Coach Pat Shurmur was with the Eagles of all teams when he picked up a newspaper a decade ago only to see Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin on the back page. The caption read "Will They Survive?"
"Then, lo and behold, they won a Super Bowl," Shurmur, whose coaching career began in Philadelphia as an assistant for 10 seasons under Andy Reid, recalled during his Wednesday press conference. "Now, that doesn't say what's going to happen, but you just have to play it out and keep playing. That's the important piece. That's, I think, what we as competitors embrace. If this was easy, everybody could do it. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way we wanted the first two games, but we just get back to work and try to put it all on the table for Houston."
The Giants return to Texas in Week 3 to face an AFC South team that is also winless after two outings. Big Blue fell at home to Jacksonville in the opener and on the road in Dallas on Sunday night. The Giants have scored just two touchdowns so far this season, one in each game, opening up the door for naysayers to grumble "here we go again" about the offense. But for the new regime, this isn't "again."
Shurmur, general manager Dave Gettleman, and all of the new players and staffers have put their stamp on just two games in the 35-game drought of failing to reach 30 points. For those two – and the ones going forward – they are responsible. But only those.
"This is a new group, new philosophies, new plays, and we've just got to keep grinding through," said Shurmur, who was 1-1 with the Vikings at this point last season as their offensive coordinator and coming off a 26-9 loss to the Steelers. "I've been other places where it starts this way a little bit -- the defense a little bit ahead of the offense, and then it gets going."
Shurmur pointed to a number of "almost" plays that escaped the Giants last week. When those plays start to hit, Shurmur said, then that's when the confidence starts to build. The only good news about being 0-2 is that there are 14 more chances. Rookies like running back Saquon Barkley are learning that with the help of the veterans. The second overall pick remembered walking out of the locker room with 10-year outside linebacker Connor Barwin, and Barkley said to him, "Dang, it sucks losing two games." Then Barwin reminded him this is the NFL and not the NCAA with polls and a four-team playoff.
"In college if you lose two games, your season is completely over," Barkley, a Penn State product, said. "You won't even get a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game. You can't be like, 'Oh it's another loss, we'll get them at the end of the year, or we'll do this at the end of the year. ' You can't have that mindset, but you also have the mindset that it's a long season, it's a long grind. It's a lot of vets on this team and a lot of pros on this team that's been doing it for a long time. I continue to talk to them, or they keep telling me to stay with it, stick with the process, keep working, you won't play your best ball [until] towards the end of the season. It's literally like, once you get one win, it can start clicking for you and everything can turn around in the season."
Meanwhile, quarterback Eli Manning has been off the Ole Miss campus long enough to know that, too.
"I think obviously there are young guys that are going to be looking at the vets to see how they respond," Manning said, "and how they act and guys are coming from college where all of a sudden you lose a game, you lose two games the season's over where the NFL we're one game back in the division. It's a long season, a lot can change and we still got great opportunities to just keep working and just worry about kind of the process and just doing things the right way and things will come around."
That doesn't mean the road will get any easier, though. After losing their starting center for the season, the Giants go up against three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and company. On the other side of the ball, the Giants' leading pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, continues to deal with an ankle injury that sidelined him the first two weeks, and starting cornerback Eli Apple left last week's game with a groin injury.
With or without them, the defense is set to face quarterback Deshaun Watson, who took the league by storm for the first half of his rookie campaign before suffering a season-ending knee injury. In his first two games back, Watson is completing less than 60 percent of his passes with just three touchdowns to two interceptions. Shurmur was asked about the Texans' slow start, and he may as well have been talking about his own team in his response.
"I think it's hard to evaluate a team and a season after two weeks," he said. "I really do."
*The Giants signed Elijhaa Penny, a running back turned fullback, off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad on Wednesday. To make room on the roster, the Giants placed Jon Halapio on injured reserve after the starting center suffered fractures to his lower leg and ankle in the third quarter of the Sunday night game in Dallas. Halapio underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injuries.
"He's a guy that our personnel guys liked on tape," Shurmur said. "We had a spot and wanted to bring him in and take a look at him. He does what all fullbacks do -- he's a good blocker, he's got good hands, he can run the ball in a pinch, all the things you look for in a back."
*For the third week in a row, the Giants will face a quarterback who can makes things happen with his legs in addition to his arm. In Week 1, Jacksonville's Blake Bortles broke a 41-yard run. Last week, Dak Prescott had seven rushes for 45 yards, including a long of 15 yards. Watson has 84 yards this season on the league's No. 1 rushing team through two weeks.
"Until we fix the zone read stuff, we will continue to see it, especially from mobile quarterbacks," Shurmur said. "Again, it's another challenge for us. Those are really where the big runs came last week. I thought our guys battled the run pretty well considering the type of runner that we were playing against and type of offensive line. Sometimes those zone reads pop out on you. That's always the challenge when you have a quarterback that has legs like they do."
*After Apple left the game in Dallas, B.W. Webb stepped up in his place. It's in the "handbook" to go after a backup, and this week won't be any different should Apple not be able to play.
"There are ways to [protect Webb] and we will be prepared to do it," Shurmur said. "He's got to carry his own weight, though, too. That's the important piece is, you can't get queasy about it, you've got to keep playing, go out there and cover your guy. You've got to cover your guy, you've got to block your guy, and keep playing."
*Apple, Vernon, and outside linebacker Connor Barwin (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver/punt returner Kaelin Clay were limited with ankle injuries.
View the best photos from Giants practice