The idea for this post came while lying in bed late last night. I don’t know why, but a list of my top 10 favorite Giants of all time popped in my head. Call it fate.
Over the course of their history, the New York Giants have employed many memorable players. From Hall of Famers to complete busts, the range of Giants has been impressive.
As fans, we tend to get attached to certain players. Maybe they wear the same number we wore growing up. Maybe they made a play that stood out, or maybe they made a difference in your community. Whatever it is, there have been numerous Giants who I hold dear to my heart. But, I had to cut it to 10. Here are my top 10 favorite Giants of all time.
10. Willie Ponder
Don’t remember him? It’s okay. Many don’t. Ponder played for the Giants from 2003-2005. Primarily a kick returner, Ponder, in 2004, led the NFL in kick return average, with an average of 26.9 yards. He had two kick return touchdowns. He somehow fell in to Coughlin’s doghouse, was replaced by Chad Morton, released, bounced around with Seattle and St. Louis, and is now in the WFL.
But, aside from one good year, why is Ponder one of my favorite Giants? In 2003, I took a trip to Albany to see training camp. It was part of a raffle I won, and the experience was great. I tried trolling for autographs, and got generic ones from Will Allen, Visanthe Shiancoe and others. But, Ponder was the only one to actually address it, and personalize it. He wrote:
It wasn’t much, but I’ve always cherished that autograph. Maybe I was just starstruck, but the fact that Ponder took the time to write that meant a lot. He wasn’t much of a player, but that always stuck with me.
9. Frank Gifford
Frank “The Giff” Gifford. That name, said perfectly in Howard Cosell’s trademark staccato, is football personified. A Hall of Famer, a MVP, an eight time Pro Bowler, a receiver, running back, defensive back and part time quarterback, Gifford is one of the best players to put on that Big Blue. A multi-purpose threat, Gifford was as good a runner as he was a receiver. He was the first all purpose back.
One of the main reasons I love Gifford is that he reminds me of the way football is supposed to be played. Hard-nosed. Rough. Plus, the stories my father tells me of Frank “The Giff” Gifford are priceless (he always has to say his name in Cosell’s staccato.)
One of the best Giants ever, Frank Gifford is my 9th favorite Giant of all time.
The ultimate professional. That’s what comes to mind when I think of Amani Toomer. And he wasn’t too bad at receiver, either. A Giant from 1996-2008, Toomer is the Giants leading receiver, in terms of yardage. Sure hands, reliable route runner, made the big plays when they counted.
Toomer played through pain, including during the last Super Bowl. He was a warrior. Toomer might not be the flashiest, but he comes in and does his job. I respect that.
It’s been weird the past couple of years not seeing Number 81 lining up on the field. Toomer quietly became the leading receiver in Giants history. He has a ring to his name. He’s just one of those guys who’s a joy to watch.
7. Mark Bavaro
Quiet off the field, a maniac on it. One of the toughest players to put on a football uniform, for any team. Playing through pain. Dragging guys for 20 yards on his back. Just a badass.
And a pretty good player too. 39 career touchdowns. Over 4,500 receiving yards. All while banged up one way or another.
It’s interesting. When Jeremy Shockey was drafted, he was thought to be the next Mark Bavaro. A maniac on the field, knocking guys over. Shockey did that, to an extent. But, he was never the next Mark Bavaro, because he didn’t share Bavaro’s grace off the field. I think Bavaro is a perfect example of one of the good guys. A great guy off the field, but did his job on it.
6. Jeff Feagles
You all know my love for Jeff Feagles. And why wouldn’t I? The best punter of all time. Most consecutive games played (352). Most punts inside the 20 (497). Played 22 years. All while being a great guy.
Feagles only spent six years with the Giants, but his tremendous directional punting endeared me to him. He was so reliable. You knew he was going to make a good punt every time.
For me, it was a joy to watch him punt. Because I knew I was watching the best ever. There’s nothing better than that. Feagles retired this offseason. It’s just not going to be the same when the ball is snapped, and he’s not there punting.
Booed when drafted out of tiny Morehead State, Phil Simms has become of the most loved Giants of all time. A great player, he threw for 199 touchdowns and 33,462 passing yards, while winning a MVP award.
His greatest moment, however, was Super Bowl XXI, when Simms put on one of the greatest shows for a quarterback. Simms was 22-25 (two of those incompletions were drops), for 268 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 150.9, the highest in postseason history. As Bill Parcells said:
This might be the best game a quarterback has ever played
You know what, coach? You are right. Simms played the best game as a quarterback ever. Now a top broadcaster, Simms will forever be the QB who brought the Giants a Super Bowl. His number 11 is retired.
I wore number 11 as a kid, in any sport I played. Did it have anything to do with Simms? Probably. That’s why I can relate so much to Simms. For me, I was just like him, running around the field in my number 11 jersey.
4. David Tyree
Everyone loves Tyree. An ace special teamer, but a spare receiver, Tyree didn’t make his mark until the last Super Bowl. Because it never gets old:
[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27XeNefwABw[/pro-player]
Best play ever? I think so. I was watching with a bunch of friends, and the only thing I can remember doing was screaming at the top of my lungs, and hugging everything and everyone in sight. It’s something Giants fans will remember forever. Tyree battled injuries afterwards, and was released before last season. He latched on with the Ravens. But, we’ll always remember that play. And whenever we think of that Super Bowl, we’ll always think of Tyree.
3. Tiki Barber
He rubs me the wrong way sometimes, but Barber is one of the best Giants ever. The Giants all-time leader in rushing and receptions, Barber could flat out play. An explosive runner, and a natural receiver, Barber impacted the game on every play.
Barber rubbed people, including me, the wrong way when he announced his retirement midseason. He also didn’t help himself when he kept criticizing Eli and the coaching staff. But, you can’t deny his unbelievable talent, and the way he carried the Giants for many years. I truly believe he is one of the best Giants ever. He had a great career, and while his attitude is to be questioned, you can’t question his impact on the field. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play, making a cutback here, eluding a tackler there. The best running back in Giants history. And one of the best players.
2. Lawrence Taylor
His off the field issues aside, LT is the best defensive player in NFL history, no questions asked. He’s up there for best players of all time. He changed the way the game is played. As John Madden said:
Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.
LT amassed 132.5 sacks over his 13 year career. The Hall of Famer put fear in opponents. He has 2 rings, multiple Pro Bowl appearances, a MVP and more. Simply, he is the greatest Giant ever.
LT’s off the field issues puts a damper on him in my mind. You can’t help but think of his reckless behavior when you think of him. The recent rape allegation is no exception. LT is the greatest Giant ever. But, only on talent. His character had and has always had a ways to go.
LT would be number one on this list, if not for the character issues. Still, it has always been an honor to see him play. The way he was at full speed after a step or two. His ferociousness. LT, in my mind, is one of the top 5 players of all time. I’m just happy he was a Giant.
1. Michael Strahan
The one you’ve all been waiting for. My number one favorite Giant of all time. I wrestled with this for awhile. But, after some thinking, the choice was clear: Michael Strahan
The Giants all time leader in sacks with 141.5, Strahan had a personality as big as the gap between his front teeth ( I had to). In 2001, he had one of the finest seasons of any defensive player, recording a single season record 22.5 sacks. He’s been named Defensive Player of The Year, Pro Bowler, and is a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team.
Strahan, in his last season, became the undoubted leader of the vaunted Giants defense. He helped lead the team to a Super Bowl. His “Stomp Them Out!” became a rallying cry for the underdog team.
[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBYzzj26_qM[/pro-player]
Strahan, in addition to being a great player, had an infectious personality, and you wanted to be around him. He’s magnetic.
His personality and his talent has made me gravitate towards Strahan. I think that’s why he’s my favorite Giant of all time. You rooted for him because of his talent, and because of his personality. Not many can say that. Michael Strahan is my favorite Giant of all time.
So there you have it. My top 10 favorite Giants of all time. Who are yours? Let us know in the comments.