Giants Franchise Five: Eli Manning edges Phil Simms at quarterback, while pass rushers reign supreme


Although the most recent three seasons tell a different story, the New York Giants are one of the most winning franchises in NFL history. The Giants rank No. 3 all-time among all NFL franchises with eight NFL Championship titles. Only the Green Bay Packers (13) and the Chicago Bears (9) have totaled more championships over their franchise’s run than the Giants. New York racked up four of their eight championships in the pre-Super Bowl era (1927, 1934, 1938, 1956). In the post-Super Bowl era, the Giants have been victorious another four times (1986, 1990, 2007, 2011). The Giants have also made more championship appearances than any other team in the NFL with 19 in total. 

Four Super Bowl victories and eight championships in total (third among all franchises) stand out when reflecting on the franchise’s successes, but its longevity is what makes the Giants one of the NFL’s most iconic and important franchises. The Giants were one of five teams to originally join the NFL in 1925 and they are the only team of that group that still remains in the league today. 

CBSSports.com’s Franchise Five series dives into five most impactful people in each NFL’s team history. Our rules here allow us to pick one head coach, one quarterback and three non-quarterback players. Let’s take a look back at some of the men that have made this franchise one of the more special ones in the NFL. 

The Giants have had 29 players inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and four players have earned regular season MVP honors, so it’s not exactly an easy task. 

When it comes to the Giants, most of these selections were easy to make and unlikely to be contested with the exception of a couple. It wasn’t hard to name arguably the greatest defensive player of all time to this list, or the coach who got the most out of him (and the rest of the roster), but we completed our five with the players we felt made the greatest impact on the team’s success. If you have read any of my prior content on the Giants, you’ll know that I’m a staunch believer that winning starts up front. The skill players get all the glory — especially in today’s fantasy-driven landscape — but they are nothing without their offensive line.

So with that in mind, I spoke with CBS Sports’ own Pete Prisco — who grew up a Giants fan — to see if there were any offensive linemen worthy of the five. Two names stood out immediately and after a solid debate, we came to an agreement on one of them. 

Without further ado, let’s dive on into the Franchise Five and kick things off with one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history.

Coach Bill Parcells

Giants tenure: 1983-1990
Giants resume:

  • Two-time Super Bowl champion
  • Three NFC East titles
  • Led team to best regular-season record ever (14-2)
  • Ring of Honor inductee
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
  • 8-3 playoff record
  • Only two losing seasons (*one losing season was during 1987 strike year)

Before Parcells took over as the head coach, the Giants had enjoyed just one winning season in their last 10. Let that sink in for a moment. You see the results above, but the story of Parcells and the Giants could have gone a lot different. During his first season as head coach, Parcells made a controversial decision to shake things up and bench starting quarterback Phil Simms for Scott Brunner. The decision backfired and the Giants finished 3-12-1. 

During this disastrous season, there was movement behind the scenes. The Giants brass was considering a change of guard and even offered University of Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger Parcells’ job. Fortunately for the Giants, he declined. Over the next two seasons, Parcells turned back to Simms (immediately) and led the Giants to their first postseason appearances in consecutive seasons since 1961-1963. The very next season, the Giants went 14-2 and won their first Super Bowl under Parcells in 1986.

Parcells stands out as the franchise’s greatest coach for a multitude of reasons. He did an excellent job of getting the most out of his players with a hard-nosed coaching style, but he also understood and executed the Xs and Os on defense at a high level — starting with his 3-4 base defense. Lawrence Taylor changed the game when it comes to rushing the passer, but Parcells was a big factor in his development and the “big blue wrecking crew” defense. 

Super Bowl XXV proved to be Parcells’ shining moment as a coach. His game-specific plan to take the air out of the ball against one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history was brilliant. The Giants held football via the run game, dominated the time of possession, and shortened the game’s possessions. The Giants at one point trailed by nine points, but a 75-yard touchdown drive that ripped off 9:29 seconds of the game clock took the air out of the Bills. Running back Ottis Anderson was named Super Bowl MVP after rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

While Tom Coughlin matched Parcells in Super Bowl victories and playoff appearances, the overhaul under Parcells was more dramatic and he takes the top spot on our list.

QB Eli Manning

Giants tenure: 2004-2019
Giants resume:

  • Two-time Super Bowl Champion
  • Two-time Super Bowl MVP
  • Most passing yards in an NFL postseason (1,219 yards; 2011)
  • Most fourth-quarter TD passes in a single season (15; 2011)
  • Top-10 in career passing yards (No. 7), passing TD (No. 8), game-winning drives (No. 9)
  • 4x Pro Bowler
  • Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner

Once a Giant, always a Giant, only a Giant. That’s what Manning said to a jam-packed room of reporters, former coaches, and former teammates during his final presser with the franchise. Although he may have had opportunities to continue his career, Manning held his time with the Giants in the highest regard and didn’t want to play anywhere else. His impact both on and off the field will be remembered by the fanbase forever, and although his final box scores weren’t always the prettiest, Manning played his best when his back was against the wall and the pressure was at its peak.

His tenure is highlighted by two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots dynasty with Tom Brady — including one against the 18-0 New England squad in 2007 — arguably the biggest upset in NFL history. During Manning’s first championship in 2007, he certainly benefited from a dominant Giants rushing offense and a defense whose pass rush came together in elite form during the postseason.

However, the same cannot be said about Manning’s 2011 Championship run and ultimately the MVP award he received for defeating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the second time in the Super Bowl in four seasons. In 2011, the Giants’ rushing offense ranked dead last (No. 32) in the NFL. The 2011 Giants also ranked dead last in pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. Although some NFL fans like to remember the 2011 Super Bowl run as another one carried by the defense, the facts don’t align. The Giants’ defense ranked No. 27 overall in 2011. 

Although Manning was never able to replicate his level of play from 2011, he made the most out of what was given to him, played through injuries, and never once threw his teammates or coaching staff under the bus. The Giants would be lucky to find another Eli.

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OLB Lawrence Taylor

Giants tenure: 1981-1993
Giants resume:

  • Two-time Super Bowl champion
  • 10x Pro Bowler
  • 8x First Team All Pro
  • 3x Defensive Player of The Year
  • 1x NFL MVP
  • Ring of Honor inductee
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

Taylor rewrote the book on how to rush the quarterback and inevitably how opposing offenses went about pass protection. Arguably the greatest defensive player of all time, and arguably the greatest pass rusher of all time, Taylor finished his Giants career with 1,088 total tackles and 132.5 quarterback sacks. People like to throw around the phrase unblockable a lot when discussing pass rushers, and in most cases it’s hyperbole, but that was not the case with Taylor. 

For seven straight seasons, Taylor recorded double-digit sacks (1984-1990) including a 20.5-sack season in 1986. Although Taylor’s life off the field was marred by controversies, when on the field, he was always motivated to be the most feared pass rusher in the NFL and he was almost always just that.

DE Michael Strahan

Giants tenure: 1993-2007
Giants resume:

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 7x Pro Bowler
  • 4x First Team All Pro
  • 1x NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2x NFL sacks leader 
  • Single-season sacks leader (22.5)
  • Ring of Honor inductee
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

You’re probably noticing a trend here — the greatest Giants players of all time spent their entire careers in New York. Strahan was no different. His career with the Giants even had a storybook ending. After toying with retirement for some time, Strahan decided to return for one final season in 2007 in spite of prognostications suggesting New York could be in the running for a top pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. It ended up being the best decision of his career.

Strahan was a feared pass rusher his entire career who won with technique instead of overwhelming athleticism. His 141.5 career sacks were impressive to say the least, but there’s actually an area of his game he doesn’t get enough credit for. Despite being somewhat undersized on the edge, Strahan was one of the elite run-defending defensive ends in the NFL for the majority of his career. His ability to set the edge in the run game changed what opposing offenses could do schematically and what the Giants could do schematically on defense.

OT Roosevelt “Rosey” Brown

Giants tenure: 1953-1965
Giants resume:

  • NFL Champion (pre-Super Bowl era)
  • 9x Pro Bowler
  • 6x First Team All Pro
  • Ring of Honor inductee
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

Brown spent his entire 13-year career with the Giants and won a starting job right away as a 20-year-old rookie. Why is that so impressive? Well, here’s why: 321 players were selected ahead of Brown in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL Draft. Although Brown didn’t have the ideal bulk and size that most players at his position boasted, he was incredibly athletic and that helped make him one of the best pulling lineman in the run game.

Frank Gifford just missed this list — he would’ve been next — but it’s difficult to imagine his career being as successful without Brown. In fact, Gifford said as much when he admitted he wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer without Brown. Arguably the best (and longest) stretch of dominant Giants football (1956-1963) came with Brown leading the way as the team’s most dominant offensive lineman. For that alone, he makes the cut.





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