Before he was the mastermind of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, along with head coach Bill Parcells, orchestrated a cunning New York Giants defense to two Super Bowl victories.
Belichick's 3-4 scheme was anchored by George Martin, Jim Burt, and Leonard Marshall on the defensive line. The linebacker corp featured the dominant Lawrence Taylor (NFL MVP in 1986), Carl Banks, Harry Carson, and Gary Reasons.
In 1986, the Giants, led by these defensive stars, went 14-2. The team accrued 59 sacks, 24 interceptions, and allowed only 14.5 points per game. They followed up their regular season by allowing only three points in the NFC playoffs. The Giants cruised to Super Bowl XXI.
Against John Elway and the Denver Broncos, the Giants won easily, 39-20. In the final minute of the game Carl Banks dumped a tub of yellow Gatorade over the head of Parcells. It was the beginning of a fad which lasts to this day. If nothing, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew should be remembered for this innovation.
The Giants continued to play strong defensive ball throughout the late 1980s, and in 1990 the Giants defense again led them to the promised land. The addition of outside linebacker Pepper Johnson helped the Giants D allow a league low 13 points a game and permit more than 20 points on only three occasions.
The Giants, despite the loss of starting quarterback Phil Simms, raced to a 10-0 start and finished 13-3.
In the NFC title game the Giants went on the road to face the defending back-to-back Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. The offensively minded 49ers and Joe Montana were held in check as the Giants eked out in a defensive struggle, 15-13.
In Super Bowl XV the Giants would come against the offensive juggernaut of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills, having led the NFL in points, were favored by seven points in the game. Few gave the Giants much of a chance against the Bills no-huddle, quick strike offense.
Defensive coordinator Belichick limited the Bills high-flying attack by dropping seven and eight men in coverage. Belichick and Parcells instructed their defense to attack and intimidate Buffalo receivers with relentless physical punishment on every play. The intimidation and fantastic ball control on offense worked.
The Giants triumphed 20-19 in what many consider the greatest Super Bowl ever played. Belichick's defensive game plan can be viewed in the Hall of Fame (along with his nearly identical one from Super Bowl XXXVI).
Parcells retired that offseason and Bill Belichick left to coach the Cleveland Browns.