to say to our fans is that, to a man, we'd like to apologize for yesterday," Coughlin said. "I think that for whatever reason a team that had an awful lot to play for, that had opportunities there, that was playing in Giants Stadium for the last regular-season game, didn't play up to our capabilities. It's been a very frustrating thing."
Jeff Feagles, in his 22nd NFL season, described Monday's team meetings as somber and said most of the players were humiliated by the defeat.
"We're all stunned and disappointed," Feagles said. "It's very, very embarrassing. I feel sorry for what we put on the field yesterday, for the fans that have been here for a long, long time and more importantly for the owners of this team. For us to go out and do what we did yesterday is totally unacceptable, embarrassing, and we should all be very sad about it. I am."
Feagles said the only thing left is for the players to play for their jobs, and for their pride, noting that 9-7 is a lot better than 8-8.
"This wasn't one of those seasons where we were constantly cruising along every game," Feagles said. "It's been very inconsistent, up and down and everybody has questions."
Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson wondered after the game whether this team had the pride, passion and heart that has been a trademark of past Giants teams.
"You have to go out and play with an attitude, and I don't necessarily see that in any of these guys," Carson said after the game, adding the players were getting ripped and they didn't seem to be angry.
Cornerback Terrell Thomas understands what Carson was saying.
"He is not in the locker room and he is not making the plays, but I definitely respect it," Thomas said. "I definitely agree with it, because we didn't play with any passion."
Linebacker Michael Boley admitted the Giants played a bad game. However, he turned a deaf ear to Carson, saying he only cares what the guys in the locker room say.
"If we listened to everything said outside these walls, we'd drive ourselves crazy," Boley said. "We don't care who it is. It's up to us in this locker room and building."
The one issue that most players didn't want to discuss was potential changes in the offseason.
"Hopefully, we can stay intact," said tight end Kevin Boss, who will be missing the playoffs for the first time in his three NFL seasons. "I think we have been a team that has been pretty successful over the last three seasons and been to the playoffs the past four years. Hopefully, the core guys can stay together."
For the most part, Monday felt like baggie day, the day players put their belongings in plastic garbage bags and head home for the offseason.
"This is a bad day; of all the losses, this hurts the most because it had a lasting effect," Feagles said. "We come in here for the last game in Giants Stadium; this is no way to go out.
"You feel like that kid who did something bad and you have to come and face the facts, and that's always tough."