EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- The New York Giants launched training camp on Thursday intent on fusing brave words with bold action.
They definitively have the words honed.
It started with new head coach Ben McAdoo, who required only a few seconds to starkly talk about "a fifth Super Bowl trophy in the case'' for the Giants being the goal this season.
And McAdoo somehow managed to shoot upward from there.
Players like Justin Pugh (a fourth-year guard) look bigger, stronger and in the best shape of their careers. Pugh was virtuoso in the way he communicated his hopes for the season, in the clarity he effused about the Giants offensive line building camaraderie and cohesion, about how the offense should be faster and sleeker, about how the defense is re-energized and stouter. You could have flipped back and forth between McAdoo and Pugh and the message would have been seamless.
This says that McAdoo is on point with his message to his players. It is filtering effectively among the Giants, several of whom spoke on Thursday in similar manner to Pugh.
It was defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who stressed that the Giants have not been to the playoffs "in a minute.''
Try four straight seasons. And the last two seasons were raw 6-10 ones, the kinds that forced change, that got coach Tom Coughlin fired and fixture players like cornerback Prince Amukamara and receiver Rueben Randle booted. The Giants needed a mental and physical overhaul and McAdoo is driving both.
There is a frank reality about him, though, that is operative: "These are words,'' he said. "We need to back it up. We all have to go earn it.''
McAdoo has a 1-2 punch, a two-step shuffle that is his chief Giants playbook.
Bold words. Brave action.
* * *
No one knows if he can win big. No one knows if he can win at all. No one knows how he will handle the fire and intensity of NFL in-game critical moments. No one knows if this Giants' revamped attitude and roster can emerge and stop the franchise's slide into mediocrity.
But McAdoo has a crystal-clear approach and plan he believes and sells. The Giants players are clearly on board with it. They look awake. They sound determined.
Besides the talent upgrade, which is distinctive, there are two elements I believe give McAdoo a running start and a clear chance to make the Giants matter this season. First, his belief in playing physical football and, next, his plan for dealing with adversity.
Several offensive-minded coaches in recent years became head coaches and concentrated on being creative, on being fancy, on their Xs-and-Os factor being the single-most important ingredient to victory. They wanted to dazzle as much as win. But McAdoo has a true grit to him and this quote from him on Thursday should make anyone who cares about the Giants ecstatic:
"The game looks a little different than it has in the past, but still the teams that are standing at the end are the heavy-handed, tough teams. That part hasn't changed and it never will.''
This emphasis on being "heavy-handed'' is a huge difference between NFL winners and losers. McAdoo gets this. The Giants players get it. He said he will be smart about injuries but also insisted that he will have a physical training camp. He is incessantly instructing his team that discipline and poise must accompany this physicality. It is a tricky mix, but also an essential mix to championship football.
The second element McAdoo exhibits that matters is his approach to adversity. I asked him on Thursday that what if it all blows up early, if nothing works, if struggle comes, if his team gets in an early hole?
His answer: "Well, the first thing you do is you address it head on. And the second thing you do is you never flinch.''
He looked forceful, direct and confident when he said it.
The Giants training camp unfolds, the preseason games come and the season commences on Sept. 11 at Dallas. They look hungry enough to play that game this weekend.
"I liked the look in their eyes,'' McAdoo said after their first camp team meeting.
It was likely easy for him to recognize. It mirrors his own.