The New York Giant franchise saw a lot of ups and downs between 2000 and 2009. The Giants compiled a record of 80 - 64, excluding this year. They started off the decade with an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 35. New York had losing seasons in three out of its next four years before turning it around. That included a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. Here is my take on who were the best players at each position for the Giants over the past 10 years.
The New York Giants gave up a lot to get Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft. And it has payed off. The younger brother of Peyton Manning has already won a Super Bowl and is just entering the prime of his career. In his short career, Manning has thrown for 125 touchdowns and over 18,000 yards. Look forward to Eli leading the G-Men for years to come.
2nd Team - Kerry Collins - If he led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory over the Ravens he may have stuck around and Eli could have never been drafted. That performance alone dropped him to the second best option the Giants had over the past 10 years.
Tiki Barber was the Giants' main punt returner in the early part of the decade. He also started 21 games at running back in 2000-01. Jim Fassel finally decided to relieve Ron Dayne of the lead-back role and make Tiki a full-time back. The result was arguably the best running back in the Giants storied history. Barber holds the all-time rushing record with 10,449 yards. He was also a great receiver out of the backfield. He recorded three straight seasons over 2000 all-purpose yards from 2004-06. He received a lot of heat for retiring at the peak of his career, but with all the injuries running backs get can you blame him?
2nd Team - Brandon Jacobs - Jacobs became the primary goal-line and short-yardage back towards the end of Barber's career. He got the chance to become a feature back and did very well in his first two years, splitting time with Derrick Ward. He has totaled 43 touchdowns in five years and has a career rushing average of 4.4 yards per carry.
Do you remember this guy? Jim Finn was the other guy in the Giants' backfield who led the way for Tiki Barber. Finn was more of a hybrid fullback. He had great hands and in his four years with the Giants averaged over seven yards per catch out of the backfield. But don't let those stats fool you. He was a force to be reckoned with when coming through the offensive line. If not for shoulder problems he could have still been a solid fullback.
2nd Team - Madison Hedgecock - This guy is a house. At 6'3" and 260 lbs. he almost makes Brandon Jacobs look small. Almost. He has led the charge for Giants' backs for the past three seasons and will continue to do so for years to come.
How could the Giants' number one all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns not be the number one receiver of the decade? Amani Toomer has been a model of consistency over his twelve year career with New York. From 2000-03, he had over 1000 yards, at least five touchdowns and over 50 catches a year. His best year as a Giant came in 2002 when he hauled 82 catches for over 1300 yards and eight touchdowns. He slowed down in the later part of the decade, but was still one of Eli Manning's most trusted targets. It was sad to see him not re-signed after 2008, but expect him to retire a Giant whenever that day comes along.
2nd Team - Ike Hilliard - Hilliard was a great option alongside Toomer. He is a great professional football player who always does what is asked of him. From 2000-04 he amassed 22 receiving touchdowns. Injuries slowed him down, however. He missed 16 games in his last five years as a Giant.
One of the heroes from Super Bowl 42, Plaxico Burress was the Giants' big play threat from 2005-08. With a great combination of size and speed, Burress helped a young Eli Manning look exceptional. Totaling 33 touchdowns in four shortened years with New York, Burress could have still been another weapon for a strong offense if he hadn't made some bad choices.
2nd Team - Steve Smith - The wide out from USC has quickly become Eli's favorite target. Smith broke the franchise record for receptions in a season and is only three catches away from breaking the 100 catch barrier. Also has over 1100 yards in his first year as a full-time starter. If he keeps this up he will be a surefire lock as a Pro-Bowler next season.
Shockey is one of those players you love to have on your team. And hate to play against. Shockey was a player the Giants' wanted so bad they moved up in the 2002 NFL Draft to acquire him. He instantly helped a lackluster offense with 74 catches for 894 yards in his rookie season. Shockey struggled with injuries in his career with the Giants that eventually led to his disgruntled departure. But the fiery tight end out of The U was one of the most productive in Giants' history. In six years he totaled 371 catches for 4228 yards and 27 touchdowns.
2nd Team - Kevin Boss - This guy is the complete opposite of Jeremy Shockey. And exactly what the Giants needed. Boss stepped right into Shockey's shoes and performed so well that the Giants traded their Pro Bowl tight end. In three years with New York, Boss has become a dependable receiving and blocking tight end. He has totaled 13 touchdowns, over a thousand yards receiving and has developed a great chemistry with Eli Manning.
This was the first real tough choice. But Petitgout remained at the left tackle position for five years. Longer than any other Giant at the position. And the fact that he only missed 13 games as a Giant in the decade. If not for injury problems he may have still been a New York Giant.
2nd Team - David Diehl - Diehl has played every position along the offense line except for center. You can argue that Lomas Brown could be the choice for second team, but Diehl was a major part of a dominant offensive line for seven years now. He was also named as a first alternate for the Pro Bowl this year.
Seubert has played through a lot of injuries in his nine year career. Even though he had the injuries, management has kept him around. He has been a solid guard when healthy and helped to anchor a strong middle of the offensive line for the Giants over the past three years.
2nd Team - David Diehl - Diehl makes the list twice, this time as second team left guard. One of the most versatile lineman the Giants have ever had. He spent two years playing left guard when Seubert was struggling with injuries.
O'Hara was the easiest pick out of the offensive linemen. O'Hara has anchored this unit for six years now and has two Pro Bowls to show for it, including this year. He calls out all the protections for Eli and has been named a team captain.
2nd Team - Chris Bober - Bober was the only other center for the Giants to spend significant time at center. He played two full years as a starter before the Giants signed O'Hara.
Snee has been a starter for six years now and he is the best lineman the Giants have. He was named a Pro Bowler and first team All-Pro in 2008. The argument can be made that he should have been a pro bowler this year too.
2nd Team - Ron Stone - Stone was great in his years with the Giants. He made back to back Pro Bowls in 2000-01 which led to his departure. The Giants couldn't match an offer San Francisco made and he packed his bags and moved out west. A real shame the G-Men couldn't hold onto him.
It seems that McKenzie is on the decline now entering his fifth year with the Giants. But he has been a great pick up for New York since his arrival in 2005. He had only missed three games coming into 2009, but injuries have slowed him down this year. Still, McKenzie is the best the Giants have had at right tackle in the past 10 years.
2nd Team - Luke Petitgout - Petitgout is the second Giant to be on this list twice. He held down the position for the first two years of the decade until he was moved to left tackle out of necessity.
A surefire Hall of Famer and arguably the best defensive player in Giants history, Michael Strahan was a lock for this pick. Made four Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams and in 2001 set the single season sack record with 22.5 sacks. An emotional and vocal leader, he was the heart and soul of New York's defense. He could still probably lace up the spikes and outperform a good majority of the defensive ends out there.
2nd Team - Justin Tuck - One of the biggest reasons the Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. He handles the run and pass equally well. Already has a Pro Bowl appearance and All-Pro team nomination under his belt. Has totaled 29 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in his five year career.
Osi has amassed 48.5 sacks in his seven year career with the Giants, and that includes missing all of 2008. He has two Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro selection. Had six sacks in a game against the rival Eagles and has two seasons with 13-plus sacks. Hopefully he will stick with the Giants and have another decade of success.
2nd Team - Mathias Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka was a hybrid pass rusher coming out of Boston College. He can play both outside linebacker and defensive end. He has done a pretty good job at both, but is now staying at end. Kiwanuka has racked up 19.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in four years. Also plays the run surprisingly well.
One teams trash is another teams treasure. Fred Robbins never gelled with the Minnesota Vikings and the Giants picked him right up. New York management was rewarded with their best defensive tackle of the decade. Robbins has recorded 161 tackles, 25 sacks and three interceptions in six years with the Giants. That's great numbers for any defensive tackle in the NFL.
2nd Team - Keith Hamilton - Hamilton was a defensive end turned tackle. He was one of the reasons the Giants made the 2000 Super Bowl run. He recorded 10 sacks that year with 43 tackles. Hamilton's production steadily decreased after that, but had a bounce back year in 2003 with 43 tackles.
Griffin was a steady run stopper in the middle for the G-Men. He recorded 139 tackles in his first four years, including 12.5 sacks. The Giants decided to move on with Fred Robbins after his contract ran out. He found continued success with the rival Redskins.
2nd Team - Barry Cofield - Cofield was drafted after other selections failed to impress New York management. He responded by providing the Giants with a suitable tackle to play alongside Robbins. He has not been outstanding, but he has continued to progress as time has gone on.
The outside linebackers were some of the toughest choices for the All-Decade Team. The Giants have not had many good outside linebackers since this guy left. Armstead made the Pro Bowl his final two years in New York before he signed with Washington. He totaled 6.5 sacks and 141 tackles in 2000-01. Armstead re-signed with New York to officially retire a Giant in 2007.
2nd Team - Dhani Jones - Jones spent his first three years in the league with the Giants. From 2001-03 he blossomed into one of the better New York linebackers. He totaled 162 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in his short lived Giants career.
Brandon Short went through two stints with the Giants throughout the decade. He started off his career with New York from 2000-03 and than rejoined the team in 2006. He became an impact player at the outside linebacker position. He totaled 198 tackles, nine sacks and four forced fumbles.
2nd Team - Carlos Emmons - Emmons was a steady option at linebacker for three years. He struggled with injuries towards the end of his career but still managed 146 tackles and two sacks.
Antonio Pierce has been the signal caller of the New York Giants' defense for the past five years. Pierce has not only been a leader on the field but in the locker room as well. He has been selected to one Pro Bowl and has been one of the leaders in tackles for the G-Men. He suffered a neck injury at the end of this year which may lead to his retirement or release from the team, but his leadership qualities will certainly land him a coaching job somewhere.
2nd Team - Michael Barrow - Barrow became the Giants' middle linebacker in the 2000 season. He instantly became a force for the middle of the defense. Barrow accumulated 348 tackles and 14 sacks over his four year stint with New York.
Jason Sehorn didn't play as much as some of the other corner backs the Giants had, but he played great when he was on the field. He unfortunately lost his job to the Will's (Will Allen and Will Peterson) and ended his career with St. Louis. In his final three years with the Giants (2000-02), Sehorn recorded seven interceptions and recorded 160 tackles. Also defended 16 passes in 2001. One of the most beloved Giants of all time.
2nd Team - Sam Madison - Sam Madison was a former All-Pro selection when the Giants picked him up. His better years were supposed to be behind him and he had lost a step. But Madison could still play and he wanted to prove it. In three years with New York, Madison picked off seven passes and defended 26 passes. He became a mentor to the younger corner backs in his last season with the Giants.
Corey Webster started off his career slowly, and early on he was considered a bust. But the corner out of LSU has become one of the top shut down corners in the NFL today. In five years as a Giant, Webster has picked off six passes, forced six fumbles and accounted for 185 tackles. He has struggled down the stretch this year, but so has the entire team. Expect Webster to continue to grow and succeed as the Giants' number one corner back.
2nd Team - Will Allen - Allen was supposed to come in and be a top corner for the Giants for years to come. He never became that. But Allen was not a terrible player, he just never reached expectations. Allen totaled 264 tackles and eight interceptions in his five years as a Giant.
Gibril Wilson played great from the moment he put on a Giants uniform. Wilson anchored the secondary for four years before money talked and he left for Oakland. In Wilson's years as a Giant, he recorded 296 tackles and picked off 11 passes. He also had six sacks.
2nd Team - Michael Johnson - Michael Johnson is a run stopping safety who has gotten better since his rookie season in 2007. Johnson has totaled 104 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks and is only getting better.
Shaun Williams was one of the better safeties the Giants have had over the past 15 years. Williams played both free and strong safety and had an exceptional knack for being around the ball. He racked up 11 interceptions from 2000-05. He also totaled 4.5 sacks and 280 tackles in that span.
2nd Team - Brent Alexander - Alexander only played two seasons for the Giants, but he played great. He was a slight liability against the run, but covered the pass very well. Alexander picked off seven passes, recorded two sacks and had 102 tackles in two years as the starting free safety.
Jay Feely was a fantastic kicker for the G-Men. He hit 84% of his field goals while kicking in the windy conditions of the Meadowlands. Not an easy feat. New York wanted to hold on to Feely, but could not justify paying a high salary for a kicker. He decided to go to Miami.
2nd Team - John Carney - Carney had a fantastic year in his only season with the Giants. Carney only missed three field goals the entire season and was the oldest player selected to the Pro Bowl at age 44.
Feagles is arguably the best directional punter to ever play in the NFL. Feagles made the Pro Bowl in 2008 as the number one punter in the NFC. He joined the Giants in 2003 and has been pinning opponents inside the 20 with regularity since.
2nd Team - Rodney Wiliams - Williams makes this list simply because of one punt. Williams had a punt of 90 yards in his only year with the Giants. He had a respectable 42.9 yards per punt average.