How the Giants Stayed in the Playoff Race

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Rich Schultz / Getty Images

If the New York Giants can pull off wins against the Chargers, Seahawks, and Ravens over the coming weeks, Justin Tuck will make it to Christmas without ever having had a losing season. After the Giant’s humiliating 0–6 start to the season, it’s remarkable that there is even a snowball’s chance in hell of Tuck’s record remaining intact. But the All-Pro Defensive End doesn’t believe there was ever any reason to believe his team would melt in the face of adversity. Tuck says his team has refused to dwell on defeat. This is, after all, the underdog team Tuck helped lead to two Super Bowl wins.

“You can never get too high with the highs and never get too low with the lows,” Tuck says, sounding more like a sensei than a 6-foot-5, 268-pound wrecking ball. “One thing we are good at in that locker room is staying even-keeled. Even when we won four in a row, our mentality was still the same.”

The best Giants teams have never been outspoken. Instead of rallying around verbose players or posturing in the ESPN spotlights, the players try to look at themselves and each other dispassionately in order to figure out what to do next. Tuck talks about this process as though it’s a religious ceremony.

“After every game, we have a debriefing session – no coaches, just players – where we come in and we watch the film and we talk about it like real men,” he says. “If I make a bad play, I’m going to be the first one to say, I could have played this better. And our whole team is like that. It’s a culture.”

Tuck says this mentality has everything to do with history. It has been a tough season, sure, but the Giants aren’t a substantively different team than they were last year. And the Giants have a history of winning. There is, as he’s very eager to point out, no reason to believe that they can’t return to form.

He also knows that luck is part of the game of football (David Tyree helmet catch, anyone?), and he has the patience to wait for a break, then do everything in his power to catch it. When the Redskins’ defensive line gave him a few holes, Tuck sacked Robert Griffin III four times in one game. The two players both moonlight as Subway Famous Fans, but Tuck ate RG3’s lunch that day.

“We’ve played a lot of football around here,” says Tuck. “I’m speaking for the leadership guys on this football team. We’ve seen us be great and be dominant. We’ve seen us have to fight for everything, kind of how we did for everything this year.”

And that’s the impressive thing about Tuck. He takes easy wins and hard losses in stride. He just keeps going. He wants that winning season. If he doesn’t get it, watch out next year.

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