A Team and a Season We Will Never Forget

Louis GiangarraCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05:  (L-R) Michael Strahan, Owner John Mara and Eli Manning of the New York Giants ride in a float along Broadway, also known as 'The Canyon of Heroes' during Super Bowl XLII victory parade in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

My father was 30 years old when I was born.  Until then, he had never seen the New York Giants play in a Super Bowl, let alone win one.  It was an excruciating time to be a Giants fan. 

In the 26 years since then, the Giants have played in four Super Bowls and won three of them. 

You're welcome, Giants fans. 

Having to pick one team out of so many seemed like a much tougher task than it turned out to be. While I loved so many of the teams over the past 26 years, one stood out.

Of all the Giants Super Bowl teams, the 2007-08 version was not the most talented, that honor goes to the 1986 team. 

They were not the best coached, that was the 1990 team.  What they were, however, were the most memorable and remarkable Super Bowl team in Giants history and their legacy started before the playoffs did.

When the undefeated New England Patriots pompously strolled into Giants Stadium for their regular season finale, they offered their opponent a choice. The Giants were going to the playoffs, had their seeding all locked up, and presumably resting their guys would do the team some good. 

Why on earth would they want to risk injury just to try and win a meaningless game?  They would because Tom Coughlin is smarter than the rest of us.

What Coughlin knew was that this game was not about finishing 11-5 vs 10-6.  This game was about instilling confidence in his troops. It was about Coughlin telling his team and the rest of the football watching world that HIS team was better.

He believed it, and after his decision, so did the Giants.

Super Bowl XLII was supposed to be the celebration of the first undefeated team in a 16 game NFL season.  It was supposed to be where Tom Brady and Bill Belichick took their places among the greatest of all-time.  Even the sports books were giving the Patriots two touchdowns, which ranked as the second widest point spread of any Super Bowl. 

It was as if everybody quickly had forgotten what happened just one short month ago. 

The Giants didn't forget.

From the opening possession, the Giants showed they belonged. They marched down the field converting third down after third down, consuming most of the first quarter all by themselves and ended the drive by putting points on the board. 

After a Patriots touchdown on their first drive, the teams played to a standstill until the fourth quarter started. 

The Giants were pounding Brady in a way he had never been pounded. The offensive line of the Patriots, widely considered one of the best in the league, were being manhandled by the front four of the Giants. They simply could not block Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Michael Strahan. 

In the end the Giants needed a last second two minute drill, including the greatest play in Super Bowl history, to make the team one of the most improbable champions of all time. Celebration raced across the country from everybody who loved the Giants to everybody who just hated the Patriots.

It was a moment that any fan of the New York Giants will never forget.

This team is my favorite team for a few reasons. They were counted out long before the playoffs even started. Some thought they might not even qualify for the playoffs in the first place. They took their criticisms, they took all the bad press, and they used it to their advantage. 

They didn't run away and hide; they faced it head on and became immortal because of it. 

Coughlin etched himself in Giants lore by declaring they would give their best effort to beat the Patriots in the regular season.  He felt he owed it to the other teams in the league and to the sport itself to make this a real game. 

He is an old school coach with old school principles like this. Not many coaches, if any at all, would have made that decision, but those coaches would not have ended the season by holding the Super Bowl trophy proudly over their heads either.

Coughlin, who had almost been fired before the season even began, could now say he was the best coach in football for at least one year. Manning, who had been booed and screamed at by opposing fans and Giants fans alike during his up-and-down career, put together a playoff run in which he was at his absolute best. 

They would not have won that Super Bowl if any other player had been their QB during those games. Strahan and Amani Toomer, two eternal New York Giants in every sense of the phrase, finally got to say they were Super Bowl Champions. 

After all those years playing when the team was horrible, they had earned this title as much as anybody.  Nobody was happier for them than the Giants fans across the nation who had the privilege of watching them play the game for all these years.

Watching Brady and Belichick and all of the Boston fans writing the Super Bowl off as a foregone conclusion was irritating at best.  I had hoped the Giants felt as angry about this nonsense as I did and as it turned out they did. 

They played that game with a fire and determination that was two full weeks in the making. Being told over and over again that you have no chance to do something will motivate just about anybody to go above and beyond anything they have ever achieved before. 

That's exactly what happened to this team. They rose to the occasion in the face of everybody in the world who doubted them. That's why they are special and that's why they are my favorite team.