Top 50 New York Giants of All Time: Where Do Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms Rank?
The New York Football Giants are one of, if not, the most storied franchises in the NFL. The Giants were founded by a bookmaker named Tim Mara in 1925 for a $500 licensing fee, and the rest as they say is history.
The Giants are not just one of the longest tenured NFL franchises but one of the most successful, with seven championship wins, including three Super Bowls and many other championship game appearances which resulted in losses.
The Giants are also a unique team in that one family has been identified as the owners of the team—the Mara family. First Tim ran the team, then his son Wellington did and now his son John does. Only the Bengals and Steelers can make similar claims.
And the impact of the team goes beyond players and championships. Previous owner Wellington Mara was the first owner to promote the concept of revenue sharing to ensure the stability of the league. Think about that, the franchise in the biggest city volunteers to share revenue.
Think Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, is willing to do that now? Nope.
Wellington's impact on the game of football was so important that the football itself is now named the "Duke Ball" in Wellington's honor.
So it should be no wonder that those who were lucky enough to play for the Giants considered themselves lucky to do so.
So it should come as no shock that the traditions instilled by Giant players present and past is rich and thick, from Mel Hein to Harry Carson to Eli Manning. The Giants have always seemed to have fantastic defenses led by voracious front sevens, efficient intelligent quarterbacks and clever offensive lineman who overachieve.
The list will start at 50 and go to one with one special bonus slide. The closer to the No. 1 player I get, the more detailed each slide will get.
Enjoy, and I hope I didn't forget anyone!
50. Jim Thorpe, Athlete, 1925
Jim Thorpe played three games for the Giants in 1925 and according to NFL.com put up no stats. Still, any time that arguably the most physically talented athlete of the 20th century suits up for your team, you have to stand up and notice.
Jim Thorpe's life story is the stuff of legend and goes beyond athletics to how America treated American Indians and how Pro Sports treated it's athletes. Look him up, you won't be disappointed.
That trophy Eric Berry is holding in that photo above? It's called the Jim Thorpe Award.
49. Justin Tuck, Defensive End, 2005-
Some would think Tuck deserves to be higher on this, list but I just don't buy it. He might end up much higher on this list considering how talented he is and how much time he has left in his career health willing.
Realistically the only reason why he made this list is because he was a key contributor to a Championship winning team, which inherently increases a player's value in my book.
48. Carl "Spider" Lockhart
Spider Lockhart was a great defensive back for the Giants and a two-time Pro Bowler. In his career with the New York Giants, he compiled 41 total interceptions—a staggering number for a defender in that era of football.
Spider wasn't just a threat to grab a ball, he was always trying to take it to the house.
47. Keith Hamilton, Defensive End, 1992-2003
Before Osi Umenyiora was helping Michael Strahan terrorize quarterbacks, there was Keith Hamilton. While Hamilton only made the Pro Bowl and All Pro team once, he was a very steady, constant player who made things much easier on Strahan.
Hamilton, while not being an elite player, was good enough against the run and pass that teams couldn't just ignore Strahan's side of the field.
46. Phillippe Sparks, Cornerback, 1992-1999
Sparks is best known right now for being the father of American Idol winner Jordan Sparks, but I still remember watching him play. Sparks was smart, athletic and consistent. When he and Jason Sehorn were healthy together, (which was brief), they were one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.
Sparks was an expert at letting a wide receiver catch a ball, and then with split second timing, just ripit out of his hands. It would often be charged as a forced and recovered fumble instead of an interception.
45. Mark Collins, Safety, 1986-1993
A key cog to two Super Bowl teams, he wasn't the flashiest or the best, but he was steady and he didn't make dumb mistakes. Collins was also very versatile, finishing his career with 27 picks and eight sacks.
Those sacks were an important part of his value with the Giants, as his abilities as a blitzer were underrated and added an important wrinkle of confusion to those dominating defenses, which prevented offenses from overloading protection schemes completely towards Lawrence Taylor.
44. Pepper Johnson, Outside Linebacker, 1986-1992
Not the flashiest player, but a Bill Belichick-type of player. He does his job well, he doesn't let outside factors get to him and he was a great teammate.
Technically proficient and well rounded player, no wonder Belichick has hired him to be his defensive line coach with the Patriots.
43. Brad Van Pelt, Linebacker, 1973-1983
Van Pelt went to five Pro Bowls in his 10 years with the Giants. Some would think that would make him higher on this list, but keep in mind, he was on a defense littered with Hall of Famers who made his life much easier or on a bad team.
Van Pelt was a member of only one winning team, as the other years of his career were marked with ineptitude. Successful player on a bad teams—tough luck.
42. Cal Hubbard, Offensive Tackle, 1927-1928
A world class player who helped the Giants win a league championship in his rookie year. However, Hubbard was a small town boy who was scared and intimidated by the big city lights, and in his second year when he went to go play the Green Bay Packers, he refused to leave, saying trade me here or I quit. The Giants gave in, and he went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Still, it bothers me when a guy quits on a team and city like that.
41. Jason Sehorn, Cornerback, 1994-2002
Sehorn was a freak of athletic nature. Most people seem to remember him after a horrible knee injury ruined his god given gifts but before that he was a shutdown cornerback. Strong enough to not get outmuscled and quick and fast enough to not get burned.
Sadly it didn't last, and the white cornerback which was once so rare in the NFL became existent once Sehorn left the game.
Now sadly, Sehorn is best known for having proposed to his actress wife Angie Harmon on the Jay Leno show.
40. Tom Landry, Defensive Back, 1950-1955
Landry is best remembered as a coach, either as head coach of the Cowboys for what seemed like forever and for being on the same coaching staff with the New York Giants as Vince Lombardi.
Before Landry became a defensive coordinator and invented the 4-3 defense, he was an All-Pro defensive back for the New York Giants.
Once coaches realized how intelligent and instinctual he was, they made him a player coach then just a coach.
To get an idea how good Landry was as a defensive back, he had 32 picks in 80 games in an era when the ball rarely got thrown. Just remember Cowboys' fans, before he was doin' it up in Texas, he belonged to Big Blue.
39. Otis Anderson, Running Back, 1986-1992
Otis had only one 1000-yard rushing season with the Giants, but he was Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl XXV. Without Otis, or O.J. as he was also called, the Giants would have one less Super Bowl.
So while his career wasn't that overly impressive, his key contribution to that one Super Bowl is so important, it demands recognition.
38. Ray Flaherty, Offense, 1928-1935
While perhaps best remembered for his contributions as a coach, for which he was voted into the Hall of Fame for, people should not forget that, with the Giants, he was a three-time, first team All-Pro selection.
Everyone knew how smart and instinctual Flaherty was even before he became a coach, as his effectiveness seemed almost effortless as a player.
The Giants retired his jersey number—No.1.
37. Jeremy Shockey, Tight End, 2002-2007
The lasting memory Giants fans have of Jeremy Shockey will be him double fisting mixed drinks in his box seats in his suite in 2007 during the Super Bowl.
Once upon a time though, Shockey was considered a true Giant. When Wellington Mara was on his death bed, one of the players he wanted to see was Jeremy Shockey. It didn't end very well, but Giant fans should remember how well it started.
For the first few years of Shockey's career, people thought he was the next Mark Bavaro. While he never got close to being Bavaro, he still left a legacy with the Giants that goes beyond homophobia, whining, tattoos, alcohol and injuries.
36. Mark Haynes, Cornerback, 1980-1985
Another Giant whose career started off legendary and then fell off a cliff. In 1984, Haynes snagged seven picks, was a first team All Pro and looked like one of the best defensive players in the league regardless of position. In 1986, he was with the Denver Broncos.
So while Haynes career fell off the proverbial cliff, the amazing start to his career cannot be ignored. For a period of time in the early 80s, he was the best secondary defender in the NFL. It just didn't last long.
35. Joe Morris, Running Back, 1982-1991
Joe Morris was the do everything third-down-type back of the Giants during the Parcells era. His best year came in the 1987 Super Bowl season when he rushed for a 1000 yards and was dominant in the Super Bowl run in the playoffs. He had a few exceptional years, including a year where he rushed for over 1500 yards—left after that—but his dominance was short lived.
But he did everything he did in a very important time on a very good team. Not bad for a guy who barely clears 5'7" and 190 pounds.
34. Antonio Pierce, Middle Linebacker, 2005-2009
Pierce's career ended suddenly in 2009 with a herniated disc, but before that, he was the brain of a Super Bowl winning defense. Pierce was like a poor man's Ray Lewis, just as instinctual, just as smart but nowhere near the athlete.
Pierce's importance wasn't just the stats he got himself but the interceptions and sacks he created for other players with his heady play and leadership.
33. Jumbo Elliot, Offensive Tackle, 1988-1995
The guy was named Jumbo for a reason; he stood over 6'7" and 300 pounds easily. The man was huge. In fact, one of the reason's why Bill Parcells drafted Jake Long first overall as an executive with the Dolphins was because he reminded him of Jumbo Elliot.
Parcells loved the guy; he gave everything he had, and when he got his hands on people, it was over. While not the most nimble pass blocker, when guys tried to bull rush Jumbo they just disappeared.
32. Shaun O'Hara, Center, 2004-
O'Hara was added to the team as a free agent after originally playing with the Cleveland Browns. O'Hara quickly made himself the anchor of the line, and while Chris Snee is its best player, O'Hara is the brains.
He makes the blocking adjustments and makes Eli's life that much easier. Hasn't been elite but has been an occasional Pro Bowler.
31. Roosevelt Grier, Defensive Tackle, 1955-1962
Sadly, Grier will be best remembered for being a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy while he was shot and killed. Grier eventually took out the assassin and protected Kennedy's wife but Kennedy was dead, and with him, the hopes of a generation.
Aside from that, he was a dominating defensive tackle for the New York Giants, especially during 1958-1962 when he was voted an All Pro every year. The Giants, with Rosey Grier, constantly contended, and won one championship.
30. Fran Tarkenton, Quarterback, 1967-1971
A lot of people would expect Tarkenton to be higher on this list, but to be honest, the Giants just rented the guy from the Minneosta Vikings. He put up some nice stats with the Giants and helped turnaround what was a dreadful time in their past, but they didn't win anything important. Fran's era was nice, but in the end, he was just a fantastic lease.
29. Rodney Hampton, Running Back, 1990-1997
Rodney Hampton was the Giants all time leading rusher when he retired in 1997, until Tiki Barber took over that title when he was playing.
While Hampton was the Giants all time leading rusher for a while, that does not make him one of their best running backs, but he is still up there.
Hampton was a fantastic combination of power and speed, a perfect bell cow for the Giants in the 1990s. From 1991 to 1995, he rushed for at least a 1000 yards, which for the 90s, more or less, made him their most important offensive player.
While I refuse to overrate him, he should not be underrated either. He was a very good player.
28. Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End, 2003-
Osi has consistently been the Giants best defender since he was drafted in 2003. While Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce were the leaders, Osi was the threat that terrified offensive coordinators.
Every single season, Osi has played for the Giants, except for his IR year and rookie year, he has led the Giants in sacks.
Osi was the Giants best defender in the 2007 regular season and on their run to the Super Bowl. While Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan feasted on single-teams by grabbing nice sack totals Osi was constantly drawing double-teams, beating them and forcing the quarterback right into the waiting jaws of Tuck and Strahan.
With Osi, it isn't just the sack numbers, it's the threat of him that opens up other opportunities for other players. He would be higher on this list if not for a torn meniscus that cost him one year on the IR recovering and another year being ineffective.
27. Chris Snee, Right Guard, 2004-
When the second round of the 2004 draft came around, the Giants wanted to draft Snee, a guard from Boston College. Only problem was he had a child with head coach Tom Coughlin's daughter, and while they were still together, they weren't married. The Giants told Coughlin it was his call, draft him or not.
Coughlin thought about it for a second and then told them to draft him.
Good move, Snee has been one of the five best guards in the NFL and the Giants best lineman from the moment he stepped onto the field his rookie year. Powerful enough to maul people but nimble to pull and act as a lead blocker into the second level.
Sometimes keeping it in the family IS a good idea.
26. Jessie Armstead, Linebacker, 1993-2001
In 11 years with the Giants, Jessie was a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro. He could attack the line of scrimmage, drop back in coverage and blitz the passer.
Jessie won't end up in the Hall of Fame, but he was a great player for the Giants for a very long period of time. He and Michael Strahan formed the core of the Giants' defense in the 90s, which for the most part was actually a rather fearsome group.
Armstead was also a great leader and was very respected by his teammates.
25. Joe Morrison, Wide Receiver, 1959-1972
Morrison played both wide receiver and halfback but where he really made his living was catching the football. Morrison was a fantastic threat for the Giants aerial game, and his dependable hands kept the chains moving on a lot of important drives.
Perhaps most importantly, Morrison was a touchdown machine, with 65 touchdowns combined receiving and rushing with the Giants. In fact Morrison's name after all these years is still displayed prominently in many of the Giants receiving records. He isn't first anymore, but the fact that stats from 40-50 years ago are still holding this strong is an indication to how great Morrison was.
24. Steve Owen, Offensive Tackle, 1926-1931, 1933
Owen wasn't just a player, he was also a coach. Famously he was the guy who suggested the Giants wear sneakers to combat the icy conditions in the Polo Grounds against the Chicago Bears in the 1934 Championship Game. The Giants won, in no small part to their wearing sneakers.
But beyond that, Owen's coaching he was a tough, rough-nosed player who fought for everything he had. He didn't start out as the Giants' player-coach but as just a player who was then voted team captain and then named coach.
He played the game with an inherent understanding of not just what he was doing but what the opposition was trying to do to stop him and his teammates.
As a player, he was a leader of a dominant team whose only real competition in the league was considered to be the Chicago Bears.
23. Carl Banks, Outside Linebacker, 1984-1993
Carl Banks was a key member of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, helping form what may be the finest linebacking core that the NFL has ever seen along with Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor and Gary Reasons.
Banks only made one Pro Bowl as a Giant, but he was still important and good enough to be voted to the NFL's all 1980s team, even though he was drafted in 1984. Maybe the only reason Banks didn't get a ton of sacks is because Lawrence Taylor was constantly beating him to them.
But Banks was also a fantastic run stopper, as his 10 solo tackles in Super Bowl XXI proves. He was a complete linebacker and a fantastic compliment to Lawrence Taylor at outside linebacker.
22. Amani Toomer, Wide Receiver, 1996-2008
Amani Toomer has almost every single important receiving record in the Giants all time record book. That is a reflection upon Toomer's incredible longevity more so than anything else.
Toomer was never considered a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL any given year, but for a long stretch of his career, he was considered one of the 30 best. So while he was never a true No. 1 wide receiver for the Giants, he was constantly excellent instead of sporadically great.
Perhaps the thing that Giants fans most remember about Toomer was his uncanny ability to tap his toes while going out of bounds to make a catch. His awareness around the sideline and ability to drag his feet was just a joy to watch.
21. Red Badgro, Receiver/ Defense, 1930-1935
Red was a freak of a two-way player. He could catch a touchdown pass, go out intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown and then bam—14 point lead.
Red played in an era when the wide receiver didn't really do much but make clutch catches in tough spots. And Red was a master at this, constantly making huge plays in huge moments. To get an idea about how little receivers were used, Red once lead the league in catches one year with 16 total catches. Brandon Marshall has a game a year where he catches at least 16 balls.
But Red didn't make it into the Hall of Fame because he was just a receiver, but because he was also a devastating special teams player and a very effective defender. In other words, Red was a coach's dream come true.
20. Ken Strong, Running Back, 1933-1935, 1939, 1944-1947
Another player from this era whose athletic career was interrupted by war service. Are these guys the greatest generation or what?
Anyway Strong was a beast for the Giants. He was a key player on championship teams and made the All Pro team twice as a Giant. His No. 50 was retired by the Giants in honor of his contributions—one of the few players to receive said honor.
Strong was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best halfbacks from the 1930s.
19. Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver, 2005-2008
Plax never made a Pro Bowl for the Giants and tragically cut his career short with the Giants when he shot himself in the leg—literally.
Still, he is the most dominant wide receiver that the Giants have ever had. He was the best offensive player on a Super Bowl winning team and single handily willed the Giants to a victory in the Conference Championship game against the Packers in 2007.
Without him, there is no Super Bowl. Standing at 6'5', 230 pounds with rare agility, Plax was one of the rare receivers who scared defenses so much, they never put an extra safety into the box to stop the run. He was the straw that stirred the Giants drink.
To put it in perspective, in four years with the Giants, he had 33 touchdowns. In 13 years with the Giants, Amani Toomer has 54.
18. Tuffy Leemans, Running Back, 1936-1943
Every single year Tuffy was in the NFL, he made either the first or second All League team, including his rookie year. Tuffy didn't just play in the offensive backfield as a fullback and as a running back, he also played defense. But the offensive backfield is really where the Hall of Famer made his money either blocking, rushing or throwing for touchdowns.
Tuffy did it all. He returned punts, intercepted passes, tackled, blocked, rushed and threw. Simply put, there was nothing this 6'0", 200 pound phenom could not do on a football field.
No wonder when he retired, the Giants proclaimed December 7, 1941, "Tuffy Leeman's Day."
17. Eli Manning, Quarterback, 2004-
While Phil Simms gave the Giants their most dominant performance in a Super Bowl by a quarterback, Eli gave the Giants their most memorable one.
Not to mention that Eli is already on his way to owning every single record for a quarterback that the Giants have. Some might say it's a bit premature to put Eli this high on the list but take this into account: Eli is a Super Bowl MVP, has been to a Pro Bowl, never missed a game and never had a losing season as a full-time starter.
The era of Eli is turning out to be one of the most prosperous the Giants have had in the Super Bowl era.
16. George Martin, Defensive End, 1975-1988
George Martin was one of the rare 3-4 defensive ends who still got to the quarterback with authority. The New York Giants credit Martin with 96 sacks in his career, an impressive stat for a guy whose main responsibility was tangling with offensive lineman.
During Lawrence Taylor reign of terror, the other guy opposing teams worried about most killing their quarterback was George Martin. When it came time to pin the ears back and attack, Martin just destroyed offensive lineman on the way to the quarterback.
And the most amazing part of Martin's career, a career that included a Super Bowl? The fact that he retired with seven, count 'em seven defensive touchdowns. That's a number that would make Deion Sanders proud.
15. Phil Simms, Quarterback, 1979-1993
Phil Simms was a notorious dinker and dunker with the Giants. Playing under Bill Parcells, his mission as quarterback was simple, don't turn over the ball and don't make life difficult for a defense lead by Lawrence Taylor.
Heck, one of Bill Parcells' first decisions as head coach of the Giants was to bench Simms. In fact the beginning of Simm's career was marked with injuries and bad play. Under today's standards of evaluating quarterbacks, Simm's might not have been able to stay with a team long enough to develop.
But Simm's did develop, and his performance in Super Bowl XXI was one of, if not, the greatest Super Bowl performances by a quarterback of all time. Simms completed 22-of-25 passes for three touchdowns and 268 yards.
Simms will never be in the Hall of Fame, but he was the kind of quarterback who could beat Hall of Famers.
14. Arnie Weinmeister, Defensive Tackle, 1950-1953
Another player who would have had a longer and better career if not interrupted by four years of army service.
Also like Y.A., Tittle Weinmeister did not play with the Giants for very long or even in the NFL for that long. In fact Weinmeister has one of the shortest careers of any member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It should be no surprise, but still considered amazing, that Weinmeister made the All Pro team the first six years of his NFL career.
So while his time with the Giants was short, his impact was huge. Part of the reason his impact was so big was because the man was so big. Weinmeister was the Albert Haynesworth of his time; triple teams couldn't slow him down. Keep in mind 6'4", 240 pounds was considered huge at the time he played.
Kind of like how Wilt Chamberlin was considered huge when he played in the NBA but now would just be another seven-footer.
13. Andy Robustelli, Defensive End, 1956-1964
Robustelli was the anchor of a defense that won one championship and played in six conference championship games. Robustelli would probably be much more famous in modern lore if the sack statistic existed when he played the game. Weighing only about 230 pounds, Robustelli was built like the prototype for Robert Mathis.
Fast, light, well built and quick as lightening, Robustelli was so dominant, at times for the Giants, he single handily shut down opposing defenses passing games.
Robustelli was so dominant when he played for the Giants, he won the Bert Award in 1962, an award given to the best player in the NFL for a given year regardless of offense or defense. Needless to say, even back then defensive players rarely won the award.
While Robustelli started off his career with the Rams, he ended his career a true Giant.
12. Tiki Barber, Running Back, 1997-2006
Of all the Giants players ranked this highly, Tiki Barber is by far the most unpopular. And this is with Lawrence Taylor's recent arrest for statutory rape.
But despite this mostly undeserved venom, Tiki deserves to be considered one of the greatest Giants to ever play the game.
His career started off slow, but when Jim Fassell was fired and Tom Coughlin was hired, Coughlin told Tiki to cut out the fumbling or to find a new job. Tiki cut out the fumbling and became one of the rare players in the NFL whose end of his career was far more productive and important than the early stages of it.
And Tiki could have kept going; he had at least one more year of great football in him when he retired to be a media personality.
Again enough cannot be said about how rare Barber' dominance as a 30-plus-year-old running back was. He easily holds the record for the most 200-yard games by a running back 30 or older (four). Part of how Tiki did this was an uncanny ability to control how he fell and how he was tackled; like a stuntman, Tiki knew how to take impact in a way that it would do the least damage to his body.
While Tiki might not make the Hall of Fame, he is the greatest 30-year-old plus running back the NFL has ever seen.
Hopefully as time continues to pass, Giant fans will ease up on Tiki, but somehow I doubt it.
11. Charlie Conerly, Quarterback, 1948-1961
One of the sad parts of having a franchise that has a history as long and storied as the Giants is that some very deserving players who would be remembered as legends for other teams get too easily forgotten with the Giants. Charlie Conerly is one of those guys.
Conerly was the NFL Rookie of the year, a two-time Pro Bowl selection for the Giants and won one league MVP. Funny enough, Conerly won the League MVP Award in 1959, a year in which he was not voted to the Pro Bowl.
And most importantly, Conerly led the Giants to three NFL Championship Games in four years, winning one.
Also Conerly was a lifelong Giant, he wasn't just a flash in the pan or play for a few years with the team but spent more than a decade leading the team.
Conerly was a very gifted athlete; he hit over .400 playing for the Ole Miss baseball contract and was offered a pro contract before settling on football.
Also like many athletes who played during this era, Conerly served in the armed forces and saw action in the Battle of Guam.
10. Y.A. Tittle, Quarterback, 1961-1964
Tittle had a short but brilliant career for the New York Giants. When most Hall of Famers sign with a team at the tail-end of their career, no one really expects much. Well, Tittle was the exception to the rule, the tail-end of his career was incredible.
Tittle won multiple MVP awards while he was with the Giants and led them to the championship game in each of seasons except for the last one. Sadly though, he lost every title game and ended up retiring without ever winning a title.
In fact, Tittle is probably best known today for a photograph of him playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hit while he was throwing the ball, Tittle suffered head and neck injuries. Bleeding from the head on his knees, Tittle had to watch the Steelers return his interception for a touchdown.
Tittle was a revelation throwing the football. While with the Giants, he scored a still single-game record seven touchdowns. In 1963, Tittle threw for 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In 1963! Tittle was also the first quarterback to throw back-to-back 30-touchdown seasons.
So while Tittle only played for the Giants briefly and never won a championship, he was still so incredibly talented that he deserves to be considered one of the best Giants of all time.
9. Mark Bavaro, Tight End, 1985-1994
There is a reason why Mark Bavaro's nickname while he played was Rambo, and it's not just because he really looked like Sylvester Stallone (he did).
Bavaro was a freak of nature. I can't think of another guy who could drag Ronnie Lott on his back for 20 yards like he was a sack of potatoes. He was a tight end in the 80s who actually posted a 1000-yard receiving season. But it wasn't just his ability as a pass catcher, when Bavaro blocked, he was basically a sixth offensive lineman on the field.
Bavaro was the ultimate security blanket. If you needed him to protect your quarterback, he would make him safe and secure. If a quarterback needed a tough catch over the middle, Bavaro was your man. In other words, it was like Bavaro was sent from heaven to make quarterback's feel safe, warm and comfortable, hence a security blanket.
Sadly the early success of Bavaro's career could not be sustained as a degenerative knee injury finally forced the Giants to cut Bavaro in 1992. Despite advice from doctors, Bavaro played one more year for the Cleveland Browns.
Still Bavaro was one of the most dominant offensive players in the NFL his first four years in the NFL, and even though injuries started to slow him down after that, he was still a key contributor to a Super Bowl winning team.
8. Frank Gifford, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive Back, 1952-1964
Frank Gifford is best known now being an announcer on Monday Night Football, his mistress posing for playboy in the 1990s and being married to media icon Kathie Lee Gifford. It's a shame because once upon a time, the guy was a heck of a football player, a two-way, iron man when that style of football was dying out.
Gifford made the Pro Bowl for three different positions—running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He is the most prolific offensive skill position player in Giant history, having been a dominant running back and receiver in an era dominated by defense. He is a former league MVP and has a bust in the Hall of Fame.
He retired after making the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver in his 12th season as a pro. He retired with over 3500 yards rushing, over 7400 yards receiving and over 75 total touchdowns, despite missing over a year of his prime due to a horrible head injury that initially made him retire from the sport. But he wasn't down, he came back from the injury with a new position, flanker instead of halfback.
His name still litters the record books of the Giants, even though the game has evolved to be more offensively inclined. That alone should tell people how dominant of a player Gifford was for the Giants.
7. Roosevelt Brown, Offensive Tackle, 1953-1965
Roosevelt Brown is in many ways a prototype for the modern offensive tackle. Brown weighed only about 250 pounds, but his incredibly light feet and understanding of leverage allowed him to be one of if not the best pass protectors in all of Pro Football when he played the game.
A nine-time Pro Bowler when he played Rosey Brown made Hall of Famers look good. Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle both owed a large portion of their success to the protection that Brown afforded them.
And Brown was never expected to be much in the NFL—even by the Giants. He was drafted by them in the 27th round of the 1953 draft. You read that right—27th round.
It's funny to think that the Giants only ended up with a future Hall of Fame player and anchor of a championship winning offense because they saw a mention of Brown in a black newspaper called the Pittsburgh Courier leading up to the 1953 draft.
How things have changed in the NFL.
6. Michael Strahan, Defensive End, 1993-2007
Good ole' gap-tooth, how we still miss your gregarious nature and clutch play. In the modern era of the NFL, Strahan was a true rarity, a 4-3 left end who still dominated as a pass rusher.
Most often in a 4-3 defense, the right end is the pass rushing specialist because he can attack from the blind side. In other words, a quarterback can't see a right end coming until it is too late, but he can see a left end coming the whole time.
And yet Strahan still was one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL during his career and in fact holds the single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks.
But Strahan wasn't just special because he could rush the passer, he was the best 4-3 defensive end at run defense when he played as well. Strahan was one of the few players who completely dominated his side of the line, regardless of down, distance and situation.
And you can't discount his leadership ability. He was both funny and serious, class clown and class bully.
With what Strahan accomplished in his career, I have no problem calling him the greatest 4-3 left end in NFL history.
5. Sam Huff, Middle Linebacker, 1956-1963
Yes, Sam Huff left the Giants for the Washington Redskins, who were not only a major rival to the Giants but one of, if not, the most socially backward sports team in all of professional sports at the time.
Oh well, Huff was the innovator of the middle linebacker position in a 4-3 defense, which was pioneered by Giant's defensive coordinator Tom Landry. Huff had played defensive line all his life, but instead of the transition being difficult, it was like a light went on for Huff. Suddenly everything made sense.
The future Hall of Famer was one of the few defenders in his time who weren't defensive lineman who could take on and tackle Jim Brown in a one-on-one situation.
Huff was a unique athlete, even by today's standards. He was thick like a lineman, one of those guys who looks as wide as he does tall. But he had amazing feet, which allowed him the ability to move that a man his size just shouldn't possess.
He was just too strong and too quick for offenses to handle, and the newly created 4-3 was designed to put the middle linebacker in a one-on-one situation with the ball carrier—a battle Huff almost always won.
4. Mel Hein, Center, 1931-1945
Mel Hein is not just in the Football Hall of Fame, he is one of the charter members of the Football Hall of Fame. The first class inducted into the Hall of Fame was up against tough odds to make it; the Hall of Fame had 43 years of football history to take into account.
Yet even in those 43 years, it became obvious quickly that Hein had to be a member of the inaugural class. After all, he was and still is the only center in NFL history to ever be awarded league MVP.
Oh yeah, he also played two ways. On defense, he was a nasty linebacker that dished out devastating hits.
The reason for Hein's amazing play as a center was his elite athleticism for the position at the time, and his incredible football intelligence, he almost didn't need to be coached.
Even though Hein was the anchor of the Giants line in a wacky time in the NFL, with unbalanced lines and crazy run and trick plays, Hein has left two incredible marks on the NFL that will be felt forever.
In the run game, he was the one of, if not, the first center who could reach the second level of a defense and act as a lead blocker. And in the pass game, he was one of if not the first center who took a step back when defending against interior pass rushers.
Both those aspects of Hein's influence can still be felt in the NFL today.
3. Harry Carson, Inside Linebacker, 1976-1988
While Lawrence Taylor was flying off the edge with reckless abandonment, Harry Carson was controlling the heart of the defense. And I don't just mean the middle of the field; Carson was the heart of the Giants' defense when he was on the team.
When the Giants played the Broncos for Super Bowl XXI, Carson was one of the three team captains along with Phil Simms and George Martin, but Head Coach Bill Parcells looked at Carson when it came time for the coin toss and told him that he was to go, alone.
Even though there were three team captains, everyone knew Carson was in charge. And Carson is still a man among men; when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, he proudly proclaimed that he did not need the Hall of Fame induction to determine his value, he already knew what it was long before that.
Standing at 6'2", 240 pounds Carson played an intelligent, violent and effective game that made him seem much bigger on the field. Lawrence Taylor would never have had as much fun in the 80's rushing the quarterback if Carson wasn't shutting down the run first and second down.
And that is why Carson is third on this list, while Taylor is the greatest pass rusher NFL history, Carson is one of the greatest run defenders and leaders in NFL history.
2. Emlen Tunnell, Safety, 1948-1958
When Emlen Tunnell retired from the NFL, he was the all time leader in interceptions with 79 for his career. Now, over 50 years later, Tunnell's record has fallen all the way to second all time. Tunnell was the Giants first black player and the first black player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
To give modern era football guys an idea of what Tunnell was like as a player, think Ed Reed without world-class year round athletic training.
And Tunnell wasn't just a world-class defender, he retired the greatest punt returner the NFL had ever seen at the time. Tunnell was one of the rare none-offensive players who could singlehandidly win a game for his team with his ability on defense and special teams.
Part of the reason Tunnell was such a threat was that he didn't just intercept the ball, he intercepted the ball with bad intentions. He wanted that end zone.
If Tunnell played today, in the modern era with today's year round grind and training, he would probably be the best safety in football. Reason being, just like 50 years ago, Tunnell would still be smarter and faster than everyone else on the field.
1. Lawrence Taylor, Outside Linebacker, 1981-1993
Lawrence Taylor isn't just the greatest New York Giant of all time, he is arguably the greatest defensive player of all time.
This is despite Taylor's plethora of off-field problems, which have led his former head coach Bill Parcells to say that he made Taylor a better football player but should have done a better job making Taylor a better man.
Taylor is a player that transcends eras, in that regardless of what time period he played in, he would have been the best defensive player in the league at that time. If Lawrence Taylor played today, he might be the highest paid player in football.
Taylor came to the Giants as the second overall pick in the 1981 draft out of North Carolina and immediately took over the league. Standing 6'3", 240 pounds, LT was a freak athlete, his burst off the line was better than Dwight Freeney, he turned the corner and accelerated at the same time, unheard of, and the violence of his tackles snapped body parts like toothpicks and ended careers.
The Giants also won two Super Bowls with Taylor, and he was a constant Pro Bowler, First Team All Pro and MVP candidate. Taylor wasn't just an a Defensive MVP candidate, he won the League MVP Award in 1986, the last defensive player to win that award.
And LT had a grit, determination and love of the game that just cannot be coached.
One of Bill Belichick's (his former defensive coordinator) favorite stories about LT is that he was so hurt in a week leading up to the game, no one thought he would play. LT showed up on game day and procclaimed himself game ready and played much to everyone's amazement. After the game, Belichick heard a rumor in the locker room that LT had gone to the racetrack right next to the Meadowlands and got injected with a horse tranquilizer so he could tolerate the pain.
Belichick never confirmed it, but he always believed it.
That was the thing about Lawrence Taylor, you could never discount the impossible, on or off the field.
Bonus Slide: Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks does not deserve to be on this list right now, but he might be one of the highest rated players on this list by the time his career ends.
Health willing, Nicks' career seems to be on a superstar arc. He is not even finished with his second year in the league, and he already has 14 touchdowns for his career.
And it's not just that Nicks is talented, it's that he is developing into Eli Manning's favorite target. So Nicks has the talent, the situation and the desire to be considered one of the Giants' G.O.A.T.s, and if Giant fans are lucky, they will get to see a healthy Hakeem Nicks fulfill his talent as a New York Football Giant.
And if he plays his cards right, he has a chance to go down as the greatest wide receiver to ever strap up for the Giants.