If, as Giant General Manager George Young believes, pro football executives are in "the Roman coloseum business," then New York fans must be giving the thumbs down signal to their beloved, beleaguered team and its management.
Every year these fans are promised something new and every year the cupboard reveals the same few goodies. A sprinkle of hope here, a shining star there and a whole lot of difficulties everywhere else.
Despite a new coaching staff, headed by stong-willed Ray Perkins, the former Colt receiver, and a new front office, headed by the well-respected Young, a graduate of the Don Shuta school of football, the winless Giants are sputtering nowhere fast.
Entering Monday night's confrontation with the Redskins in RFK Stadium, New York already has subjected quarterback Joe (Help) Pisarcik to the cruelty of 14 sacks while barely grinding out 51 yards a game on the ground.
The Giant's offensive line has sprung more leaks than Perkins can count. And the more Pisarcik falls and the more the runners are tackled for losses, the testier Perkins becomes.
After losing to St. Louis last Sunday, he threatened massive shakeups, both in the starting lineups and in the roster in general. But after looking around a bit more carefully, he realized his best personnel were playing. So there have been no startling changes, just promises of improvement.
Tim Mara, vice president and treasurer of the club, probably is smiling secretly at these events. He had advocated turning the Giants' football program over to George Allen last spring, only to be outgunned by club president Wellington Mara, hardly an Allen fan.
Instead, the elder Mara went with Young, a friendly, outgoing individualwith a delightful sense of humor who had built a reputation working with Shula as an astute football man. And Young, in turn, plucked Perkins off the San Diego Charger staff, where he served as offensive coordinator.
Young inherited a team that had only two winning seasons in the last 15 and hasn't been over .500 since 1972. But he says both he and Perkins "came into this thing knowing the problems and knowing it was going to take time."
And he adds, with a twinkle in his eye: "It's pleasing to know there is a high fence around our building."
So far, none of the fans have stormed that building. Young has received few critical letters -- "they are being more patient than you might expect" -- but Perkins and the charging New York media have fared less successfully.
Perkins has kept the press out of the dressing rooms after the first two games far beyond the permissible league limit. He has restricted movement of beatmen at practice and, in general, has been difficult to reach.
"Like anything else that you want to do right," you have to be given time," said Young. "I think we all feel differently two or three days after a game than we do right after it's over.
"If I was on a one-year contract, we might be doing things differently, but I'm not. We are trying to go about this in the right sane fashion. I could mortgage our future for a couple of extra wins but that scares me, I don't like that idea.
"What we want to do is build a sound football team that will last for a decade. That should be your goal. To do that, you have to work with the system, which means building through the draft. It can't be done overnight, but we will build a good football team here."
If that sounds remarkably like what Bobby Beathard has been saying at Washington, there is a reason. The two general managers are good friends, having worked together at Miami. Both are firm believers in the draft and in their ability to seek out and pick promising college prospects.
"George is a great guy with a great mind," said Beathard, who earlier had told Young the two probably shouldn't be talking "now that we are working for teams that have such a heated rivalry." Both men laughed.
"I'm sure it isn't an easy situation for him" added Beathard "But he's been around a long time. He knows what he was getting into and he's got the ability to handle it, if they let him."
That's the rub. Do the Giants have the patience, after so many years of losing, to wait a few more for the Young touch to take hold?
"I would think after 15 years, they could wait a couple more," Young said, "Coming into this, we knew most of our problems were on the offense so we drafted almost all offensive players. But things got worse when we lost all those offensive linemen."
For reasons ranging from injuries to contract holdouts to a short retirement, the Giants lost five offensive linemen before the regular season. They had to call veteran Tom Neville out of retirement last week to fill in at tackle, and Neville was bowled over repeatedly by the Cardinals, who then pounded on poor Pisarcik.
The other tackle is manned by Gus Coppens, a first-year player whom the Giants had to sign after the promising Gordon King, last year's No. 1 draft choice, was hurt the week before the opener. Help could come Monday from veteran Gordon Gravelle, who has returned after a brief retirement and may be activated.
"Of all the spots to fill, the offensive line is the toughest," said Young. "You just can't walk out to the street and get someone. It's hard enough finding guys big enough. Then they have to know what they are doing.
"If we hadn't lost so many in the same area, this might not have been happening to us. Once we can stabilize the line, our protection will be better and our running game will benefit."
Pisarcik may not survive that long, however. He has taken a tremendous physical beating these first two weeks while having to put the ball up a whopping 75 times. While he suffers, quarterback Phil Simms, the team's first choice in the last draft, sits and learns the Perkins' system as a third-stringer.
"Simms is not that far away," Young said, "but Joe is really showing some courage. If he could get some protection, he could do a lot more. But he's a fighter and has some charisma."
Perkins says he would like to see more fight from the rest of his offense, although that solid Giant defense has done decently under adverse circumstances. To Young, the main thing now "is for everyone to stay calm and look down the road a bit.
"We aren't going to patch things up with Band-Aids. That's not going to do it. We are going to consider all the problems and make solid decisions. In the long run, that should pay off".
Otherwise, the Coliseum will become a lot more hostile.
Redskins Coach Jack Pardee thinks that, of his two injured players, tightened Jean Fugett has a better chance than Dave Butz of suiting up for the Giants. "We still aren't sure of either one," he said. Fugett participated briefly in practice yesterday, Butz watched from the sideline . . . A hard rain cut the workout short . . . Pardee expects the Giants to continue to throw the ball more than most NFL teams. The Redskin have picked off six passes in two games.