All the work to streamline his throwing motion, all the personal growth and maturity, all the superior talent brought in around him - after all this, Kerry Collins, for the first time as an NFL quarterback, this year entered a season with more career touchdown passes than interceptions.
He embarked on this season with 119 touchdowns and 118 interceptions. He never has been, and probably never will be, someone who compiles gaudy passer ratings. He never has been viewed as overly efficient. Blessed with a powerful arm, incredible toughness and remarkable resiliency, Collins is like a power hitter in baseball, always capable of breaking open a game, always dangerous.
Collins experienced a professional rebirth in New York mainly because he accentuated his strengths and, with work, limited his weaknesses. As the 4-7 Giants have tumbled from supposed Super Bowl contenders to a team that needs a furious late-season rush to reach .500, Collins has fallen in line with the sagging team around him. Two more interceptions Monday in Tampa gave him 15, compared with 12 scoring passes. In the current three-game losing streak, Collins has one TD and five interceptions.
Ever the gambler, Collins, following the 19-13 loss to the Buccaneers, questioned whether he needed to become a more conservative quarterback, a label he detests. He immediately shrugged off that notion. He will try to make smarter decisions, but he will not change his basic approach.
"You know, I think once you lose that aggressiveness, then you really have problems," Collins said. "There's no question I made some bad choices, but at the same time I go into a game, I try to see it, throw it. Obviously there was a couple of times what I saw wasn't what I needed to see. It's kind of like at times, damned if you do, damned if you don't. You've got to stay aggressive and I'll continue to do that."
Expect Collins to come out winging Sunday against the Bills; that's who he is. The confidence he has in his right arm is uncommonly high, and he is not adverse to trying to squeeze the ball into the narrowest opening. Jim Fassel has continuously preached more patience, convincing Collins sometimes the best play, the only play, is to throw the ball away and live for another down.
As the Giants have struggled to find the end zone, the pressure to score has rekindled some bad habits in Collins. He's forcing the issue too frequently.
"I have to get him back to that point," Fassel said. "You can't do it all, you have to play within the system. The quarterback is always looking to be the guy, but you have to minimize the downside. I'm sure he looks at the tape and says, 'No, I shouldn't have even attempted that,' but sometimes in a game it's hard."
The Giants are third in the league with 235 first downs but have scored only 195 points. The Rams have 239 first downs and 299 points, and the Colts have 236 first downs and 309 points. Turnovers and the failure to generate big plays have been their downfall. The Giants have nine passes of 30 yards or more; at this time last season they had 13.
"Certainly, we've struggled scoring points at times," he said. "That might have led to a couple of things I've tried to force in there. You never want to play scared. I'm going to try to maintain that aggressiveness. That's how I make a lot of the throws that I make.
"But there are always some times, more so lately, I've looked back and said, 'You know, that probably wasn't the best decision.' "