EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants came into this season with a plan, one that included the potential for a tidy succession to the Tom Coughlin era following the 2015 season if need be and one that would allow a quickly assembled core of veterans to plateau at the perfect time, giving way to the next phase in the rebuilding process.
Coughlin has worked miracles before, of course. His 0-6 Giants from a season ago, a team with its fair share of inner turmoil, finished the season 7-9. Though overlooked by the final record, it was one of the finest coaching jobs the league has seen in the past 10 years.
Though this year's 3-5 pit doesn't seem as deep, consider a sampling of what occurred on Monday night: Prince Amukamara, quite possibly the best cornerback the team has, went down with a torn biceps. Coughlin confirmed that he likely needs surgery, which would end his season. Weston Richburg, the team's starting left guard, also left the game in a cart and the stadium on crutches. Though his teammates heard his ankle wasn't broken, it appears likely that he'll need some time.
And yet, Coughlin still seems up to fixing it.
"He's one of the best coaches in the league," cornerback Zack Bowman said. "So, he's going to have us ready to play every week."
After the game on Monday, Bowman said that the Giants could finish 11-5 or 10-6 and still make the playoffs. Both of those statements are true, at least mathematically, but after watching the team fall into a 30-point hole on Monday, did anyone really believe it? Manning was back to losing the football. His receivers were back to dropping it. The offensive line continued to struggle, unable to provide Manning with the running game he needed to work the play sheet.
Despite these glaring woes, this team still seems to carry the Coughlin trademarks: Eyes fixed on mathematical possibilities for winning the division, unable to consider the fact that everything around them looks grim.
"You can't say we're not prepared," Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Coach Coughlin wouldn't let that happen."
In a perfect world, this team would have six wins and an offense that ranked in the top 12. They would have less need to play the rookies they just drafted and they would have a fan base looking forward to the continuation of the plan, a seamless handoff from a legendary head coach to a bright young coordinator. More steady success.
But Coughlin did not earn his title by coaching in a perfect world. There were enough seasons, including this one, where the dented roster was far from ideal.