The Biggest, Baddest NFL Players in New York History

Ryan Alfieri@Ryan_AlfieriCorrespondent IIIAugust 24, 2012

The Biggest, Baddest NFL Players in New York History

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    New Yorkers are known for their toughness and ability to survive in any condition. Therefore, New York's football players are assumed to be as tough as they come. 

    This list is not just for those who put up the gaudiest stats and sold the most tickets: These players rose to the physical intensity of the game, whether it was dishing it out or getting hit and coming back for more. 

    Here are the top 20 biggest, baddest football players (ranked) in New York history. 

20. Roosevelt Brown, OL

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    Ranked 57th on the Sporting News’ greatest players list, Brown was a pass-blocker extraordinaire.

    He was one of the first offensive linemen to specialize in pass protection while still being a monster in the run game with his quick feet. Roosevelt’s success changed the way offensive linemen were scouted, as lineman with quick feet was never valued as highly as they are now.

    An eight-time All-NFL selection, Brown is one of the best offensive linemen in Giants’ history. 

19. Wayne Chrebet, WR

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    He may not exactly fit under the “biggest” category, but you would have a hard time finding a tougher and more fearless receiver than longtime Jet Wayne Chrebet.

    The Hofstra product made an 11-year career in the NFL because of his toughness and grit.

    Chrebet was never the most physically dominant receiver on the field, but the man would sacrifice his body on any given Sunday to make plays when they needed to be made.

    Chrebet’s jersey is a staple for Jets fans to own in their vintage collection because of the outstanding level of toughness and grit he displayed. In what were otherwise very lean years in terms of wins for New York, Chrebet was always a bright spot and a fan-favorite. 

18. Wesley Walker, WR

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    What made Walker special is how he overcame only being able to see out of one healthy eye and still play at such a high level for so long.

    Over 13 seasons, Walker was able to average an astonishing 19 yards per reception.

    That Walker was able to overcome a disability that would end most players’ careers is impressive enough, but the fact that Walker was able to be play at such a high level makes it even more impressive.

    Just imagine how difficult it would be for Walker to spot other defenders with just one eye; the significant loss of peripheral vision put him at greater risk for injury every time he ran a route. 

17. Justin Tuck, DE

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    When healthy, Tuck is a fantastic player and the best of his career has still yet to come.

    However, to be honest, the biggest reason why he made this historic list is because he has the most ferocious helmet ever crafted.

    Tuck apparently got a new helmet because opponents were jabbing at his facemask to aggravate his neck injury, but looking like an axe murderer on the field had to be on the back on his mind.

    Helmet aside, Tuck is on the path to being one of the best defenders in Giants’ history.

16. Mark Gastineau, DE

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    A key member of the famous “New York Sack Exchange”, Gastineau was the defensive line version of Joe Namath.

    Gastineau won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1983 when he recorded 22 sacks in a single season, a new record. He held the single-season sack record for 17 years until Michael Strahan finally broke it in 2001 (with some controversy as to how authentic his 22.5 sacks were).

    If sacking the opposing quarterback on a regular basis wasn’t enough, Gastineau made an extra effort to rub it in opponents’ faces with his sack dance, launching a trend of post-sack celebrations that extend to this day. 

15. Harry Carson, LB

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    Carson was the captain on the dominant Giants’ defense that won a championship in 1986, but he was hardly a product of being surrounded by terrific talent.

    Pro Football Weekly rated Carson as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the history of the game. The Hall of Famer and seven-time All-Pro was a rock in the middle of the Giants’ defense for 13 seasons.

    Carson is sometimes an afterthought because he played right next to Lawrence Taylor, but he is still one of the best linebackers ever to play the game.

14. Mark Bavaro, TE

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    The only tight end on this list, Bavaro became a fan-favorite in his six seasons with the Giants.

    In 1986 and 1987, Bavaro was a first-team All-Pro. He caught 28 touchdowns in his six years in New York, but made his name as one of the toughest men in the game with a single play against the 49ers on a Monday night.

    Bavaro caught a pass from Phil Simms and simply refused to go down, dragging defenders in his wake for about twenty yards.

    Since then, Bavaro has cemented himself as one of the toughest, grittiest tight ends ever to wear a Giants' uniform.

13. Rosey Grier, DT

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    Grier is more well-known for his role in the Fearsome Foursome with the Los Angeles Rams, which was arguably the best defensive line in NFL history.

    Still, Grier was also a key member of the Giants’ defense since he was drafted by the team in 1955.

    Grier pursued an acting career after his playing days, which may have masked the ferocious defensive lineman that he was during his 11 years in the NFL.

    But don’t let his on-air mannerisms fool you; Grier was one of the best defensive tackles to ever play the game. 

12. Mo Lewis, LB

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    While Lewis did the Jets no favors by knocking Drew Bledsoe out of the game that launched Tom Brady’s career, he was still a punishing force in the middle of the Jets’ defense.

    A three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro, Lewis was the captain of the Jets’ defense for seven straight years.

    While Jets fans wish he was not so punishing on Drew Bledsoe on the hit that would come back to haunt the Jets for the next decade, Lewis was one of the greatest Jets of his era. 

11. George Martin, DE

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    What made a player like Martin so unique is not just the amount of sacks he would get (96 in his career with the Giants), but how he was able to get them all as a 3-4 defensive end.

    Most 3-4 ends are built to control gaps and contain runs, but Martin was able to get to the passer going through double teams as easily as a “regular” 4-3 defensive end could against single blockers.

    With seven defensive touchdowns to boot, Martin was a constant threat on the field to make a game-changing play, no matter the position. 

10. John Riggins, RB

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    Yes, Riggins is more well-known for being a Redskin than a Jet (and the Jets are still kicking themselves for not keeping him in New York), but he will still a great player for the Jets before signing with Washington as a free agent after the 1975 season.

    While Riggins does have the stats and accolades to back up his fame, he is more well-known for his physical running style and excellence around the goal line. He was the type of back that no linebacker looked forward to playing against.

    While he certainly made the bulk of his fame and fortune as a Redskin, he was also a terrific player for the Jets for several years. 

9. Jim Burt, NT

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    Burt was able to overcome being an undrafted free agent to being named to the Pro Bowl, which is only a testament to his toughness and determination.

    Burt’s reputation as a tough, hard worker was most on display in the 1986 NFC Championship game after he knocked out Joe Montana on an intercepted pass that would result in a touchdown for the Giants.

    The Giants were able to rout the 49ers to a 49-3 on their way to the Super Bowl.

8. Darrelle Revis, CB

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    No corner in the history of the NFL has ever played at a level that Revis has been playing at since 2009.

    Whether it is Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Terrell Owens, Revis simply shuts down the top receivers with uncanny consistency.

    When Revis lets up a catch, it actually makes headlines.

    Revis is also a terrific tackler and is not afraid to lay the wood. Plus, he even has his own island, which has to put him on the list of the baddest players in New York.

    When Darrelle hangs up the cleats, he will go down as not only the best Jet in history, but the best corner to ever play the game.

7. Matt Snell, FB

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    Snell was actually a member of both the Jets and the Giants, but his career is defined by the championship game in which the Jets upset the heavily-favored Colts to begin the merger between the AFL and NFL.

    The Jets were able to beat the Colts 16-7 in a ball-control, possession game by handing the rock to Snell over and over. He had 30 carries for 121 yards and the only touchdown in the Super Bowl in Jets history.

    While Namath gets all of the credit for backing up his guarantee, Snell was just as, if not more important to actually winning the only championship in Jets’ history. 

6. Mel Hein, OL

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    Hein was arguably the best Giants’ offensive lineman of all time and carried a special reputation for his toughness.

    Hein was a road-grader in the run game and a brick wall in pass protection, and he also doubled as a standout linebacker. He never took himself out of the game, except for one time in which he broke his nose, which he promptly fixed before going back into the game.

    Any player that can play both sides of the ball without taking any breaks is one bad dude in my book. 

5. Curtis Martin, RB

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    Curtis Martin may not have been the most incredibly physical back, but you would have a difficult time finding a tougher, smarter player with character near the level of Martin.

    Quietly, Martin was able to get to the fourth spot on the all-time rushing list because of his durability and consistent play.

    But Martin was more than just a running back. He admittedly did not even like football; instead, he used it as a vehicle to help others and turn around what was once a doomed life of violence into a positive influence. 

    Martin’s attitude and leadership alone is enough to make him one of the baddest players even to play the game.

4. Michael Strahan, DE

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    Strahan may be a nice guy when he’s on pregame shows and television commercials, but he was another kind of being on the field.

    The current record holder for sacks in a season with 22.5, Strahan played an extremely physical position at defensive end for 15 years at a remarkably consistent level.

    Until he retired after winning a Super Bowl in 2007, Strahan was the face of the Giants’ defense for over a decade with not only his production, but the mentality he brought to the field. 

    Both a great player and a great personality, Strahan will go down as one of the most recognizable faces of the Giants franchise. 

3. Joe Klecko, DE

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    There was certainly a ton of talent along the great Jets’ defensive line that referred to themselves as the “New York Sack Exchange”, but Joe Klecko was the best of the group.

    Klecko played both defensive tackle and defensive end, and even played some nose tackle when the Jets made a switch to a 3-4 in 1985. As a nose tackle, which is a position where facing double teams is a norm, Klecko had an astounding 7.5 sacks.

    The days of the NYSE were one of the few bright spots in the years after Namath retired, and Klecko was the biggest reason for their success.

    Klecko is also responsible for the invention of the Gatorade bath, which is now a staple celebration across all sports.

    Still, his reputation as a hard-working, physical player made him a fan favorite in New York. 

2. Sam Huff, LB

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    At one point, Huff was so frustrated with not being able to find a position on the defense that he nearly gave up on football altogether. That was, until assistant coach Vince Lombardi convinced him to return to camp to be a part of Tom Landry’s revolutionary 4-3 defense.

    Since then, Huff revolutionized the position of the 4-3 linebacker. He went to five Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team six times.

    Above all, Huff was known for going toe-to-toe with the best backs in the game, and laying them out with devastating hits. 

1. Lawrence Taylor, DE

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    Unfortunately, Taylor is becoming more well-known for his legal issues than his Hall of Fame career, but there is no doubt that he simply dominated games as a pass-rushing linebacker.

    In his 13-year career, Taylor racked up 132.5 sacks, including 20.5 in 1986.

    But Taylor’s presence went beyond his sack numbers. This was the man who ended Joe Theismann’s career after breaking his leg.

    Then-Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski was famous for walking up to the line and pointing at Taylor, pleading for his offensive lineman to make sure he is blocked (which, more often than not, was a last cause in itself).

    One of the greatest players in Giants' history, Taylor not only revolutionized the linebacker position, but he became known as one of the baddest ballers in NFL history.