There is nothing easy about losing and it is especially difficult for a young player who arrived into the NFL knowing nothing but success.
For Xavier McKinney, a second-year safety and a core player for the Giants, now and presumably for years to come, this season has been especially illuminating, even as the Giants fail to light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis.
As a rookie in 2020, McKinney was trying to get on the field after missing the first 10 games coming off foot surgery. When he finally made his debut, the Giants were at their best, going 5-3 in the second half of the season.
This year, McKinney is the established starter at strong safety, playing in all 15 games and he leads the Giants with five interceptions. If the team around him were better, McKinney might have squeezed his way onto the Pro Bowl roster, although overtaking Budda Baker, Harrison Smith or Quandre Diggs in the NFC voting at safety would have been a challenge.
Asked if he believes he should have been selected for the Pro Bowl, McKinney said, “I do.’’
The Giants are 4-11 and, unsurprisingly, did not put anyone into the Pro Bowl.
“It played out how it played out,’’ McKinney said. “It is what it is. Obviously, things haven’t worked out for our team, and individually for myself this year. It’s not the only year that I can make the Pro Bowl. I’ve just got to keep working, get back in the lab, and find a way to ensure that next year and years to come that I don’t miss it.’’
The Giants are counting on McKinney as one of the players to lead them out of the darkness of the past five seasons. He is one of their high draft picks — second round, 2020 — who looks like the real deal.
In his three years at Alabama, McKinney went 38-4 and won a national championship as a true-freshman starter. Getting beat week after week is new to him.
“It’s very difficult,’’ he said. “I think the best thing about this is that everything in life is pretty much an experience. I always try to look at the positives within the situation that’s going on now. Obviously, I think this is going to build a lot of character for us as a team, as individuals and especially for me — just seeing all the little things that went wrong, seeing a lot of things I could’ve done better to help the team out in whatever way I could have. I think it’s a big experience for me. I think it was something that was much needed.
“Obviously, it sucks to lose, and we all hate to lose. I hate to lose, and I’m trying to be a part of this organization and change the culture, just knowing that’s been kind of the culture the last four or five years, however long it’s been. I want to be the one to change that culture and turn it around. I think having this experience and seeing what loses you games, to be able to fix that and come back next year and obviously be able to change that up. Obviously, we’ve still got a couple games left, so we just go from there and we keep getting better and keep trying to improve.’’