I feel as though I am allowed to evaluate Michael Strahan's career. I am 18-years old, and since I was four-years old, all I can remember is Michael Strahan wearing No. 92 and lining up at left DE and getting after the quarterback.
I look at rookie cards and see him wearing No. 64 originally, and it just shows me how long Strahan has been around. My Dad first became a true fan of the G-Men because of Lawrence Taylor. I really gravitated towards the Giants at the tender age of four, and I really have not missed a game since.
Strahan has been the face of the franchise. In a past article, I called for the Giants to basically give him whatever he asked. In another recent article I said that Strahan would be back, but I guess I just couldn't concede that he was not going to play following the Giants Super Bowl XLII win.
He has been through QBs such as Kent Graham, Dave Brown, Kerry Collins, and finally Eli Manning. He has seen Dan Reeves, Jim Fassell, and, perhaps in the end his favorite, Tom Coughlin coach this team.
For Strahan though, it was more than just the sacks and tackles he made. He was the emotional leader of a franchise that dated back to 1925. In New York Football Giants history, he goes down as an all-time legend, along with LT, Sam Huff, and Frank Gifford.
Strahan was the face of the Giants, even during their more disappointing seasons including the 4-12 2003 season. Unlike when other star players such as Marshall Faulk, Brett Favre, and John Elway retired, Strahan is not leaving behind question marks at the his position. He helped develop Osin Umenyiora, as well as the most versatile DL, Justin Tuck.
Strahan was a guy that the younger defensive lineman looked up to, because he could talk to the talk and walk the walk. Go ask John Runyan about Strahan blowing by him and getting to Donovan McNabb, who Strahan sacked more than any other quarterback.
Deacon Jones may have coined the term "sack", Mark Gastineau may have had the most innovative sack dances, but Strahan could compete with both, especially with his loud mouth after knocking down a QB. I am aware that 141.5 sacks are only good enough for fifth all time on the list, but Strahan could also play against the run, and was not just what people call tweeners against the run. Even later in his career, he slimmed down when training with Osi to become quicker, and he was still playing well against the run.
My all-time favorite quote from Strahan is what he often said during the 2007 campaign, "Every time you put on this jersey, you put it on for each other." Another favorite is what he said after Randy Moss scored with 2:42 left, "17-14 is the final, believe it and will happen, score and we are world champions."
These quotes show off his leadership because he always valued the team for the most part, he always had faith that his teammates could make the plays to win games. He turned out to be right; 17-14 was the final, and it was the most exciting drive of any Giants fan's life.
His trademark gap between his teeth always had me asking why a guy with so much money couldn't go see a dentist? It was his personality though. One of a jokester at times in the locker room and his cool sense of humor. Strahan did things his way sometimes, like his holdout last year. For better or worse, you really can't fault him for his play on the field or his high character off of it.
Strahan went out on top, with the most improbable Super Bowl win ever. A game in which he recorded a sack and three tackles, and also helped the Giants apply the kind of pressure Tom Brady had ever seen. He made the most unphased quarterback lose, his as Jim Nantz would say, his "Cool Hand Luke" composure.
Elway, Bettis, and now Strahan went out on top as champs. As a Giants fan, I really can't fault him. This was all that he had left after a seven-time Pro-Bowl career. Michael didn't want to come back and joke around, and only put a half-hearted effort into it, because that would disgrace the organization that gave him so much.
He started off as a rookie from Texas Southern, not exactly a football factory, but Strahan showed that he had talent and could play in the NFL. The Giants selected him with the 40th overall pick in the 1993 draft.
Even during his one season while playing with Lawrence Taylor, Strahan learned a lot from LT's philosophy of "lets go out there and play like a wild pact of wolves."
Strahan's leadership will be missed greatly. But the guy who will take over the defensive team leader will be Antonio Pierce. Pierce is a classic story of an over-achiever, originally went to junior college and then finished off his college career at the University of Arizona. He was undrafted and signed by divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins.
Pierce than came over to the Giants as the Mike Linebacker, and has exhibited great leadership. An example of this was after Week Two in 2007, when he came out with an air horn because he didn't want the media to think that this problem was something sports writers could solve, but rather that the Giants defense had to get adjusted to Spagnuolo's high-pressure system.
Pierce is also a vocal leader on the field, calling out the pre-snap reads and he often knows what play the offense will run. This shows the effort that he puts in watching film.
The Giants have some options to replace Strahan, but the one that makes the most sense is to put Justin Tuck into the starting lineup. Tuck plays with passion and energy, and it helps that he recorded 10 sacks last year, even while not being a starter. Tuck was another player that Ernie Acorsi and Jerry Reese have found outside of the first round, taking him out of Notre Dame in the third round in 2005.
Tuck played all over the DL, so he might not be the starting LE, but he will see an increased role. Another option is putting Mathias Kiwanuka in that spot. He has played both DE and LB before in his career. Renayldo Wynn also will provide some depth at the DE position as well. Losing Strahan cuts down on the depth that the Giants have at the DE position.
Overall, Strahan is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he will be enshrined with his buddy Brett Favre. In this rare day in age, he will go in only wearing one uniform, and that is the one of the New York Football Giants.
Strahan was a class act on and off the field, and at his press conference, it will be a very sad sight for the player I grew up watching. He will now fade into the TV business after a great career.