John Mara said the plane ride back from Oakland last season marked the low point for him in many years, but the Giants' owner is optimistic about his team heading into the 2018 season.
Mara, who spoke in an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, sounded equally excited about 37-year-old veteran QB Eli Manning and 21-year-old rookie RB Saquon Barkley.
In fact, Mara said the decision to draft Barkley with the second overall pick was easy because "everybody in this building felt Saquon Barkley was the best player in the draft and is a generational talent." Mara had been impressed with Barkley since he watched him play at Penn State.
"I watched those games thinking, 'We'll never have a chance to take him. He'll be the first or second player in the draft.' Little did I know that we would have the second pick," he recalled.
At the quarterback position, Mara stressed that the team made it a priority to bolster the offensive line to assist Manning, who he believes can still perform at a very high level -- as long as he is given the time he needs to throw the ball.
"He hasn't declined," Mara said of his two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. "And when you watch him out on the practice field every day, he still throws the ball every bit as well as he ever has. He still has command of the offense. … And there's no reason to think that he can't lead this team back into the postseason and win another championship … provided that we have the appropriate support around him. I think we're getting to the point where we do."
Mara also said he expects leadership from Manning's top target, WR Odell Beckham, who just signed a five-year contract as he enters his fifth season in the NFL.
"The one thing about him that I have always admired is how hard he practices and how he really competes on the practice field," Mara said. "And I think when other players look at the best player on the team and how hard he works and how he competes, it sets a good example."
In the wide-ranging interview, Mara praised new head coach Pat Shurmur, who he described as "very mature, very calm, very in control with what's going on," and said he likes the enthusiasm he has seen from new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. He also said he is confident in GM Dave Gettleman, who was hired after the team fired GM Jerry Reese.
With just over a week to go until the Giants begin their 2018 campaign, Mara said he believes the team has what it takes to succeed.
"Let's start playing games and see what happens," Mara said. "There'll be some points during the season, I'm sure, where we go through some adversity, and hopefully we have enough leadership down there now to pull us out of that."