Revisiting DE Justin Tuck's Greatest Moments with the New York Giants
A foundation of Super Bowl champions will be yet another man short in 2014, as the New York Giants have lost their most iconic defensive player to the unforgiving open market.
Tuck was drafted by the Giants in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, and he has since spent the last nine seasons in New York. He won two Super Bowls and was twice named a Pro Bowler during his tenure as a Giant.
The cutthroat business side of the NFL is likely what sent Tuck to the West Coast, away from the only professional football franchise he has ever known. As he now approaches 31 years of age, no one can fault Tuck's decision to cash in on whatever football he's got left inside of him.
But money talks and players walk—Tuck is now a Raider.
On Facebook, Tuck acknowledged the organization and the fan base he now leaves behind, thanking them for a decade's worth of support and loyalty.
To return the favor, I'll highlight Tuck's greatest moments as a Giant in this slideshow.
First NFL Sack
With the 74th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Giants selected a 6'5" defensive end from the University of Notre Dame named Justin Tuck. New York knew it was getting excellent value out of the third-round selection, as Tuck was originally projected to be picked midway through the first round.
The rookie pass-rusher crashed an already potent cast of playmakers in New York. Starting defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora both made the Pro Bowl during Tuck's first NFL season. As a rotational rusher, Tuck played in 14 games and started just one.
But Dec. 4, 2005, in a Week 13 matchup with the division rival Dallas Cowboys, Tuck gave Giants fans a glimpse of what was to come. Donning a now-defunct red alternate jersey, a 22-year-old Tuck shook his man and brought down Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe, causing a fumble and change of possession in the process.
The sack was the first of 60.5 to come over Tuck's nine-season career; he also added 17 more forced fumbles.
Super Bowl XLII
By the end of the 2007 season, New York was well aware of the rising defensive force it had in Tuck. He had rebounded nicely from a Lisfranc injury that stole the back half of his 2006 campaign, recording 10 sacks while starting only two games. Strahan and Umenyiora were still entrenched as the starters.
But in Super Bowl XLII, it was Tuck who took center stage, ceding the spotlight only long enough for Eli Manning to steal the show with an unprecedented game-winning drive. Many believe, if not for the miraculous nature of Manning's two-minute drill, Tuck would have been named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.
After all, New York was facing a then-undefeated New England Patriots team, featuring what may have been the most potent offense in league history at the time. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady set a new league record with 50 touchdown passes that season. All-time great wide receiver Randy Moss caught almost half of them.
But Brady hardly had a chance to connect with Moss in Glendale, Ariz., thanks in large part to Tuck's incessant harassment of the Patriots passer. The backup D-end had recorded six tackles and two sacks by game's end, helping the Giants hold New England's offense to just 14 points.
All-Pro 2008 Season
Still basking in his Super Bowl glory, Tuck delivered a season-long encore in 2008. Strahan had finally retired, and Umenyiora was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in August. It was finally Tuck's time to shine.
And shine he did in 2008, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance and only first-team All-Pro distinction. As the Giants rolled to an 11-1 start to the season, Tuck was the dominant defensive force. The team finished first in the conference, and Tuck set career-high marks for sacks (12.0) and tackles (52).
Better yet, Tuck was proving to be the all-around player New York drafted him to be. After recording just three starts in as many seasons, he settled in as the starting left defensive end—Strahan's old position. Tuck was just as effective defending the run as he was rushing the passer. He even intercepted a Marc Bulger pass attempt against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2, returning it 41 yards for the only touchdown of his career.
At 25 years old, Tuck was in his prime and arguably the most disruptive defensive force across the league.
2011-12 Playoff Run
After a 2010 season in which Tuck once again garnered All-Pro votes (the Associated Press named him to the second team, while the Pro Football Writers of America considered him a first-teamer), the 28-year-old had an unexpected down season in 2011. He battled injuries all regular season, playing in just 12 games and recording only five sacks.
Reports emerged the following offseason that Tuck had actually considered retirement during the 2011 regular season. The team wasn't all that great, and his struggles with injuries were only complicated by the deaths of his grandfather and uncle. Perhaps he'd ride off into the sunset and spend the rest of his post-football life shining his Super Bowl ring from four seasons earlier.
Then, the Giants snuck into the playoffs as a 9-7 Wild Card team.
Tuck emerged as a threatening defensive force once again, thriving off the energy of his surging underdog Giants. His team knocked off the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers in succession, setting up a Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots.
With two sacks in the Super Bowl to go along with the 1.5 he recorded in the NFC Championship game, Giants fans witnessed shades of a vintage No. 91—Tuck had completed a successful turnaround.
Late 2013 Resurgence
If Giants fans took Tuck's 2011-12 playoff performance as a sign that his troubles were in the past, they were sorely mistaken—his 2012 season was even worse. Although he played in all but one game, Tuck recorded a mere four sacks and 27 tackles in 2012.
Perhaps convinced that his best playing days were behind him, Tuck's terrible 2012 carried over into the 2013 season. The Giants were among the NFL's bottom-feeders for the first half of the season, and Tuck had recorded only 2.5 sacks through the first 11 games.
Tuck had a career game, racking up four sacks in a 24-17 win. The unexpected explosion spurred a stretch in which Tuck was nearly unstoppable. He finished the season with 11 sacks—his first double-digit total since 2010.
The late-season surge undoubtedly inflated Tuck's value as he approached free agency, but it also allowed him to leave New York on a high note. Thanks in large part to the serial position effect, Tuck is set to earn $11 million from the Raiders and Giants fans will always recall him fondly.