EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Justin Pugh still remembers sitting on the bench at the end of the Giants' 38-13 playoff loss in Green Bay, looking up at the scoreboard and thinking "That's not us."
"That's not this team," he recalled thinking as the Giants reported for training camp on Thursday. "The score didn't reflect how that game went. So I'm excited to get back to that point. I'm excited to go and play those teams, play in the big games, get back to the playoffs, and get back to where we need to be as an organization -- which is playing for a fifth championship."
Pugh wasn't the only one to mention that fifth championship as a goal on Thursday. It even came up in Ben McAdoo's first address of training camp to his team. The Giants see a trip to Super Bowl LII as realistic because, as Pugh, a fifth-year veteran said, "this is the best team we've had on paper."
The Giants return most of their key players from an 11-5 season and made some important improvements. So there's no use hiding from expectations. For them, a championship isn't just some distant dream.
"We expect it of ourselves too," said center Weston Richburg. "We're in unison in that expectation and we're going to put in the work that's necessary to try to get that done."
"We talked about how the calendar years may flip, some faces may change, but our goal doesn't," McAdoo added. "Our goal stays the same and we like being that type of organization that chases our dreams that way."
The Giants have been chasing that dream since the end of the 2011 season, when they thought they were primed to make a run at back-to-back Super Bowl championships. Despite some tough talk, and an infamous and ill-fated Super Bowl countdown clock in their locker room four years ago, they have mostly been unable to back any of that up.
Last season gave them hope, though. Their first trip to the playoffs in five years may have ended in disaster, but it gave them a significant building block. And they bring back almost everyone from a Top 10 defense, and they bring in hope they'll get a bounce back year from an offense that badly underachieved.
"There's a lot of optimism. There's a lot of excitement. We've added some really good guys to the team," Pugh said. "I remember driving over here this morning just like a kid on Christmas. I mean we've got a lot of things to look forward to this year."