John Mara sat on the team bus after the 25-24 loss to the Jaguars on Nov. 30 and tried to repress what was an overwhelming urge.
"I wanted to fire everybody," he said Tuesday, "from the people in the equipment room to the people upstairs [in the front office]."
It was, he said, a "low point" and an "embarrassment." The Giants blew a 21-0 lead against one of the sorriest teams in the league, and maybe if the season had ended after that game, Mara would have followed through on his instincts. It was likely the closest Mara has ever come to losing faith in those he employs to run the team.
Instead, one month later to the day, he announced the exact opposite.
Mara, the Giants' president and CEO, said he still has faith in Tom Coughlin as head coach and Jerry Reese as general manager and both will return for 2015. And though he said he is "sick" about being 6-10 in this just-concluded season, he added that there is "reason for optimism" based on how the team finished the season.
Optimism, but also urgency.
Asked if next season will be a "win or else" proposition for a lot of people, Mara thought carefully. Then he delivered an ultimatum to the coaches, players and executives who work below him: "I don't think that's an unfair statement."
Two seasons ago, Reese put everyone "on notice" when the 2013 season began. Mara's notice seems to have a lot more teeth, especially since he seems willing to forgo the longstanding policy of not allowing a head coach to go into the final year of his contract without an extension or being fired. Coughlin has just 2015 remaining on his deal, and Mara said he would discuss with Coughlin the idea of truly making next year a make-or-break proposition.
But what did Mara see between Nov. 30 and Dec. 30 that changed his mind on going nuclear on the team and starting over?
"I wanted to see us win," Mara said. "I'm sitting on the bus wondering whether we're ever going to win another game. I wanted to see how the players would respond to that, because that is sort of the low point for this franchise for many, many years. And they responded pretty well. They still had a lot of fight left in them, as did Tom."
The Giants won three straight games -- all against teams with losing records -- before losing Sunday's finale to the Eagles.
"I'm aware of who we played," Mara said, "but I saw the intensity in practice, the intensity on the field, and the fact that they stayed together . . . They did that last year, too, and I think a lot of that comes from the head coach."
As for the personnel, Mara said he thought the last two drafts were very strong after a series of "largely unproductive" ones.
"When you combine that with the number of injuries that we had, particularly at key positions, that's a deadly combination in the National Football League," he said.
But with a young group headlined by Odell Beckham Jr. -- whom Mara compared to Lawrence Taylor circa 1981 -- and the prospect of a third straight strong draft class (the Giants pick ninth in April), Mara feels that the Giants are back on the right path.
"We need to have another [strong draft]," Mara said. "With that and with another year under this new offense, I think we have a chance to be a good team next year. Obviously, that's a tough sell right now when you go 7-9 and then 6-10, but I still have a very strong belief in this staff and this organization. I think we're going to be a good team next year."
If they're not, then at least everyone knows what the consequences will be.