A little over a year ago, I went roadtrippin’ to Philly to take in my favorite team’s Wild Card contest against its arch nemesis.
I couldn’t have been less excited (though I was even less excited when I purchased a counterfeit ticket and couldn’t get in but that’s not the point here). It was the dutiful thing to do as a fan of your team, but nothing more.
Seriously, I don’t know if non-Giant fans know what it was like following this team in recent years. In short, it wasn’t much fun.
On paper, there were actually pretty decent years: A division title in ’05 and another playoff berth last year.But they had to of been the two most joyless playoff years an NFL team has ever had and not simply because they lost during wild-card weekend both years.
You had the-way-too-pleased-with-himself Tiki Barber sniping at Tom Coughlin at every turn, Coughlin running the team as if he were a drill sergeant, the ongoing prima donna tendencies of Shockey, and Plax coming across as an enigma and us defaulting to the view of him being another me-first No. 1 WR.
You also had Strahan seemingly making headlines only for tabloid reasons (i.e. his bitter divorce), a defensive coordinator in Tim Lewis who ran a passive scheme and treated his players with a lack of respect, and of course there was Eli, who I viewed as a spoiled brat for forcing the draft day trade (at the time I thought: “What an ungrateful baby, complaining about being the No. 1 pick and having to go to San Diego of all places.”)
It didn’t help matters that I am very fond of the Pats and always like to see them do well in games not involving the G-Men.So, while the Giants had become the NFL’s version of Team Turmoil the Pats had evolved into the model organization with the genius coach and the perfect QB.
Over the last few years it was legitimately difficult for me to stay “married” to the Giants–they were the proverbial wife who had let themselves go and the Pats were the blazing mistress who could do nothing wrong.
And back on that day in Philadelphia, you could tell I wasn’t the only one disenchanted with the state of the Giants that day. Despite being like 90 minutes from NYC/New Jersey, people in Giants gear were few and far between.
Before the ticket snafu, we pre-gamed in McFadden’s and sported the only two in Giants jerseys in the whole place. I’ve never gotten more attention in my life.Non-stop yelling in my face, kicking, punching, you name it.It’s not football in Philly, it’s war.
And when they lost that game, honestly, I thought we still had a way to go before hitting rock bottom.
Heading into 2007, the Giants had lost their best offensive player, their head coach was seemingly a lame duck, their longtime GM (Ernie Accorsi) retired, and Eli still wasn’t showing he was anything more than an average NFL QB.
In a pretty rugged division, I definitely didn’t see them making the playoffs in 2007.
Now in hindsight, it’s rather remarkable how 2007 came together. Here were some keys that stood out to me:
- Tiki retires—better chemistry ensues, the running game doesn’t skip a beat.
- Coughlin meets the players half way, shows his human side and the guys rally behind him.
- Plax proves not to be a prima donna but rather a big play, gutsy WR who played hurt all year.
- Tim Lewis exits stage left. Spagnuolo takes over, which is like upgrading from a Jetta to a Benz.
- The emergence of Justin Tuck took the Giants D-line, already a strength, to a new level.
- Shockey gets hurt—and the Giants rid themselves of his side show.
(Memo to Jerry Reese: Trade Shockey! In addition to his antics, his body will never hold up over the years.)
Speaking of Jerry Reese, that guy needs to take a bow.A brilliant 2007 draft was a huge factor down the stretch.Bradshaw was $$$, Boss stepped in seamlessly for Shockey, Ross proved to be a good corner with a bright future, Jay Alford had the huge sack of Brady at the end, and Steve Smith becomes the clutch 3rd WR the Giants almost never seem to have.
- Lt. Greg Gadson (leg-less after a horrible combat accident) became the “54th man” on the Giants’ roster, inspiring the Giants with a speech for the ages before their season-saving Week 3 win in DC. His presence through the playoffs, down on the sidelines even in sub zero Green Bay weather, was a beautiful thing.Far and away my favorite story during the Giants’ run.
- After enduring more growing pains, Eli grows up and proves to be a clutch guy revered by his teammates.
It wasn’t until Eli sniped back at Tiki’s petty comments on television that I started to change my view of Peyton’s baby bro. It fired me up and since I’ve grown to immensely hate San Diego in recent years. I stopped caring about him snubbing them in the 2004 draft.I also think it’s cool how he’s unfazed in pressure situations and never tries to be something he’s not—that can’t be easy in the fishbowl that he plays in.
At the end of the day, everything added up to a classic example of an underdog team who peaked at the right time, with the right attitude, caught the lucky breaks when they needed them, and stole a title right out from under probably the greatest team of this generation.
These are the best kinds of titles.Enjoy it Giant fans!
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