New York Giants: Michael Strahan

The New York Giants are pass rush, and pass rush is the New York Giants. So we have been told for decades, since the days of L.T. and Bill Parcells. When the Giants win, it's because they pressure quarterbacks. Pass rush is acknowledged as the single biggest reason the Giants have won four Super Bowls and the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots have only won three. Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul ... these are the fearsome edge rushers who have delivered for the Giants in their greatest seasons.

And yet, this offseason has been about the smaller, faster guys who play on the back end of the defense. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Tuck leave via free agency and have not replaced him, instead signing three new cornerbacks and re-signing one of their own cornerbacks and their own safety. If you didn't know any better, you'd think some sort of broad organizational philosophy shift was in the works.

I doubt that's it, because the Giants aren't big into sudden, broad organizational philosophy shifts. But it's entirely possible that the commitment to a secondary that didn't seem to be one of the most pressing needs when the offseason began has something to do with the way offenses are trending in the NFL in general and in the NFC East in particular. The Chip Kelly Eagles get the ball out of their quarterback's hands before a pass rush can get there. Tony Romo is elusive and was picking apart the Giants with short, quick passes in two games last season. And while he didn't look it in that Dec. 1 game last year, Robert Griffin III was a nightmare for Giants pass-rushers the year before when healthy.

If the trend is toward mobile quarterbacks and up-tempo, quick-release passing games, it's entirely possible that devoting more resources to covering receivers is a smart way to go. I still think the best way to disrupt a passing offense is to pressure the quarterback into throwing (or not throwing) the ball. But if you're running a defense these days and you see the way offenses are trending, it's possible to come to the conclusion that you're just not going to be able to dictate that the way you used to. And if that's the case, locking things down on the back end and maybe trying to buy your pass-rushers some extra time that way is a reasonable counter-move.

John Mara said last week that the reason the Giants ended up devoting so many of their free-agent resources to defensive backs was because that's the way the market fell for them, and I believe him. The Giants were a team with many needs, and if the players they liked best for the prices all happened to play defensive back, there's no reason they shouldn't have leaned that way. But I'm interested to see whether beefing up on the back end of the defense rather than the front end is a formula that can work for a team that has, for so long, believed in doing things the other way.
Lawrence Taylor and Bill ParcellsAP Photo/Ray StubblebineLawrence Taylor and Bill Parcells elevated the Giants franchise in the 1980s.
"Mount Rushmore" was a big thing on ESPN Wednesday. LeBron James spoke about his belief that he will end up on the NBA's Mount Rushmore, meaning one of its four all-time great figures, and so we spent some time on various platforms debating other Mount Rushmores. Jeff Saturday went on "SportsCenter," for instance, and gave his all-time foursome of NFL offensive linemen.

So we had this idea to look at the New York Giants' Mount Rushmore and who would be on that. I put it to my Twitter followers, and in a very unscientific poll of responses, this is what you gave me:

Lawrence Taylor, 42 votes

Eli Manning, 30 votes

Michael Strahan, 23 votes

Bill Parcells, 17 votes

That's a fine Giants Mount Rushmore. And while Strahan is the franchise's all-time sacks leader, I think his vote total must be inflated by his recent election to the Hall of Fame and the likelihood that my Twitter followers trend young.

I think Taylor is the all-time no-brainer, the greatest defensive player the league has ever seen and a candidate for most dominant player of all time at any position. He's the slam-dunk guy for this list. Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and the franchise's all-time passing leader, is pretty close to a no-brainer as well. And Parcells, who coached the Giants to their first two Super Bowl titles, is obviously a strong choice.

But for Strahan's spot, I might look at the next few guys on the list you came up with on Twitter:

Wellington Mara, 12 votes

Frank Gifford, 8 votes

Tom Coughlin, 8 votes

Phil Simms, 8 votes

Sam Huff, 6 votes

Harry Carson, 4 votes

Y.A. Tittle, 3 votes

Huff is the guy I had my eye on for the fourth spot. He played eight years for the Giants from 1956 to '63 and then five for the Redskins after that. He was a middle linebacker who played in five Pro Bowls (four as a Giant) and was a dominant defensive star in an era before they played Super Bowls or kept sack totals. Obviously, I never saw him play, but he seems to fall into the category of all-time great Giants who may not be the first name to rush to the minds of modern Giants fans when we do an exercise like this.

Mara is an interesting case as a transcendent NFL figure and a father of the franchise (someone suggested Tim Mara as well), but we already have a coach on there, and I wasn't too keen on another nonplayer. Coughlin makes a case as a better all-time Giants coach than Parcells was, but Parcells gets the nod as the coach who put the Giants on the map as a Super Bowl championship-caliber team.

Gifford falls into a similar category as Huff -- did you know he's second in franchise history in receiving yards? -- and of course Simms is the guy whose passing records Manning broke. Tittle and Charlie Conerly probably deserve more love than they got as well.

So in conclusion, I think I'd go Taylor/Parcells/Manning/Huff, but the Giants' franchise has enough history to make this a fun debate. What do you think?

Big Blue Morning: Weekend recap

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
10:25
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Sorry this is late, folks. Was working late at the Super Bowl, then had to get up early to drive through the snow to Bristol, where I'll be appearing on "NFL Insiders" at 3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Monday and Tuesday this week. Yes, the best apologies always come with shameless plugs.

Anyway, we will turn our attention this week to the Giants' offseason and their priorities in terms of their own free agents. I expect them to attack some of the simpler situations -- guys like Andre Brown and Stevie Brown, for example -- early in the process while the thornier situations of Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Linval Joseph and Jon Beason sort themselves out closer to or even after the start of free agency. But that's just my educated guess. Will work to find out more in the coming days with the Super Bowl now behind us.

As for Giants-related issues from the weekend, in case you missed them ...

Michael Strahan was elected to the Hall of Fame, no doubt providing an offseason smile for Giants fans who remember better days. He also got an apology from his now-fellow Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, according to Sapp.

And Giants owner John Mara wants another Super Bowl in New Jersey because this one went well. He's entitled to his opinion, of course, and the week was great, if a little too cold early on. Personally, I loved covering a Super Bowl that didn't require me to get on a plane or sleep in a hotel. But I continue to think the NFL is nuts to press its luck on this. Just because something worked one time doesn't mean it was a good idea.
NEW YORK -- The really special part of rooting for a team that wins a championship is the way it lives in your memory. That's the stuff that lasts. The game itself is a thrill, and you feel great when it's over and the next day and right on through the parade. But the "WE WON!" feeling fades, and what you're left with is the memory of how much fun it was. And memories fade. So when something happens to stir that memory, it's the feeling of the ultimate sports-fan payoff coming back to you years later. That's a treat.

For New York Giants fans of a certain age, Saturday's election of Michael Strahan to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is such a moment. It's not as though you ever forgot Strahan, or anyone else who helped knock off the unbeaten Patriots and deliver that improbable Super Bowl XLII title. But a night that celebrates Strahan's greatness is a night that brings back the memories of that game and reaffirms for the current generation of Giants fans their ownership of that particular place in NFL history.

Your fathers and grandfathers had Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle, Bill Parcells and Lawrence Taylor. Those are Giants Hall of Famers who meant something to the fans who watched them deliver their own great moments. They mean something to you if you appreciate your team's history, but if you're under, say, 40 years old, they're not really your guys. Your guys are Strahan and Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs and David Diehl and that indestructible offensive line. Your great Giants moments were written by Victor Cruz and Ahmad Bradshaw. Those are the guys you'll think of when you remember the greatest times you had as a Giants fan. When one of them makes the Hall of Fame, it gives you the chance to smile as it all comes rushing back to you.

It's hard to know how many of the players from the two most recent Giants championship teams will have a night like Strahan had Saturday. Not all of their résumés are yet fully written. But getting Strahan in gives this generation of Giants fans another chance to remember some truly great times. And those opportunities are always welcome.

Big Blue Morning: Heat wave coming

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
9:00
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The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in New Jersey is now a high temperature of 43 degrees, a zero percent chance of precipitation and 7-mph winds. So, pretty much as perfect a day as you could hope for if you were ever to make the inane decision to have the Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in New Jersey. Good for Roger Goodell and John Mara. It's about time those guys caught a break, right?

In all seriousness, no one has been rooting for a weather disaster here, and it's good that signs point to the positive for a game that has a chance to be one for the ages. He's admittedly biased, but New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning sounds glad that his brother won't have to worry about weather conditions affecting his and the Denver Broncos' chances of winning the game.

In other Giants-ish news, Justin Tuck obviously sides with Michael Strahan in the Strahan-Warren Sapp beef and hopes his mentor gets that Hall of Fame call this Saturday.

This was overnight Tuesday, but it was good from Lyle Crouse, who talked to former Giant Sam Garnes about his memories of losing a Super Bowl game. Garnes is now an assistant coach with the Broncos, hoping a win Sunday can ease that memory.

And from the files of the bizarre, Plaxico Burress tells Jordan Raanan that he advised Hakeem Nicks this past season, which could explain a lot, actually.
NEW YORK -- New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck is surely biased, having played with and learned under defensive end Michael Strahan during Tuck's early years in the league. But the whole issue between Strahan and Warren Sapp, who demeaned Strahan's Hall of Fame candidacy at Super Bowl media day on Tuesday, mystifies Tuck as much as it does the rest of us.

"I think the dispute is childish," Tuck said in an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" on Wednesday. "And secondly I think Michael’s career speaks for itself. They’ll make the decision off of what Michael did in his career, and getting the opportunity to play with him, I can honestly say I got the opportunity to watch what I feel is one of the best defensive players to ever play the game, one of the best football players ever to play the game. Some of the things I saw him do in the latter stages of his career were truly remarkable. I can’t even fathom what he was doing in years five, six, seven, eight, nine. I got him at the end of his career, and he was still the best football player on the field at that point."

Strahan is one of 15 finalists in this year's election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which takes place Saturday. Strahan missed election last year on his first try while Sapp got in.
NEW YORK -- A friend called Michael Strahan last year on the night before the Super Bowl and told him he hadn't been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Strahan's reaction?

"All right, let's go get something to eat," the former New York Giants defensive end recalled Tuesday.

One of 15 finalists in this year's election, the results of which will be announced Saturday night, Strahan continues to insist that he doesn't give his Hall of Fame chances much thought until someone asks him about them. As the co-host of the syndicated morning talk show "Live! with Kelly and Michael," and a member of Fox's NFL pregame show, Strahan's card is extremely full these days. So he uses that fact to support his claim that he hasn't even imagined what it would feel like if he got a call this year telling him he made it.

"To be honest with you, I don't have enough time right now to imagine things," Strahan said. "I wake up, I work, I go to sleep and I wake up and do it again."

Strahan spoke Tuesday as part of Fox's pre-Super Bowl media availability with its on-air personalities. Earlier in the day, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp created a stir by saying he didn't think Strahan's case stacked up with those of others on this year's ballot. Strahan waved off Sapp's criticism by mentioning his 15 years in the the league, his 141.5 career sacks (a figure that ranks fifth in league history) and his belief that his career didn't tail off toward the end the way many do. And he said he believed making the Hall of Fame would be about more than just himself.

"This is about my family, my teammates, my coaches, the people who helped me get to this point," Strahan said. "I'm just trying to teach a lesson here that it isn't about yourself. I don't hang onto statistics from football. I've done everything I could do. So it's not up to me to vote whether I make it to the Hall of Fame. It's not up to the opinion of another player. It's howling into the wind, because who cares?"

If Strahan gets the votes he needs this time, he admits he could be singing a different tune come Saturday night. But if he doesn't, he's got plenty to do to keep his mind off of it for another year.
Yeah, the old Michael Strahan-Warren Sapp feud resurfaced Tuesday, which means it must be Super Bowl week. Strahan is up for Pro Football Hall of Fame election Saturday for the second year in a row, and Sapp, who got in last year, doesn't think he should make it.

I'm with Strahan on this one, in that I don't understand why Sapp would make this a cause of his. Part of it may be that he'd like to see his friend and former teammate Derrick Brooks get in instead, but this venom is too much to assign away simply to that. It's clear Sapp hates that Strahan holds the single-season sack record and that he believes Brett Favre handed it to him. But to hold that grudge for 12 years? And to continue it even after you got into the Hall of Fame first? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Maybe Sapp wanted to be the new Regis and is jealous that Strahan got the job instead.

Anyway, we'll have more on Strahan and his thoughts on the Hall of Fame later today, and of course we'll let you know what happens with the election Saturday night.

Meantime, as Jordan Raanan points out, there was a smattering of a Giants presence at Super Bowl Media Day, even without the Giants themselves here. I didn't watch the broadcast to see how P.R. man Pat Hanlon acquitted himself as a commentator. I hope he was as open about his feelings and opinions as he is on Twitter.
NEW YORK -- Michael Strahan retired after helping the New York Giants win the Super Bowl six years ago, going out a champion even though he says he was still capable of playing. Though some have imagined a similar ending for quarterback Peyton Manning should he lead the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, Strahan doesn't foresee it.

Strahan
Strahan
"He shouldn't. Have you seen the way he's playing?" Strahan said Tuesday. "I think we all would feel cheated if, win or lose, Peyton decided to stop playing, because we'd be saying, 'Think what we all missed.'"

Strahan said he takes pride in his belief that he was productive and excellent right up until the end of his career.

"No one looked at the end of my career and said, 'He should give money back. He's not earning it anymore,'" said Strahan, who is a finalist in Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame election. "When your heart's not in it, that's when you have to go. My heart quit before my body did. That's why I decided it was time. If [Manning's] heart is still in it, then I'm sure he'll keep playing."

Manning said as much Sunday when asked whether he was considering that this could be his final game, but he has also said his final decision rests on the results of a postseason physical that includes an examination of his surgically repaired neck. Regardless, you can put Strahan in the camp that doesn't think Manning needs to win Sunday to cement his place in NFL history.

"When it's all over, I think we need to realize we may be looking at the greatest ever to play the game," Strahan said. "Maybe he doesn't have the rings that [Joe] Montana has, or my man [Terry] Bradshaw, or even [Tom] Brady. But I think everything else he's done is pretty remarkable."
No, the New York Giants are not in this year's Super Bowl. But due to geographical convenience, I will be contributing all week to ESPN.com's Super Bowl coverage. I promise to keep the Giants page as fresh as possible, and frankly there should be enough Giants and Giants-related people running around the Super Bowl that we'll have no shortage of angles. Heck, even the Denver Broncos brought a couple with them Sunday night.

Broncos coach John Fox reminisced about his years spent living and working in New Jersey as the Giants' defensive coordinator, even mentioning during a discussion about his heart condition that it had been discovered during a Giants team physical. And Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning cracked about a lighthearted moment he'd shared with his little brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in which the latter told him he probably couldn't offer too many tips on how to beat the Seahawks. Eli threw five interceptions in a 23-0 loss to Seattle in Week 15.

So guys like Eli and Justin Tuck and Steve Weatherford and others are already scheduled to appear on Radio Row this week. And at week's end, former Giant Michael Strahan could well be elected to the Hall of Fame. Keep it locked right here for Giants news as it comes up, and in the meantime if you'd like to check out the rest of my contributions to our team Super Bowl coverage, it shouldn't be too tough for you to find it. Enjoy.

Big Blue Morning: Coughlin's future

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
9:15
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New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin tells ESPN Radio's Ian O'Connor in an interview to air Sunday that he'd like to keep coaching for a while. It's basically exactly what Coughlin said about his future the day after the season ended, so it doesn't come as any kind of shock, but it bears watching since the team has yet to extend his contract beyond the 2014 season.

I wrote a column late in the season that wondered whether Coughlin would want to return, given the likelihood that the Giants could be at the start of a challenging rebuild. But now that he's made it clear he wants to keep coaching as long as they'll let him, I believe him and I think he probably will. He surely knows the state of the roster as well as anyone does, and he knows the challenges that loom this offseason in terms of rebuilding the offensive line and putting better skill-position pieces around Eli Manning, and he seems eager to take them on.

In other news, Manning is trying to help out his big brother, Peyton Manning, as Peyton and the Broncos prepare to play the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in nine days. Eli Manning also said he anticipates changes to the offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, but that he's excited about them. And former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who's a Hall of Fame finalist for the second year in a row, said on a conference call that he hadn't given much thought to his chances for election this time around. The Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be announced Saturday, Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl, in New York City.
For the second year in a row, former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan is one of 15 finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame's class of 2014 will be announced on Feb. 1 in New York, the night before the Super Bowl that will be played across the river in New Jersey. It likely would be extra sweet for Strahan to make it this year, since he played his whole career with the Giants and would be learning of his election in New York City.

In other news, the Giants continue to hunt for a new guy for fans to complain about whenever they have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. But after John Mara made it clear in a radio interview that former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride likely would have been fired if he hadn't quit, it's also becoming clear that the Giants are opening themselves up to the possibility of bigger changes than originally expected to their offensive schemes and principles. I think this is a good thing, even if the interview process doesn't ultimately lead to a surprising candidate. The interviews they're doing shows they're open to expanding their thinking about how to score points, and in today's NFL, that's everyone's priority.

Whatever they do on offense, they'll need to figure out who the running back is. David Wilson is having neck surgery next week with the goal of getting him back on the field in 2014. But that's a goal, not a certainty by any means.

Oh, and Mara agrees with me on the issue of playoff expansion. He's opposed, in other words. Which is encouraging, since Mara's a pretty powerful dude in this here league.
Former New York Giants defensive end and current mid-morning network TV star Michael Strahan was named a finalist Thursday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014.

Strahan ranks fifth in NFL history and first in Giants history with 141.5 sacks, including a season-record 22.5 in 2001. He led the league in sacks that year and again in 2003. He played all of his 216 NFL games for the Giants and was named to seven Pro Bowls during a career that stretched from 1993 to 2007. His final game was the Giants' victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Pro Football Hall of Fame voting is weird and completely unpredictable, but since it was something of a surprise that Strahan wasn't elected last year, he would seem to have a strong chance of getting in this time around.

The class of 2014 will be selected Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' recent run (winning five of their past six games) has been fueled by their defense. It has resulted in a remarkable string of individual accolades.

Tuck
For his four-sack performance in Sunday night's victory over the Washington Redskins, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. It's the second time in Tuck's career that he's won the award, and he becomes the third Giants defensive player to win it in the team's last five games. Cornerback Terrell Thomas won it for his performance in Week 8 against the Eagles, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul won it for his interception/touchdown in Week 11 against the Packers.

Tuck has had a strong season overall, but he had just 2.5 sacks in his first 11 games, so the four against Robert Griffin III on Sunday were eye-opening. They are the most he's ever had in a game, and he becomes the fifth Giant to have four sacks in a game, joining Osi Umenyiora (who holds the team record with six in a game), Pepper Johnson, Michael Strahan and of course Lawrence Taylor, who did it twice.

JPP is NFC Defensive Player of Week

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He may not have even had the best individual defensive game on his team Sunday. But the play New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul made to intercept Scott Tolzien and run in for a touchdown turned the game in the Giants' favor for good. And for that effort, Pierre-Paul has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 11.

It's the third time Pierre-Paul has won this award. He won it in Weeks 14 and 16 of the 2011 season for performances against the Cowboys and the Jets. He is the third Giants player to win the award at least three times, joining Michael Strahan, who won it five times, and Lawrence Taylor, who won it nine times.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday morning that Pierre-Paul would miss practice with the shoulder injury that's been bugging him the last couple of weeks. But Pierre-Paul missed practice last Wednesday and Thursday and still played (and apparently quite well) in Sunday's game. At this point, there's no reason to fear that he'll miss Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

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