Sometimes a photo really is worth a thousand words. Even, after enduring a long playoff drought, a single image continues to follow the New York Giants – the infamous “boat” picture.
Six years ago, Sterling Shepard and then-fellow Giants teammates Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Roger Lewis decided to charter a private jet to Miami after they wrapped up the regular-season.
A day after their arrival in Florida, a photo surfaced of the football player shirtless on a boat with singer Trey Songz and other celebrities.
After the picture went viral, many of the players seen in the photo spent the next several days answering or deflecting questions about the trip. The Giants went on to struggle in a 38-13 playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Sterling Shepard, who was a rookie at the time of the photo, is still on the Giants roster and expressed regret when he spoke about the getaway earlier this week.
“I regret it in the aspect that I feel like the focus of the game was now put somewhere else,” Shepard told The Post on Wednesday. “In the building I felt like we were all good, but guys leave the building and turn on the TV and it was on all day around here. It definitely drew away from where the attention should’ve been.”
None of the players missed any team meetings or practices leading up to the playoff game.
Beckham, Cruz and Lewis are not currently playing in the NFL. Beckham was courted by the Dallas Cowboys during the last several weeks of the regular-season, but ultimately never signed as the team waited for him to be medically cleared.
Beckham suffered an ACL injury during last season’s Super Bowl when he was with the St. Louis Rams. On Wednesday, Miami-Dade police released body cam footage of Beckham being escorted off a flight in November after he was unresponsive when attendants allegedly asked him to put his seat belt on.
At the time of the incident, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the situation would have no bearing on whether the team decided to sign Beckham.
Meanwhile, Shepard has grown into one of the key pieces of the Giants’ offense over the past few seasons. Though he will not play this weekend due to a torn ACL he suffered in Week 4, he remains steadfast in his belief that the viral picture from 2017 was not a factor in the playoff loss.
“That type of stuff happens every week,” Shepard said, “but I feel like from the attention aspect it wasn’t the right thing.”
Landon Collins was also a member of the Giants at the time of the photo, and said he does not hold the boat trip against his teammates.
“We still don’t. If we did, I’d be yelling at Shep still,” Collins joked. “It had no impact on the game or the locker room. A boat doesn’t stop you from catching the ball, a boat doesn’t stop you from tackling, a boat doesn’t stop you from throwing the ball. … The media blew it up and made it the focal point.”
The wide receivers who went on the trip delivered a poor performance during the playoff matchup at Lambeau Field, which only fueled the negative sentiments. The wide receivers corps was credited with seven dropped passes on the day, including one in the end zone.
“We didn’t execute the game plan,” Shepard said. “We had some big-time drops throughout the receiver room and didn’t take advantage of our opportunities. It’s stayed with me throughout my whole time here. As a rookie, I didn’t really know how hard it is to get in the playoffs.”
The Giants’ issues during the playoff game extended beyond the wide outs. The defense surrendered a 42-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half to increase Green Bay’s lead going into the locker room.
“We had an opportunity in our hands and it kind of slipped away,” Collins said. “That [Hail Mary] just kind of took our soul away. That should never have happened. We let them inch their way back in, and they took over.”
First-year head coach Brian Daboll is credited with turning things around and helping quarterback Daniel Jones have the best season of his career. The Vikings host the Giants on Sunday in the wild-card round.