It’s hard to recognize it at the time, but someone’s direction can change in a single moment. The New York Giants know about this all too well.
What is now referred to as the original Miracle at the Meadowlands occurred on a brisk November day in 1978. Leading up to that game, the muddling Giants had lost three straight following a 5-3 start, a brief period of success during the horrendous 1970s.
John McVay coached that Giants team, as well as the 1976 and 1977 squads. Hired as an assistant in 1976, he replaced Bill Arnsparger mid-season and finished with a 3-4 record. Following a disappointing 5-9 campaign the following season, there was a sliver of hope that perhaps McVay was on his way to righting the Giants ship with a strong first half of the season.
However, that minimal sense of optimism dissipated the second Herman Edwards corralled a botched handoff from Joe Pisarcik and sapped the life out of the relatively new Giants Stadium by running in for the game-winning score.
Those that attended that fateful November 19th clash of NFC East rivals likely wince upon the mention of the game. But those that understand Giants history may look upon the meltdown as a turning point for the downtrodden Giants.
The Giants would win once in their last four games following the disaster, and finished with a 6-10 record, good for last place in the NFC East. McVay would get the axe after a two-and-a-half year stint as the Giants head coach, and the team would use their high draft pick on a quarterback named Phil Simms.
In 1979, Ray Perkins was hired to revive a destitute New York Giants franchise. And while his tenure consisted of two porous seasons, he finished strongly with a 9-7 campaign before succeeding Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. More importantly, he paved the way for an assistant named Bill Parcells to take the reins.
We all know what happened from there. Countless memorable moments, several legends, and two rings later, the Miracle at the Meadowlands seemed like a distant memory. In hindsight, it proved to be beneficial for the resurrection of the franchise.
We are now nearly two weeks removed from the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. And after suffering a beat-down from the revitalized Green Bay Packers, the Giants are a Packers victory away from watching football from their couches in January for the second straight season.
The setting prior to Pisarcik’s epic gaffe in 1978 was hardly a bright one. That season looked like the ones that preceded it: one that would end in disappointment.
Conversely, before their epic meltdown, the 2010 Giants were swaggering towards their fifth postseason appearance in six years, and this time around, they may have been playing their best ball in December of any of those seasons.
That’s what makes the Miracle at the New Meadowlands truly devastating. Not the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching nature of the loss, which in itself was bad enough for those who bleed blue. But the potential success that it vanquished from the Giants in 2010 and the consequences it may have down the road is upsetting.
Instead of building on a three-game winning streak and continuing to disprove skeptics of Tom Coughlin’s ability to coach in the second half of the season, the Giants are now facing perhaps their most colossal collapse since Coughlin took over.
And thanks to their self-inflicted wounds, they find themselves at a crossroads, just like in 1978. Except so much more is at stake.
Although it may not feel like it, the Giants are currently in the midst of a glorious run. They made the playoffs in Eli Manning’s first four full years as starting quarterback, and have not had a losing season since 2004. They have been competitive every season and have been in striking distance of a potential run to the Super Bowl in every year since 2005.
Only once did they convert, which of course was in 2007.
But now that the euphoria from that remarkable month of football has vanished, it’s time to examine the state of the seldom mentioned “window of opportunity.”
Change is sometimes imperative in the game of football, regardless of whether or not it is fair. Tom Coughlin instilled a new attitude the second he walked into a Giants facility that was contaminated with Jim Fassel’s pillow-soft coaching techniques. Not only did he wash away Fassel’s lingering odor, but he was able to overcome his own flaws as a coach. With his job on the line in 2007, he altered his personality in hopes of maximizing his talented roster’s potential.
However, Coughlin is three years removed from his internal makeover. Prior to both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, everyone from ownership to the players was excited about their chances to make another serious run at a championship. And unless the Giants receive some help, they will be bitter in January for the second straight year.
Barring a surprising playoff berth followed by an unthinkable hot streak in January, it is no secret what moment will be highlighted from the 2010 campaign. From the all-important front office and coaching decisions to the changes in player personnel, the Miracle at the New Meadowlands will always be revisited by pundits.
Will the moves in response to this disaster parallel to the improvements made following the 1978 season? Or will the Eagles’ 28-point outburst in eight minutes prove to not only dismantle the 2010 season, but stymie the Giants in the following years?
No one knows right now. But years from the moment DeSean Jackson crossed the goal line to seal the 38-31 victory, it may be appropriate to look back to December 19th of 2010 to see how and why everything unfolded as it did.
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