Built For The Long Haul

Kyle LanganAnalyst IOctober 1, 2008

                When Timothy Mara established The New York Giants in 1925, he did it because he believed that establishing a professional football franchise in New York would be something of “Giant” magnitude. Today, the Giants have established themselves as one of the most glorified NFL franchises. By knocking off the unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, The New Your Giants erased the demons of the past. The aforementioned demons had many a fan convinced that their team would forever be characterized by a losing culture. For countless years, The Giants dropped many a game to seemingly inferior opponents, and failed to meet expectations. Former General Manager Ernie Accorsi, maligned by many, felt determined to change the culture of The Giants. On the day of the NFL Draft in 2004, Accorsi did change that culture. In doing so, he left a legacy. He traded away several draft picks as well as his own first round selection Phillip Rivers, for Eli Manning. This would mark the beginning of a long awaited change.

                In his first full season as a starter, Manning threw for the second most touchdown passes in the conference, and led his team to a division best 11-5 record. After being shut out at home to The Carolina Panthers in a game where he threw four interceptions, few New York fans were convinced that he was going to lead The Giants to the promise land. Next season did his reputation no better, as the team fell to 8-8 after beginning 6-2, and lost another first round playoff game. This time the loss would come at the hands of hated rival Philadelphia. It was at this time that Ernie Accorsi retired, and his last words as general Manager would be directed not toward the media, but to The Giants and Eli Manning. He stated, “This team has endured more than any team I’ve ever been with. If I were an objective observer and had been told last August, ‘Here is a team that is supposed to be a contender. It’s going to be given the most difficult start of a schedule perhaps in history. It’s going to lose two All-Pro defensive ends, one of them a Hall of Famer, plus its number one backup, an All-Pro linebacker, both starting corners, the left tackle, and the greatest receiver in the history of the franchise. “What do you think its record is going to be?” I would have said 4-12, or 5-11. You have endured an incredible amount of criticism from all quarters and yet you made the playoffs and played your hearts out to the last second of the last game. You’re good kids. Stay together. Trust each other and be good teammates to one another. I believe there is a championship in this room.”

                That moment was the first of many in the coming year that would forever change The New York Giants. It was nearly impossible to see what Accorsi had been referring to at the time. Championships are the stuff of legends, of all-time greats, something that can only be achieved by teams who possess leaders like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Sure enough though, a championship was in that locker room, in players such as Corey Webster, Brandon Jacobs, Justin Tuck, Amani Toomer, and Eli Manning. They are players who, under the careful coaching of Tom Coughlin would emerge despite being publically maligned time and time again.

                That following 2007 season did not begin with any indication of that spoken championship. The team began with two losses and found themselves down in the fourth quarter to division rival Washington. It was then that the first of many critical moments in the 2007 season occurred. The Giants came back from down 17-3 at the half, to a 24-17 lead. The game was far from over though, as the Giants found themselves defending a first and goal for Washington in the final minute of the game. It was there that the Giants displayed championship heart for the first time, stopping Washington four times, enabling them to escape with their first win of the season. The next critical moment came on November 25th against The Minnesota Vikings. Eli Manning was intercepted on four occasions, three being returned for touchdowns. Rather than a shift away from the disappointing and mistake filled Giants of the past, this seemed to indicate that those Giants were here to stay. Tom Coughlin stood his ground though, backing the franchise quarterback and morphing his persona into a motivator and leader. Tom Coughlin would prove to be the final cog in the change of culture in New York, the culture change that Giants of past decades could only hope would one day occur. Coughlin prepared and focused The Giants for a critical showdown in the final game of the season with the unbeaten Patriots. While no game has ever had fewer implications in the standings, no game has ever meant more to a Giant team determined to change history. Despite becoming a chapter in The Patriot’s book on an undefeated season that night, The Giants emerged with something more. What took place on the field that night would prove to be the beginning of a new era in New York, an era where players were accountable for one another, an era filled with a pride unmatched anywhere in sports. Each and every time The Giants have taken the field since then, they have never questioned that pride. Where teams of the past looked for a reason to win on Sundays, this team needs none other than the NY on the side of their helmet. It is visible, better yet palpable, that when The Giants take the field on Sundays, they believe. From Tampa Bay, through the heart of Texas, the frigid Green Bay, and Glendale Arizona, The Giants changed history. They changed their history, football history, and sports history. It is only fitting that the Giants topped Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots. Belichick is one of few parts of the last Giant team to display such pride, while Brady had undoubtedly epitomized what it meant to be a leader. Brady’s numbers would prove to be topped only by the heroics of Eli Manning. At the mercy of a city ready do away with him and a seemingly impossible road to travel, Manning did not heed, but rather he led a charge through the post season. The Giants topped opponents with a combined record of 52- 12, all on the road.

Giant fans know the story of the past and present though, what they don’t know about, is the future. Make no mistake about it; The Giants are built for the long haul. With inspired Head Coach Tom Coughlin signing a contract extension, General Manager Jerry Reese carrying out the mission of his predecessors, and quarterback Eli Manning building upon a newfound confidence, The Giants will continue down the path of glory. Their hope lies in the youth though; Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith, Justin Tuck, Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Kevin Boss, Kenny Phillips, Terrell Thomas, Barry Cofield, and plenty of others make up a very young Giant squad. Those players should continue to develop under the watchful eye of Steve Spagnuolo and savvy veterans such as Sam Madison, Sammy Knight, Amani Toomer, and even Osi Umenyiora. With Jerry Reese showing that he can to find talent in each round of the draft combined with, passionate, young coaching in every facet of the game,The Giants will be in it for years to come. As for this year, all that has happened to the Giants through an offseason plus three games was as Accorsi once said, “(The Giants) lose two All-Pro defensive ends, one of them a Hall of Famer, plus its number one backup, (and) an All-Pro linebacker”. If what has occurred up until now has not provided cause to believe, then there is nothing that can. Believe it, there is a championship in this room.