Four years ago, Giants GM Jerry Reese put a Super Bowl "countdown clock" on a board outside of the Giants' locker room. It was a bold move, a premature one, and maybe a little bit crazy too. It looked ridiculous when the Giants finished that season 7-9.
There's no way he'd repeat that public relations nightmare and pull that old clock out of the trash bin.
But for the first time since that season, he certainly could.
The expectations are high around the Giants as they get set to open training camp at the Meadowlands next week, and rightfully so coming off an 11-5 season. They underwent a successful and stunningly quick rebuilding effort last season. And when the players report to camp next Thursday, they'll have even more pieces in place than they did the year before.
Yes, they still have problems, particularly along the offensive line. And they'll be holding their breath that their good injury luck from last season continues for another year. But the truth, as they begin preparing for the 2017 season, is that they are loaded with talent and have the potential to be one of the best teams in the NFC.
That doesn't mean they definitely will be, but on paper they certainly have no excuse not to be a playoff team. In a generally mediocre NFC, they could easily be a Super Bowl contender, too.
Why? Start with the defense that rode a $200 million infusion of talent last season right into the top 10 in the league rankings. It returns all but one key player (defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins), including arguably the NFL's best secondary and a presumably fully healthy Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, who despite battling injuries throughout the season combined for 15.5 sacks last year.
They also still have one of the NFL's most dangerous and dynamic players in Odell Beckham, and now he's surrounded by a better cast. Until he got hurt early last season, Brandon Marshall was still a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver, and now he'll take pressure off Beckham as the Giants' No. 2. And while the jury may be out on how good a blocker the Giants' top pick, tight end Evan Engram, really is, no one doubts his receiving ability and speed.
The Giants have teased everyone throughout the last decade with the potential of their receiving corps which often has never fully materialized. This group has the potential to be the deepest they've ever had.
And if you buy the theory that the offense underachieved last season - dropping from the top 10 the previous two years to 23rd in the NFL, thanks to a combination of factors including a porous offensive line, a lack of creativity (or options) on offense, poor play by the receivers and maybe even the quarterback - that unit should be poised for a bounce back at least into the top half of the NFL rankings.
The Giants' five losses last season were by an average of 7.6 points. Three of the losses were by a touchdown or less. Imagine how good last year's team would've been with just a little more offensive punch.
That's the potential they hope to unlock this season. And if they're right that their offensive line is improved - something they banked on with their decision not to rebuild it during the offseason - and they can give Eli Manning a little more time in the pocket, and give the young, speedy Paul Perkins just a little more room to run out of the backfield, it's really only a short trip from where they were to the top of the NFC.
Yes, that's a big leap of faith for an offensive line that hasn't justified any faith at all. And with a lack of depth in key areas - the line, linebacker, arguably even the defensive line too - there'll be a lot of finger crossing that things go exactly right. And even if they do, that's a high bar for a team that has been to the playoffs just once in the last five seasons, and had a winning record only once in the last four.
But that's the reality brought on by their success last season. They spent wildly in free agency two offseasons ago, knowing the window was quickly closing on their franchise quarterback's career. They went all-in on making one last run (at least) at a Super Bowl while Manning was still on the fringe of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
Last season was the first step. This season they are poised to take another, and barring a significant injury or two there should be no excuse for them not to take it. No, there won't be a Super Bowl countdown clock hanging on their locker room wall. But they all know when Super Bowl LII will take place (Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis).
And for the Giants, the countdown is about to be on.