In this era of sports we see players come and go from our teams too often. So often that fans my age (22) and younger don’t really appreciate the connection with their favorite teams players. With free agency and the draft at its peak in popularity, we love seeing new players in our team’s uniforms.
I know in journalism we’re supposed to be professionals and not bring out the fan in ourselves, but I’ve been brutally honest about the New York Giants on this website. Today though, I come to you as a fellow fan whose heart is broken.
Growing up, my father and uncles would never stop talking about how great Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor were. Bill Parcells? Don’t even get me started. The only thing that guarantees a smile on my dad’s face is seeing him on TV or just discussing him.
Heck, my uncle used to rip Eli Manning for wearing number ten because Fran Tarkenton (he thought at the time) wore it better.
Unlike most spoiled fans, and New York has a lot of them, I get attached to players. I hate change unless it’s imperative. Signing Plaxico Burress in 2005 was the only free agent signing I’ve ever been overly excited about because Giant fans knew it was going to make Eli better.
While this era of Giants football has been one emotional roller coaster after another to say the least, it’s been some of the best times of my life. As a kid living in an area split up evenly with Giants and Eagles fans, my childhood was brutal.
On December 29, 2007 it all changed when the Giants lost to the New England Patriots 38-35. The Pats went 16-0 but we all know it was a bigger victory for the Giants. This game was the springboard for the most magical playoff run in NFL history. It all ended “perfectly” in the Arizona desert on February 3rd, 2008 when Eli Manning made a fourth quarter charge into Super Bowl glory.
As a die hard fan though, one thing makes me feel great about being a Giants fan more than any other; the front office.
Jerry Reese got his first General Manger job with the Giants in 2007. One of the top scouts in the NFL, Reese went into his first draft knowing he needed to add a few key pieces to the Giants puzzle to finally bring a Lombardi Trophy back to New York.
In the 2007 NFL Draft, that’s exactly what Reese did.
1st round, #20 overall–Aaron Ross, CB, Texas:
How did the Jim Thorpe award winner drop the 20th spot? It seemed like a nice pick at the time but I didn’t get my hopes up because a good corner back is tough to come by. Ross was solid his rookie year, intercepting three passes, two of them against the Jets and he took one to the house. Like the rest of the Giants secondary, his game caught on at the right time and Ross played solid enough in the post season. (Current team: Jaguars)
2nd round, #51–Steve Smith, WR, USC:
In that 2007 run, my brothers and I labeled Smith the best 3rd down-playoff-rookie-slot receiver ever. His impact will never be forgotten and some of those playoff catches have been.
He had a big catch on the touchdown drive going in to halftime at Dallas in the Divisional game. Even though the field goal was missed (one of three) in the NFC Championship against the Packers, Smith made an unbelievable diving catch in frigid temperatures.
One catch will be forgotten that should never be and it took place in Super Bowl XLII. A play before the Burress touchdown it was 3rd and 11. Eli rolled to his right and hit Smith along the sideline who took a shot to the chest as he reached the first down. Smith set a Giants record for receptions in 2009 with 107. (Current team: Rams)
3rd round, #81–Jay Alford, DT, Penn State:
A New Jersey native, Alford was a just another defensive line pick; a new guy for the “bullpen of pass rushers” that Ernie Accorsi left for Reese. Alford’s biggest contribution was being the short snapper, which is more important to a team than the average fan knows. He also had a sack on second down on the Pats last attempt to score in XLII. (Current Team: Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL).
4th round, #116–Zak DeOssie, LB, Brown:
Son of a former Giant, Steve, who was on the Super Bowl XXV team, Zak made his presence known on special teams. First making punt and kickoff tackles, then becoming the long snapper midway through the season. Zak is now the special teams captain and the only player left on the team from this draft.
5th round, #153–Kevin Boss, TE, Western Oregon:
When Jeremy Shockey went down with a broken fibula in Week 15 against Washington, Boss came in and scored a touchdown. He also scored against the Pats in Week 17. Lastly, there is the play action pass he caught and took 45 yards at the beginning of the fourth quarter in XLII that led to David Tyree’s touchdown reception.
From 2008-10, Boss had five touchdowns or more in each of those seasons and became a fan favorite. (Current Team: Boss is on the Chiefs roster but he says retirement may be an option after multiple concussions).
6th round, #189–Adam Koets, T, Oregon State:
Koets was the only player to not see the field in 2007 and only started four games in 2010. (Currently a Free Agent).
7th round, #224–Michael Johnson, S, Arizona:
Johnson was a scrappy player that came out of nowhere and made an impact on the Giants. In 2007, he played in all 16 games and started four of them. In the NFC Championship at Green Bay, the score was 20-20 with under 2:30 to go. R.W. McQuarters returned a punt into Green Bay territory but fumbled. As Packers DB Jarrett Bush went to pick up the ball, Johnson dove underneath and punched it out of his hands. Domenik Hixon recovered the fumble.
Johnson started every game in 2008 and 14 in ‘09. (Currently a Free Agent)
7th round, #250–Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Marshall:
The best pick of this draft, Bradshaw wowed fans with his 88 yard touchdown run in the snow at Buffalo that clinched a playoff berth for the G-Men in ’07. He scored a touchdown in the NFC Championship and miraculously recovered a fumble in XLII.
Eli fumbled and it seemed that New England’s Pierre Woods recovered it late in the second quarter. Bradshaw somehow came up with it at the bottom of the pile. Throw in a couple of tough runs, Bradshaw made a huge impact on the Giants that year.
In the next five seasons, Bradshaw (who was plagued with injuries) racked up over 4,000 yards and 34 total touchdowns, including the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI.
When Bradshaw was released yesterday, he went on a few radio shows and you could hear the emotion in his voice. He said he was heartbroken and that he saw this coming when the Giants drafted David Wilson last year.
Bradshaw hits the hardest emotionally. He always stuck up for the running game the past two years and was always the sparkplug the Giants needed. He had no problem yelling at Tom Coughlin to run the ball.
In 2011, the Giants were on a losing streak while he was out. He came back for the 38-35 Green Bay loss. After that the Giants took off, winning seven of their last eight (including the playoffs).
No one ran harder on the Giants then #44. His career is not over yet and he is now a cap casualty. When I realized that DeOssie was the only one left from this class, it hit me pretty hard.
We will never be connected to players like fans of the old days were. There’s only room for one “face of the franchise” player. Football is a team sport. There will be no more dynasties in football because the “business” structure doesn’t allow it.
Bradshaw loved being a Giant. We loved him as a Giant. He truly wore the blue jersey with pride. But, he’s just another player now; a business decision who played on broken ankles and ran on them until he couldn’t feel them anymore. Loyalty continues to fade.
I guess that’s why the Giants are as good as they are though; they’re comfortable making these decisions.