The bare essentials. Pomp and pageantry were never part of the Mara formula. Wellington, a firm believer that football should be the only attraction, never allowed the slightest garnish to decorate the New York Giants product.
It may be time for the Mara family to revise their stance. Forget the fireworks and the fog machines that welcome home teams at their respective stadiums around the league. Forget overblown halftime celebrations. Sparks flying from pyrotechnics don’t improve football teams. Sparks flying from a player do.
In 2002, the Giants ended a 10-year stretch of underachievement and anonymity. In an uncharacteristic move, New York selected the brash, showboating, yet bruising, and talented Jeremy Shockey.
Shockey sparked a Giants offense that was lackluster at best prior to his arrival. His Joe Namath-like interaction with the media and his on the field demeanor gave Giants fans something to get excited about on Sundays.
Shockey’s swagger descended over the coming years into empty trash talk, and when the Giants ultimately severed their ties with the then disgruntled player, it was clearly his time to leave. He had run his course as a productive Giant.
But there was still one player on the roster that didn’t quite fit the squeaky-clean Mara image championed by players like Eli Manning and Amani Toomer.
While not as loud or as brash as Shockey, Plaxico Burress had an edge to him that many playmakers in the league tend to have. Arguably, he could have had the personality of a bedpost and still have been a great offensive weapon, thanks to his 6’6" frame and solid hands.
However, his brushes with the coaching staff and eventual Super Bowl guarantee (made with a severely injured leg against an undefeated Patriots team) added a touch of danger to an otherwise low key locker room.
It would seem that now the Giants are even more hesitant than ever about bringing in these types of players.
Burress’s legal issues were merely the straw that broke the camel’s back after a year of seemingly unprofessional interaction with the coaching staff. Threatening to sit out what would be his final regular season thus far in the NFL, Burress signed a large contract hours before it was time to strap on a helmet and face the Redskins on Thursday Night Football.
Three months later, it became clear that he would never play for the Giants again.
Most felt that the Giants would certainly replace him with a big name free agent. Both Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall seemed like perfect candidates. However, off the field issues scared the Giants away. Edwards went on to have a big year with the Jets while Marshall now finds himself poised for a great season in an improving Miami offense.
The Giants will once again bank on undersized receivers and a possible bust in 6’6" Ramses Barden. To be fair, players such as Burress and Shockey are distractions. Their off the field antics often force their teams into bad situations.
No franchise benefits from resembling the Oakland Raiders.
However, there is a reason that the Giants could never quite make it over the proverbial hump and win a World Title with just Tiki Barber and Manning. It’s no surprise that a rebellious Shockey injected life into a dull and thus ineffective offense.
A sampling of players that you wouldn’t bring home to meet your parents is sometimes good for the overall formula. Burress’s arrival certainly raised the level of Toomer and Manning’s play.
Adding some pop to the roster has never been as dire for the Giants as it is now. For the first time, the Giants are no longer the landlords, letting the Jets borrow their field for eight Sundays a year. The slate in the swamps is clean. Whichever team has the bigger year could easily take up the mantle of “King of New York” in the eyes of many fans.
The Jets are prepared for a mutiny.
With a high powered offense complementing an impressive defense led by a showboating coach, Gang Green appears to be in the driver’s seat. The Jets fell one game short of making the Super Bowl by getting beat by Payton Manning himself. They’re bitter but they aren’t reeling.
The Giants finished the season by crumbling apart and getting embarrassed by the Panthers and Vikings. Expectations aren’t high and if the Giants fail to achieve a resurgence, it is extremely likely that the Jets will command the attention of the metropolitan area for a very long time coming.
It is also important to note that Mark Sanchez’s rookie success does not make this challenge any easier for the Giants organization. Eli’s early struggles frustrated fans who felt that his training wheels had been on for too long. Finally hitting his stride in late 2007, his past failures were evaporated.
Enter Sanchez who barely needed training wheels at all as he marched the Jets deep into the postseason. The question must be asked: Is the QB with the ring truly better than the QB across the hall that played well from day one?
In 2010, both the Jets and the Giants will battle for the soul of New York.
The Jets will display their shiny new toys by parading them through a haze of smoke and pyrotechnics. LaDanian Tomlinson and Santonio Holmes will meet Jason Taylor for a photo op with the cheerleaders, while Rex Ryan handles a press conference like a pro wrestler cuts a promo.
The Giants will give the "Mara Method," and firm believer Tom Coughlin, one more year to recapture the mojo of 2007. Eli will try to find consistency and the team will attempt to stay healthy.
Maybe Marshall will derail Miami with selfish rants. Maybe Barden will pull a Manningham and morph into a solid deep threat. Maybe the squeaky clean locker room will pay off. By the end of December, Giants fans will know if its time for a new team philosophy.
If Coughlin is on the hot seat, the Mara Method is sitting in his lap.