For the fan in enemy territory

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The 25 greatest New York Giants players: Part 6/7, No. 10- No. 6

So far we have gone through 15 players. The list up to this point is below. There are a few recognizable names and a few that aren't. There are some great players and great New York Giants represented in the list thus far.

No. 25
- Bart Oates (C)
No. 24- Mel Hein (C)
No. 23- Joe Morris (HB)
No. 22- Rodney Hampton (HB)
No. 21- Kyle Rote (HB/WR)
No. 20- Pepper Johnson -LB
No. 19- Ottis Anderson -RB
No. 18- Joe Morrison -HB/WR
No. 17- Leonard Marshall -DE
No. 16- Y.A. Tittle -QB
No. 15- Emlen Tunnell - CB
No. 14- Amani Toomer - WR
No. 13- Alex Webster - RB
No. 12- Charlie Conerly - QB
No. 11- Sam Huff - LB

Now we move into the top ten list. The best of the best. All of these names are immediately recognizable to mostly any Giants fan and most football fans as well. Some of them even transcend the sport and are known in other venues worldwide. We begin with number ten.

No. 10- Eli Manning - QB. Manning is considered football royalty. He is a rare second generation NFL player. His father, Archie Manning was a two-time Pro Bowl QB. His brother, Peyton Manning may one day be considered the greatest statistical passer in NFL history when he is done playing.

Eli Manning is the current starting QB of the New York Giants. He was drafted number one overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers and was immediately traded to the New York Giants, at his request, for their first pick, Phillip Rivers.

During his collegiate career, Manning set or tied 45 records with the University of Mississippi. He also won the Conerly Trophy twice. As previously mentioned, this award was named after former Mississippi native and former Giants QB Charlie Conerly.

He was named the Giants starter at the end of his rookie season. He began the 2005 season as the starter and hasn't looked back. Since being the full time starter, he has led the Giants to the playoffs four consecutive seasons.

That streak was broken last season, but the team still finished at the .500 mark. In his time as starter, he has amassed 125 passing TD's, 18644 passing yards and 1593 completions. He has made one Pro Bowl appearance.

He is now best known for the 2007 playoffs. He finished that run as the Super Bowl MVP. He showed poise and determination game after game. With a new found maturity, he rose to the occasion of the big stage. In typical Manning fashion, when the game was in doubt and on the line, he led his team down field with grit and precision.

The defining play is now simply known as "the helmet catch" He eluded a sack multiple times on a single play and after prying himself out of the opposition's grasp, heaved the ball to David Tyree who made a miraculous and hard fought catch, Tyree refused to give up the ball and the result was one of the greatest plays in the history of the sport and it's championship game.

When this coming season is finished, Manning will be second on the team all-time in passing yards and passing attempts. His career is far from over and he already has accomplished so much. The Giants future with Manning at the helm is just as bright as the recent past has already been.

No. 9- Tiki Barber - HB. Barber was drafted by the Giants in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft. He played for them for 10 years ('97-'06). The team's original plan was to utilize him as a third down running back to better compliment their power running back, Rodney Hampton.

When he eventually took over the starting duties the following season, he wasn't an instant success. He was met with skepticism. His first two seasons were filled with nagging injuries and he missed four games of the '98 campaign.

He rebounded the following season into the solid starting running back that we all know. He was a key member of the 2000 Super Bowl team that eventually lost to the Baltimore Ravens. His early career was filled with questions over fumbles. He coughed up the ball 35 times between '00 and '03. After a slight adjustment, he corrected this and went on to amass impressive statistics.

He finished his career with 10449 yards rushing on 2217 attempts, scoring 55 rushing TD's, all of these rank him first overall in Giants history among running backs. He also has totaled 5183 receiving yards and 12 TD's in his career.

These stats have led to a unique distinction. He is only one of three running backs in league history to rush for over 10,000 yards and receive over 5,000 yards. The others are Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen.

He holds 17 records in Giants lore as well. Among them, he has the most rushing yards in a single game (236 yards in Dec. 30, '06), the longest rushing attempt (95 yards) and most rushing attempts in an season (357). Also, in '05, he made a promise to ailing owner, Wellington Mara, that he would give forth his best effort and they would win.

He ran for over 200 yards in that next game in a shutout win, just two days after Mara was buried. In his final game with the Giants, he ran for 137 yards and was referred to as "a warrior" by Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. He made three Pro Bowl appearances, including the very last game of his career on February 10, 2007.

After his retirement, he turned to broadcasting and journalism. In his very first season as a broadcaster, he created sparks in the Giants locker room. His open criticism of the Giants and especially their young QB, Eli Manning sparked an early response from the team on the field in '07, their championship season. One that Barber was not a part of.

Barber has written several book, both with his twin brother, Ronde Barber (Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back) and by himself. He has broadcast the Olympics and currently works for NBC as a pregame host. He has stirred his share of controversy through his career, but most fans will always remember his speed and determination.

No. 8- Mark Bavaro - TE. Bavaro was a All-American player at The University of Notre Dame and was drafted by the Giants in the 1985 NFL Draft in the fourth round. Coach Bill Parcells called him "the most impressive rookie he'd seen" in that preseason. He quickly won the job as starter.

Among the other players, he was nicknamed "Rambo" for his toughness and looks. His playing style took the league by storm. His rookie season saw him set a record for most receptions in a game (12, against Cincinnati on Oct. 13, '85). After that game, one that they lost, Bavaro was quoted about the record as saying "I'd rather win".

He had 511 receiving yards that rookie season. In the following season, he amassed 1,001 yards for the Super Bowl Champions. He played six weeks of that season with a broken jaw, in which he had to sip his food through a straw. He never missed a play the entire time. It was in the '86 season, that he cemented his reputation as a hard-nosed player.

On December 1, 1986 against the San Francisco 49ers, Bavaro caught a short pass up the middle that he turned into a 20 yard gain after carrying seven players with him, including Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott.

The play sparked a comeback in which the Giants won. His career was filled with plays like that one. His strength and sheer will to create yards by raw power is the one thing Giants fans will remember from him.

He was a member of two Super Bowl Champion teams ('86 and '90). He also participated in the Pro Bowl two times ('86 and '87). His Giants career was cut short by a degenerative knee injury. He did try to comeback with both the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. His impact for them was not nearly that of his with the Giants.

However, he continued to forge his legacy as a tough guy by playing almost three full seasons with that injury, after the Giants cut him. For his Giants career, he had 3722 receiving yards, which was first among Giants TE's until Jeremy Shockey surpassed his a few years ago.

His 28 receiving TD's is still first among Giants TE's all time. In his time with the Giants, he continually displayed the heart and the toughness that is Giants football. The fan base was very angry with the team when he was cut. There are not many players that can be said for, he is one of them.

After his career, Bavaro remained as active in the community as he was in his playing days. He is an avid pro-life activist and a public speaker. He wrote a novel in '08 called "Rough and Tumble". A fitting title given his playing style and career highlights.

He will always be an endearing figure to Giants fans for his contributions on two championship teams and more so for his example of what it means to be a Giants player. Both on and off of the field, he remains as humble and as approachable as he was in his prime.

Yet on the field, he was one of the reasons many people grew up Giants fans. Also he was one of the reasons many teams feared playing the Giants. He is a Giant through and through. Ask any Giants fan, and they will tell you, not many players invoked such memories of power, grit and determination as Mark Bavaro.

No. 7- Carl Banks - LB. Banks was drafted number three overall in the 1984 NFL draft by the Giants. He made up a key component of the linebacker corp that many fans refer to as the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. It was comprised of the legendary Lawrence Taylor, the previously mentioned Pepper Johnson and Gary Reasons.

Banks was a key contributor during his Giants career by creating pressure on the opposite side of Taylor. Without his presence, teams would have simply double teamed Taylor and the consistent defensive pressure would not have existed in the capacity that we have come to know from that era. Banks played for the Giants from 1984 to 1992.

In that span of time, he was a major part of two Super Bowl Championship teams ('86 and '90). He was named to one Pro Bowl with the Giants. He is also a member of the NFL 80's All-time team. He accumulated 627 tackles which is third best in team history and 36 sacks with the team.

He was a fierce competitor and a feared combatant on the field. His speed and strength made him a force on the weak side and a welcomed addition to a strong blitzing defense. During Super Bowl 21, he had recorded 14 total tackles.

He briefly left the New York area after his Giants days. But upon retirement, he returned to the region to venture into a part ownership of the Arena League's New Jersey Red Dogs. He partnered with former teammates Joe Morris and Harry Carson. He settled into the now familiar role of Giants game analyst on the team's flagship radio station, WFAN.

His role in the two-time championship teams and one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, is immeasurable. More than that, his ongoing contributions to the game experience have endeared him to older fans that remember his time with the team and a new generation of fans as well.

No. 6- George Martin - DE. Martin was selected by the Giants in the 1975 NFL Draft. He played his entire 14 year career with the Giants. During that time he made a few memories. One was in '85, when he returned an interception 56 yards for a TD. This interception gave him a record fifth career TD by a defensive lineman.

He may be even more memorable for a bigger play in a bigger moment. In Super Bowl 21, as a team captain, he recorded a safety on Denver QB John Elway. It was a critical play in the game as it signaled a shift in momentum. They went into the half down 10-9, but that change in momentum caused a team-wide explosion en route to a Super Bowl blowout.

He had a super play that super '86 season. He returned an interception 78 yards for a TD, a play that head coach Bill Parcells called "the greatest football play I've ever seen". That gave him a record of six TD's by a defensive lineman. It was a record that stood for nearly 20 years until 2004 when it was broken by Jason Taylor. Still an impressive career feat.

Half of his career was played in an age when they did not count tackles or sacks as an official statistic. It is impossible to tally his career tackles but sacks are a different story. The team, counting all of his career, has him tallied at 96 career sacks. In the second half of his career, he amassed 46, which is still good for sixth all-time in Giants history. However, using the Giants own statistics, he is placed third all-time in sacks.

In 1986, he won the Byron 'Whizzer' White NFL Man of the Year Award for his work in the community. After he retired in 1988, he continued to reach out to his community. He has been making a major impact in the lives of those around him.

In September of 2007, he embarked on a monumental journey that captured the attention of the nation to rally behind him. It was a cross country walk to raise money for medical care of those first responders of the 9/11 attacks on New York's twin towers. He walked from New York to San Diego, 3,020 miles and raised over $2 Million.

He has been actively involved in the NFL Players Association since his retirement and was recently named the Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association. He has represented the Giants on the field with toughness and heart and off the field with heart and love. He is a true example of a Giant, both to the team and the sport.

Now, we have gone through 20 of the greatest all-time players. Next, we will come to the top five. Please join me for the grand finale later this week.

Five things the Mets need to seriously contend

It is no mystery that the New York Mets are trying to avoid a repeat of seasons past. It also is not a surprise to say that they are an average team at this juncture of the season. The Mets have a difficult June schedule that still includes games with, in no particular order, the Yankees, Twins, Tigers, Marlins, Phillies and more.

This is a crucial stretch they are about to enter. Keeping this in mind, it is important to be honest when assessing where they are right now and where they may be when the trade deadline begins to loom in July. Today June 3rd, 2010, the New York Mets stand at 27-27. They are exactly at .500 and tied for third in their own division.

They are a far cry from being a contender, but also in no means are they so far behind anyone that they can't make a run toward the playoffs. To do that, however, it will take something that Mets GM Omar Minaya has never done before. He must make a substantial midseason transaction. He has not been known for the big splash moves in the middle of the season.

He has made desperation moves, such as trading for a relief pitcher when Duanier Sanchez went down a few years back. However, he usually has kept his splashing to the preseason free agent festivities. If the Mets get through this upcoming schedule in tact and still around the .500 mark, they will be buyers by the trade deadline.

If this team is to contend at that time, they must do five things. First and foremost, they must add a starting pitcher to complete the rotation and complement the two aces, Santana and Pelfrey. There are rumors now flying around about the potential availability of several Chicago Cubs including Ted Lilly. He is a veteran and could be an asset to a tired and often overworked rotation.

Also, with the Orioles struggling, I wouldn't be surprised to here rumors begin to float around involving Kevin Millwood. He would give the team a third ace and great rotation depth. Either one would be a step up from Oliver Perez or John Maine at their best.

Second, the Mets need to sign or trade for a lefty reliever for the bullpen. This would enable them to better use Pedro Feliciano and also give him rest. Feliciano is the only left handed reliever the team has on the roster. That is not depth. Minaya went into the past offseason claiming the need to address depth in all phases of the roster, however, this particular facet of the team has gone unchanged.

He had signed several players that never took the mound for them and maybe never will take a mound again, but that attempt is not helping the team right now. Right now, they struggle to use the bullpen properly. Most of that may be attributed to manager Jerry Manuel, but depth can also be a key contributing factor as well.

Unfortunately, there are not many leads right now, but with some research, Minaya could find a gem as the trade deadline draws closer. A team that is far out of any race by then may be willing to give up players that they don't regard as necessities to their future.

The Baltimore Orioles have such a pitcher in lefty Willie Ohman. They signed him in the hopes that he would bring a veteran presence to put a young upstart team over the top in their division. Despite his 1.02 era, the team has struggled mightily. He may be on the trade block in a month.

Third, they need a veteran second baseman. They have a often injured and always struggling veteran in this position right now in the person of Luis Castillo. He has never and will never be the answer to this need. He is batting .241 right now and is not healthy. In 44 games, he has only scored 13 runs.

He has not been productive. It can be blamed on health, but he really hasn't had a good carer with the Mets. If he does get healthy, he could be packaged in a deal. The problem is he is hardly ever healthy and certainly has not been this year. Last year we caught a glimpse of what he is capable of in a full season, but that is a fleeting glance.

They have a solid backup in Alex Cora, but he is just that, a backup. He is not an everyday player and not an everyday bat for them. This is a time to take advantage of a team's desperation. One team to consider may be the Arizona Diamondbacks. They may be sellers by the deadline.

One name on that roster to consider is Kelly Johnson. He is their second baseman and he is having a productive year on a bad team. That is a recipe for trade bait. I wouldn't be surprised if they put his name out there by this time next month.

Fourth, the Mets need a veteran on the bench. This is another time that Minaya can take advantage of a bad team selling off players. For this one, I would look to the Cleveland Indians. They have several veterans with key experience to help that bench.

Among them are Russell Branyan and Mark Grudzielanek. Sure, these names don't scream out championships, but they are necessary parts to a bigger purpose. The team has problems on the road. The second half of the schedule is majority road games. They need players who have long-time game experience in several environments.

The right veteran could bring a spark to them and help change their mindset for these types of games. As the season goes on, the games will mean more and more. The bigger the pressure, the more you need an experienced player.

Finally, and most importantly, they need confidence on the road. They must have a return of the swagger that made them such a tough team. If it means being the bad guy, than they have to play the role of bad guy.

The Florida Marlins once responded to the Mets' swagger as igniting them to want to win just to spite the Mets. The swagger I speak of is that of confidence, not so much arrogance, but a realization that you're good and can match up with anyone. They had that once, and they need to reacquire it, or else they will be doomed to mediocrity.

Every successful Mets team has had an air of confidence about them. It is a necessity for a winning team. These Mets lack it. Without that, they will never get over the hump against teams like the Phillies, because teams like the Phillies have that swagger.

This team plays with heart and often emotion, but not with confidence. They play like they expect something to go wrong. That is a recipe for failure every time. If the Mets can do at least some of these, they could not only to stay afloat in the National League, but they could contend.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The 25 greatest New York Giants players: Part 5/7, # 15- # 11

So far we have gone two-thirds of the way through the list. Here's a recap of those you may have missed:

No. 25
- Bart Oates (C)
No. 24- Mel Hein (C)
No. 23- Joe Morris (HB)
No. 22- Rodney Hampton (HB)
No. 21- Kyle Rote (HB/WR)
No. 20- Pepper Johnson -LB
No. 19- Ottis Anderson -RB
No. 18- Joe Morrison -HB/WR
No. 17- Leonard Marshall -DE
No. 16- Y.A. Tittle -QB

Now we can move on to the next five.

No. 15- Emlen Tunnell - CB. Tunnell's career spanned from 1948 to 1961. He played the first 11 of those seasons with the Giants. He was a nine time Pro Bowl selection. His career stats with the Giants include 74 interceptions, which is first all-time among Giants players. He also had 4 defensive TD's, which ties him for first all-time on the team in that stat with Jason Sehorn and Dick Lynch.

He was named to the NFL's 1950's all-time team. He also won two NFL Championships, one with the Giants in 1956, the other with Green Bay. Tunnell holds a special social distinction in New York Giants history. He was the first African American to play for the Giants. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in the 1967 class.

After football, he became a scout (1963-1965) and eventually an assistant coach (1965-1973) for the Giants. Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack in 1975. He will be remembered as a pioneer and a terrific athlete in New York Giants history.

No. 14- Amani Toomer - WR. Toomer could arguably be the most successful receiver in New York Giants history. He was drafted by the Giants in second round of the 1996 draft. In his rookie season, he had two punt return TD's, including one for 87 yards (a Giants record). He didn't score his first receiving TD until his second season when he was named the starter.

From there, he went on to lead the team all-time in several receiving categories. He is first all-time in receiving yards (9497), TD receptions (54), catches (668) and games played at wide receiver (190). He had 5 consecutive seasons (99'-03') of more than 1,000 receiving yards. He is also a member of two Giants Super Bowl teams (00' and 07'), one of which won. He played a pivotal role in the 07' campaign, making key catch after key catch in the playoff run.

While with the Giants, he often showed so much talent and brilliance that he was hard to ignore. In a game against the Philadelphia Eagles in 06', he helped lead the team to a 17 point comeback with his 12 catches. He was so spent after the game, that trainers had to carry him off of the field. That's the type of player he was. He gave all or nothing. He left everything on the field and at the end of the day, you knew he tried his very best to help his team win.

He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in the '09 offseason, but was released before playing with them. He has tried to catch onto an NFL team, but his options are dwindling, if not already tapped out. He has yet to announce his retirement officially, but speculation says that when he does, he will begin to rack up the career recognition achievements that he deserves.

No. 13- Alex Webster - RB. Webster played all of his NFL career with the New York Giants. He was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins, but chose to play in the Canadian Football League instead for his first two professional seasons. He joined the Giants in 1955. He was part of the 56' NFL championship team. He was a two-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and a CFL All Star.

While playing for the Giants, he had 240 catches for 2679 yards. He is fourth among running backs all-time in games played with 109. As a running back, he racked up 4638 rushing yards in 1196 attempts, both are fourth among Giants players all-time. After all of this in a playing career, he went into coaching.

He started as an assistant coach, but was named head coach in 1969. He was named NFL coach of the year IN 1970. He remains mostly out of the spotlight these days, but will always be remembered as the player who would always get the tough yards.

No. 12- Charlie Conerly - QB. Conerly played his entire 14 year career with the New York Giants. Like, Webster, he was drafted by the Redskins, but never played for them. Also, like Webster, he was a member of the 56' NFL Championship team and played in the 58' NFL Championship between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts. The game that collectively has been determined as the one that put the NFL in the mainstream and made it what it is today.

He was the Rookie of the Year award recipient in 1948. He played in three championship games for the Giants in four seasons. During his playing career, he amassed 2833 attempts, 19488 passing yards and 173 passing TD's in 161 games. All of these career numbers placed him first all-time among Giants QB's for nearly thirty years. They were all finally surpassed by Phil Simms, but all of these stats are still currently second in Giants history.

His number 42 was retired by the Giants. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961. While playing, he made several commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. He played the character that commonly became known as the Marlboro man. After his career, he was an author and a business man, owning shoe stores in his native Mississippi where he retired to after his playing career. He passed away in 1996.

College Football developed an award in his honor for the most outstanding college football player in the state of Mississippi. It has been awarded to several prominent athletes since its' inception.

They include: Patrick Willis, Jerious Norwood, Deuce McAllister and two-time award winner and current New York Giants QB Eli Manning, who is estimated to surpass several of his career statistics next season. Conerly may have had his career New York Giants numbers and accomplishments matched, but he will always be remembered for his contributions to the game. That may be even more important.

No. 11- Sam Huff - LB. Huff was an influential figure in the history of the NFL. He may be a controversial choice, in particularly this high, but when studying his career, it was a logical choice. Keep in mind the criteria that was first set for this series. Huff was drafted in the 1956 NFL draft by the Giants.

He was originally drafted as a defensive lineman. During training camps, he grew frustrated that the team didn't know where to play him. He decided to quit. While at the airport, ready to leave, he was convinced by the assistant coach to stay. That assistant coach was Vince Lombardi. The same man that is credited for building the NFL and has the Super Bowl trophy named after him.

The defensive coach, Tom Landry designed a new defensive scheme tailored specifically for Huff. It is known to every football fan as the 4-3 defense. Huff was moved from defensive lineman to middle linebacker. During his Giants playing career (56'-63'), he had 18 interceptions, first among the Giants all-time linebackers.

He played before the league began calculating tackles and sacks, though his career may have been one argument for creating those stats. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five times (four of them with the Giants). He was on the NFL Championship team in 56' and played in the championship game in 58', 59', 61', 62' and 63'.

He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1982. Huff had the distinct honor of being a part of possibly the worst transaction in Giants history. In 1964, head coach Allie Sherman traded him to a division rival. The Washington Redskins. He went on to revolutionalize their defense.

After his playing career, he turned to business. He works as a partner with ESPN for the West Virginia Breeder's Classic horse race and he was one-time vice president of sports marketing for the Marriott Corporation.

He has been known widely to football fans as a radio commentator for Redskins games for decades. Many will remember him as a pioneer of the game, and when he did that, he was a Giants player.

The next segment, we will enter the top ten. Please join me.