“What surprised me the most was that the teams that I expected to win, haven’t been winning,” Rolle said this week.
When he was playing, Rolle anticipated the Giants would be postseason participants and make a run at a second consecutive championship. But they lost key games down the stretch and their 9-7 record left them on the outside.
So Rolle, the safety who led the Giants with 108 tackles this season, has been reduced to a playoff spectator like the rest of his teammates, one year after they defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
“Honestly speaking, it’s definitely harder to watch,” Rolle said during a visit to the Timex Performance Center this week. “Especially going through experiences like the journey we went on last year and being successful. That journey is definitely harder, but at the same time, I’m a realist and I understand that we’ve had several opportunities to be in that situation and put ourselves in that situation again, but we failed to do so. I’ve just been watching it as a spectator, just a normal individual watching the game.”
The Giants controlled their postseason destiny late in the season, but lost it with consecutive December losses in Atlanta and Baltimore. They routed Philadelphia, 42-7, in the season finale, but were eliminated when Chicago defeated Detroit moments later.
For the Giants it was – and is – a bitter pill, because they believed they could successfully defend their title and they were in a good position to reach the playoffs for most of the season. Rolle is one of many players who have reflected on the disappointing end to the season.
“I’ve definitely thought about it, thought about it a lot,” he said. “Have I come up with an answer? No. I just understand that there were certain times where we were able to get up and fight through whatever we needed to fight through to be successful and at certain times we weren’t able to, for whatever rhyme or reason. You can see it before the game. You can see it during the game. You can see it after the game. For whatever reason, as a team, we weren’t in-sync; we weren’t hungry enough for that particular moment. It showed.”
Rolle, a vocal locker room presence who this season won the George Young Good Guy Award for his cooperation with the media, took it personally when the Giants did not make the playoffs.
“I’m a part of this team. I feel like if one fails, we all fail,” Rolle said. “That’s just the way we look at it and the way I look at it. I think we need to find a common ground within everyone on this team. We need to find a common ground. I don’t think a team should look at one person or two people or three people, for example, to get motivated. I think every man should look at themselves and be able to look at any other player on the roster. It doesn’t matter who it is in order to look for that spark or that extra boost of energy or that focus level.”
Despite being left out, Rolle has closely watched the playoffs. He thought Denver or New England would prevail in the AFC and Atlanta in the NFC. But Super Bowl XLVI will pit San Francisco against Baltimore.
“It’s going to be an awesome Super Bowl,” Rolle said. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a great story line with both Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. You have Ray Lewis retiring. You have San Francisco, which hasn’t been there for a number of years and was extremely close to getting there last year. It’s going to be a great battle. Both teams are going to be extremely hungry.
“There have been some exceptional games in the playoffs. I do see some fight and hunger in teams. I see a lot of similarities to the way that we fought last year and the way, for example, the Ravens have fought this year, or San Francisco fought this year. Even Seattle, the way they came back and fought and were able to make it out to the closing seconds with Atlanta. There have been some awesome games.”
Rolle expects to be playing in those high-stakes January games again next year. Although the Giants’ offseason conditioning program doesn’t start until April 15, he is already looking forward to begin preparing for the 2013 season.
“I know the caliber of this team and I understand what we have here on this team,” Rolle said. “This is a very special unit that we have here within the Giants. I’m eager to get back and do it all over again, and make sure we give it a better run.”