Vacchiano: Make no mistake, this is a must-win for Giants

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News The Giants don’t want to part ways with Tom Coughlin, but another 0-3 start (or worse) could force the hands of John Mara and Steve Tisch.

There are storm clouds coming, and the Giants can see them not too far in the distance. There’s not a person in their locker room who doesn’t know what’s at stake on Sunday afternoon. They know that if they don’t beat the Houston Texans their season is over.

Maybe not actually over, but realistically it probably is.

They can see that from the deep, dark 0-2 hole they’re in for the second straight season — a hole from which only 12% of 0-2 teams since 1990 have managed to climb out of in time to reach the playoffs. And if the Giants lose to the Houston Texans on Sunday, the 0-3 hole is exponentially deeper. Only three teams since 1990 have reached the playoffs after a start like that. The last one was in 1998.

And the Giants also know that it’s worse for them, because if their season disintegrates this early again, the futures of Tom Coughlin, Jerry Reese, Eli Manning and probably half the players in the locker room will be fodder for debate from Sunday afternoon until late December. Those storm clouds will completely engulf their offices out in the corner of the parking lot at the Meadowlands.

That makes this about as much of a “must-win” as they could get

“I think it’s extremely critical,” said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. “We’re not panicked, but we’re definitely rushed.”

They are not panicked — at least they don’t appear to be. In fact, they’ve appeared oddly confident all week long, considering they didn’t look particularly good in either of their first two games. Think back a year ago, though, and they were oddly confident at 0-2 then, too. And again at 0-3. And then 0-4, 0-5 and 0-6.

That specter of that disaster, which occurred despite a confidence so high that a Super Bowl countdown clock was posted on the bulletin board outside their locker room, hovers over everything the Giants are doing right now.

“There’s two directions we can go,” Kiwanuka said. “We can go the way of last year and be unsuccessful, or we can go the way of a few years ago (like 2007, when the Giants also started 0-2) and win a championship.

“I still believe that. I feel like this is the week where people will start to see it. I think we’re right on the cusp.”

If they don’t, if they go the way of last season and this gets worse, then the final 3½ months of this season promise to be as bad as last season, only times 10. The Giants will be well on their way to their fifth season without a playoff berth in the last six years, and they still have a killer November schedule to navigate (vs. Indianapolis, at Seattle, vs. San Francisco), not to mention six more games in the always difficult NFC East.

With the Giants having nothing but hope for a miracle to hang onto at 0-3, the conversation will change to one none of them want to have: the future of the franchise. The questions will be less about next week’s opponent and more about whether the Giants owners could really stand up in front of the media and fans at the end of the season and once again endorse the status quo.

There will be months of questions about whether this is finally the end for Coughlin, the coach who brought the franchise back to its Super Bowl glory and someone John Mara and Steve Tisch absolutely don’t want to fire. It’ll open the question of the job security of Reese, who got a strong endorsement from Mara at the end of last season, but who is the architect of the recent failures and who directed the spending of $116 million in offseason contracts to fix this mess.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiCorey Sipkin/New York Daily News Eli Manning will be a free agent after the 2015 season, setting up a tough decision for the Giants.

And then there’s the issue of Eli Manning, who has had a possible contract extension looming over him for several years, and who will make $17 million in 2015, the final year of his deal. The Giants are running out of time to make a decision on his future, too — about whether he should remain their franchise quarterback and how much he’s worth.

None of those questions has good answers right now, and the Giants’ sincere hope was they wouldn’t have to even think about addressing them until after the season — if at all. Their expectation was that they’d be a contender again and nobody would be on the hot seat. They expected that last year, too.

The only way to avoid that tornado of doom is to beat the Texans and give themselves a fighting chance the final 14 weeks of the season.

“I think it is very close (to a must-win),” said receiver Victor Cruz. “Any time you’re 0-2 and you need a win to jump-start this team and jump-start the energy, I think it’s definitely close to saying we need to get this victory.”

There’s nothing “close” about it. They need the victory. And there’s a lot more than their playoff hopes hinging on their next result.

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