Giants' Top 5 Stories of 2011

Eli Manning's play this season has backed up his claim that he's an elite quarterback. Chris Trotman/Getty Images

We asked ESPNNewYork.com's beat writers to rank their five top stories of 2011. Next up: Ohm Youngmisuk, who covered the Giants through a season of players departing and elite play. Check out Ohm's picks and vote for yours in the poll at right.

1. Eli Manning says he's in Tom Brady's class

The question was innocent enough, but the answer got everybody buzzing. Michael Kay asked the Giants quarterback on ESPN New York 1050 whether he considered himself an elite quarterback, one in Tom Brady's class. Manning answered yes in a rare show of ego and confidence, and it set off a instant debate. Manning, though, has backed up his assertion with his best season yet. He also beat Brady in his own backyard this season.

2. Osi Umenyiora calls out Jerry Reese

Osi Umenyiora wanted a new contract extension. He felt he was promised one by general manager Jerry Reese and was so sure of it that he put it in an affidavit as one of the plaintiffs in the Brady vs. NFL case during the lockout. Once the lockout was lifted, Umenyiora did not get a new contract. He held out at the start of training camp, returned for a few practices and then underwent minor surgery on his knee. The defensive end finally vowed to play for his teammates and hope for a new deal next year.

3. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss leave via free agency

In the span of five days during training camp, Eli Manning lost two of his most trusted targets to free agency. Tight end Kevin Boss signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, and then days later, Smith defected to the Philadelphia Eagles for a one-year deal worth just over $2 million. Giants fans were furious with Reese, who explained that the Giants were not going to make splashy moves in free agency in large part because they had young, unproven players ready to step in, like Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard.

4. Injuries rock the Giants

The Giants were once again rocked by injuries this season. In the preseason, they lost CB Terrell Thomas, CB Bruce Johnson, CB Brian Witherspoon, LB Clint Sintim and second-round pick Marvin Austin, among others. First-round pick Prince Amukamara broke his foot in his second practice of camp and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff tore his ACL days before the season opener. In many ways, the Giants defense is still trying to make up for all the losses.

5. John Mara brings Tom Coughlin back

The Giants finished last season with 10 wins but were kept out of the postseason for a second straight year. The Giants also ended the 2010 season by winning just one of their final three games, with devastating losses to the Eagles and Packers. Still, Giants CEO John Mara believed coach Tom Coughlin was the right man for the job and that the Giants still played hard for him. So he ended any speculation over Coughlin's job status by announcing he would bring Coughlin back right after the Giants won the season finale in Washington, 17-14, on Jan. 2.

Coming on Monday: The Top 5 College Stories of 2011