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Giants logo circa 1976-1999

The history of the New York Giants, an American football team which currently plays in the NFL's National Football Conference, comprises more than 80 seasons. The Giants were founded in 1925 by original owner Tim Mara in the then five-year-old NFL. Mara owned the team until his death in 1959, when it was passed on to his sons Wellington and Jack. During their history the Giants have acquired seven NFL championships, three of which came in Super Bowls.

In just its third season, the team finished with the best record in the league at 11–1–1 and was awarded the NFL title. In a fourteen year period beginning in 1933, the Giants qualified to play in the NFL championship game eight times, winning twice. They did not win another league title until 1956, aided by several future Pro Football Hall of Fame players such as running back Frank Gifford, linebacker Sam Huff, and offensive tackle Roosevelt Brown. From 1958 to 1963, the Giants played in the NFL championship game five out of those six years, but failed to win. The 1958 NFL Championship game, in which they lost 23–17 in overtime to the Baltimore Colts, is widely credited with increasing the popularity of the NFL in the United States.

The Giants registered only two winning seasons from 1964 to 1980 and were unable to advance to the playoffs. But from 1981 to 1990, the team qualified for the postseason seven times in ten seasons. During that period, they won Super Bowl XXI (1987) and Super Bowl XXV (1991). The team's success during the 1980s was aided by head coach Bill Parcells, quarterback Phil Simms, and Hall of Fame linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson. The Giants struggled throughout much of the 1990s as Parcells left the team and players such as Simms and Taylor declined and eventually retired. They returned to the Super Bowl in 2001, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and as of 2007 have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. In the 2007 season, the Giants upset the heavily favored New England Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.

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This article or section is part of
the New York Giants history
series.
History of the New York Giants
History of the New York Giants (1925–1978)
History of the New York Giants (1979–1993)
History of the New York Giants (1994–present)
Financial history of the New York Giants

Contents

Birth and success: 1925-1957

The Giants were founded in 1925 by original owner Tim Mara with an investment of $500.[1] Legally named "New York Football Giants" to distinguish themselves from the baseball team of the same name, they became one of the first teams of the then five-year old NFL. The Giants played their first game against All New Britain in New Britain, Connecticut, on October 5, 1925.[2][3]

Although the Giants were successful on the field in their first season, going 8–4,[4] their financial status was a different story. Overshadowed by baseball, boxing, and college football, professional football was not a popular sport in 1925. The Giants were in dire financial straits until the eleventh game of the season when Red Grange and the Chicago Bears came to town attracting over 73,000 fans.[5] This gave the Giants a much needed influx of revenue, and perhaps altered the history of the franchise.[6][7]

The 1927 season was a very successful one for the Giants, who finished 11–1–1.[8] Their defense posted 10 shutouts in 13 games and was the best in the league.[9] New coach Earl Potteiger led the team into a game against the Chicago Bears late in the season with first place on the line. The Giants won 13–7 in what Steve Owen called, "the toughest, roughest football game I ever played."[10] From then on it was an easy trip to the championship,[1] as they had a two game lead over the Bears by virtue of their head to head tiebreaker (note: the championship was determined by record in that era; it was not until 1933 that the NFL had a championship game).

Following a disappointing 4–7–2[4] 1928 season, Potteiger was out and Roy Andrews in as coach. Before the 1929 season owner Tim Mara purchased the entire squad of the Detroit Wolverines, including star quarterback Benny Friedman, a team which had finished in third place the year before.[11] The rosters of the two teams were combined under the Giants name and this led to immediate improvement as the Giants record soared to 13–1–1.[4] However, their only loss occurred in a November 20–6 game to the Green Bay Packers who by virtue of this win, and their 12–0–1 record, would go on to win the NFL title.[12] Following the season, Mara transferred ownership over to his two sons to insulate the team from creditors. At the time Jack was just 22, and Wellington only 14.[13]

In 1930, there were still many who questioned the quality of the professional game, claiming the college "amateurs" played with more intensity.[14] In December 1930, the Giants played a team of Notre Dame All Stars at the Polo Grounds to raise money for the unemployed of New York City. It was also an opportunity to establish the superiority of the pro game. Knute Rockne reassembled his Four Horsemen along with the stars of his 1930 Championship squad and told them to score early, then defend. But from the beginning it was a one-sided contest, with Benny Friedman running for two Giant touchdowns and Hap Moran passing for another. Notre Dame failed to score. When it was all over, Coach Rockne told his team, '"[t]hat was the greatest football machine I ever saw. "I am glad none of you got hurt."[15] The game raised $100,000 for the homeless, and is often credited with establishing the legitimacy of the professional game.[14]

In 1934, the team defeated the previously unbeaten Chicago Bears 30–13 at the Polo Grounds on an icy field with temperatures peaking at 25 degrees. Before the game, team treasurer John Mara talked with coach Steve Owen and captain Ray Flaherty about the field conditions. Flaherty suggested the Giants wear sneakers on the frozen field, as he had played in a game under similar circumstances at Gonzaga and the sneakers proved to be effective.[16] Mara dispatched equipment manager Abe Cohen to get as many sneakers as he could get.[17] Due to traffic and the inability to find any athletic goods stores open on Sunday, Cohen was unable to return before the game started and the Giants, wearing conventional footwear, trailed 10 to 3 at the end of the first half.[1] Realizing time was short, Cohen went to Manhattan College[17]—where he had a key to the equipment and locker rooms—and returned to the Polo Grounds at halftime with nine pairs of basketball sneakers, saying that "nine pairs was all I could get." Players donned the sneakers and the Giants, after allowing the Bears another field goal late in the third period, would respond with 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win their first NFL Championship game. The game would come to be known as "The Sneakers Game",[1] and the 27 points the Giants scored in the fourth quarter set a single–quarter championship game scoring record that stood for decades. After the game offensive tackle Len Grant expressed his sincere gratitude by stating simply "God bless Abe Cohen."[18]

The Giants were unable to repeat as champions in 1935 as they fell to the Lions 26–7 in the NFL Championship game.[8] The Lion staked a 13–0 lead before the Giants were able to cut the lead to 13–7 in the third quarter. However, the Lions defense helped their team score two late touchdowns with a blocked punt and an interception.[8]

The Giants were so successful from the latter half of the 1930s until the United States entry into World War II, that according to one publication, "[f]rom 1936 to 1941 the New York Giants annually fielded a collection of NFL all-stars."[19] They added their third NFL championship in 1938 with a 23–17 win over the Green Bay Packers.[8] The game was a tightly contested affair with the Giants having ridden two blocked Green Bay punts to an early lead, before the Packers came back to take a 17–16 lead. However, in the fourth quarter Ed Danowski threw a 23–yard touchdown pass to Hank Soar, and the Giants defense held the Packers scoreless.[8]

The Giants made the championship game again the next year, and lost in a rematch to the Packers 31–16.[8] They also advanced to the championship game in 1941, losing to the Bears 37–9.[20] Both games were close early before their respective opponents went on an offensive surge to break the game open late.[8] In 1944 the Giants reached the championship game where they faced the Green Bay Packers for the third time in ten seasons. They lost again, this time 14–7 as Ted Fritsch scored two touchdowns and the Packers defense was able to hold on to the lead despite a fourth quarter touchdown by the Giants.[8] By 1946, Mara had given over complete control of the team to his two sons. Jack controlled the business aspects, while Wellington controlled the on-field operations.[13] In 1946, the Giants again reached the Championship game, for the eighth time in 14 seasons, where they were beaten by the Sid Luckman led Bears 24–14.[8]

Before the 1948 season, the Giants signed defensive back Emlen Tunnell, who became the first African American player in team history,[20] and who would later become the first African American inducted into the Hall of Fame.[21] They struggled from 1947 to 1949, never finishing above .500,[4] but came back with a solid 10–2 record in 1950.[4] However, they lost to the Cleveland Browns, who they had beaten twice in the regular season, 8–3 in the 1950 divisional playoff game.[22] In 1949, halfback Gene "Choo-Choo" Roberts scored a league high 17 touchdowns,[23] and in 1950 he set a team record that would stand for over 50 years, when he rushed for 218 yards on November 12.[24]

Following the 1953 season, an important transition in Giants history occurred. After being the team's coach for 23 years, Steve Owen was fired by Wellington and Jack Mara, and replaced by Jim Lee Howell.[20] Wellington later described the move by calling it "the hardest decision I'd ever made".[25] The Giants went 7–5 in 1954 under Howell.[4] In their thirty-first and final season playing their home games at the Polo Grounds in 1955, they went 5–1–1 over their final seven games to finish 6–5–1.[20] They were led by rejuvenated running back Frank Gifford who played the entire season solely on offense for the first time in several years.[26]

The Giants won their fourth NFL Championship in 1956. Playing their home games at Yankee Stadium for the first time, the Giants won the Eastern Division with an 8–3–1 record.[4] In the NFL Championship Game on an icy field against the Chicago Bears, the Giants wore sneakers as they had 22 years previous. They dominated the Bears, winning 47–7. The 1956 Giants featured a number of future Hall of Fame players, including Gifford, Sam Huff and Roosevelt Brown. Equally notable, the team featured as its coordinators future Hall of Fame head coaches Tom Landry (defense) and Vince Lombardi (offense).

The Greatest Game Ever Played: 1958

The Giants had another successful year in 1958. They tied for the Eastern Division regular season title with a 9–3 record by defeating the Cleveland Browns 13-10 on the last day of the regular season on a last-second 49-yard field goal by Pat Summeral and beat the Browns again a week later in a one game playoff to determine the division winner.[27] They advanced to play the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game.[28] This game, which would become known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", is considered a watershed event in the history of the NFL and marked the beginning of the rise of football into the dominant sport in the American market.[29][30] The game itself was highly competitive. The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead; however the Colts scored two touchdowns to take a 14–3 lead at halftime.[31]

A defensive stop by the Giants in the third quarter was a turning point of the game. The Giants, who had trouble mounting many drives to that point, mounted a 95-yard drive after the stop which culminated in a touchdown, making the score 14-10.[31] The Giants then drove again, with quarterback Charley Conerly throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Frank Gifford to take the lead, 17–14.[32]

The Colts put together one last drive with less than two minutes left. The standout player was wide receiver Raymond Berry, who caught three passes for 62 yards,[31] the last one for 22 yards to the Giant 13-yard line. With seven seconds left in regulation, Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the score 17–17, sending a game to overtime for the first time in NFL history.[32]

After winning the coin toss and receiving the ball, the Giants offense stalled and was forced to punt. From their own 20, the Colts drove the ball down the field, with Alan Ameche finally scoring from the one yard line to give the championship to the Colts, 23–17.[31]

More success: 1959-1963

The Giants success continued in the 1960s. They finished 9–3 in 1959 and faced the Colts in a championship game rematch.[33] They lost again, this time in a far less dramatic game, 31–16.[33] Led by quarterback Y. A. Tittle and head coach Allie Sherman, the Giants won three consecutive Eastern Division titles from 1961–1963. In 1961 they were beaten by the Packers, 37–0.[28] In 1962, they went into the championship game with a league best 12–2 record,[4] and a nine–game winning streak; but lost to the Packers again, 16–7.[28]

They finished with an 11–3 record in 1963, and faced the Bears in the NFL championship game. On an icy field in Chicago, the Giants' defense played well, but the Bears newly invented zone defense intercepted Tittle five times, and battered him throughout the game.[28] Sherman resisted calls from players such as linebacker Sam Huff to replace the struggling Tittle.[34] The Giants defense held the Bears in check, but they lost 14–10, their third straight NFL Championship Game defeat.[28]

The Giants run of six championship game appearances in eight years combined with their large market location translated into financial success. By the early 1960s, the Giants were receiving $175,000 a game under the NFL's television contract with CBS—four times as much as small-market Green Bay, which was one of the most successful teams of the era.[13] However, in the league's new contract, the Maras convinced the other owners that it would be in the best interest of the NFL to share television revenue equally; a practice which is still current, and is credited with strengthening the league as a whole.

Wilderness years begin: 1964–1972

After the 1963 season, the team fell apart quickly. A roster filled with mostly older veterans plus some bad personnel moves (the dispatching of Rosey Grier, Sam Huff and Don Chandler for instance) lead to a quick exit from the top of the standings. They finished 2–10–2 in 1964,[4] beginning an 18-season playoff drought. The team's worst won-lost record ever did come with a silver lining, 1965's number one draft choice. Faced with a selection board that featured such names as Dick Butkis, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath, Craig Morton and Verlon Biggs, the Giants chose Auburn runner Tucker Fredrickson.

The seasons of 1964 through 1980 in team history have often been referred to as "the wilderness years" for several reasons: 1) The franchise quickly lost its status as an elite N.F.L. team by posting only two winning, against twelve losing and three .500 seasons during this span. 2) The Giants became a "team of nomads," calling four different stadiums home in the 70's (Yankee Stadium, The Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium, and finally Giants Stadium in 1976). 3) The Giants tried several head coach and quarterback combination during this time, but with almost no success (beginning in 1964 though the 1983 season no coach or starting QB could boast even a .500 record).[13] The team rebounded with a 7–7 record in 1965,[4] (mostly due to the acquisition of QB Earl Morall during the off season) before compiling a league-worst 1–12–1 record, and allowing over 500 points on defense in 1966.[35] This season also included a 72–41 loss to the rival Washington Redskins at D.C. Stadium in the highest-scoring game in league history.[36] Interest in the team was waning rapidly, especially with the rapid rise of the New York Jets, with their wide-open style of play and charismatic quarterback Joe Namath.

The Giants acquired quarterback Fran Tarkenton from the Minnesota Vikings before the 1967 season for a bundle of high-round draft choices and quickly showed improvement. They finished 7–7 in 1967 and in 1968 they had a 7-3 record through ten games and trailed division leader Dallas by just one game.[4] Unfortunately, New York dropped its final four games to again finish at 7–7. Notably, in 1968, one of Tarkenton's favorite targets, wide receiver Homer Jones made the Pro Bowl. Through the 2007 season, no other Giants receiver has been selected for the Pro Bowl.[37] As of the completion of the 2008 season, Jones' average of 22.3 yards-per-reception for his career is still an N.F.L. record.

During the 1969 preseason, the Giants lost their first meeting with the Jets, 37–14, at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[38] Following the game, Wellington Mara fired coach Allie Sherman[39] and replaced him with former Giants fullback Alex Webster. On opening day of the 1969 regular season, Tarkenton led the Giants to a 24–23 victory over his former team, the Vikings, by throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The Giants finished 6–8 in the 1969 season.[4] The Giants showed marked improvement in 1970. After an 0–3 start they rebounded to finish 9–5,[40] narrowly missing the playoffs by losing their final game to the Los Angeles Rams. Tarkenton had one of his best seasons as a Giant and made his fourth straight Pro Bowl. Additionally, running back Ron Johnson also made the Pro Bowl and ran for 1,027 yards,[40] becoming the first Giant to gain 1,000 yards rushing in a season.[20]

In 1971, Johnson missed most of the season with a knee injury and the Giants dropped to 4–10,[4] resulting in Tarkenton being traded back to the Vikings. The Giants rallied somewhat the following season to finish 8–6,[4] behind veteran journeyman quarterback Norm Snead (acquired in the trade for Tarkenton), who led the league in completion percentage and had his best season.[41] Other stand-outs and Pro Bowl selections that year were running back Johnson who rushed for 1,182 yards (breaking his own team record) and caught 45 passes, tight end Bob Tucker who followed up his 1971 N.F.C. leading 59 catch season with 55 in '72, and defensive stars Jack Gregory and John Mendenhall. The Giants boasted the highest ranked (by yards) offense in the N.F.C. and after a season finishing 23-3 win at Dallas to secure their second winning campaign in three years, the future looked bright. After the 1972 season however, the Giants would suffer the flat-out worst prolonged stretches in their history.

Leaving New York: 1973–1978

Desiring their own home stadium, in 1973 the Giants reached an agreement with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to play their home games at a new, state-of-the-art, dedicated football stadium.[42] The stadium, which would be known as Giants Stadium, was to be built at a new sports complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey.[42]

As the complex was being built, and their current home at Yankee Stadium was being renovated, they would be without a home for three years. Their final full season at Yankee Stadium was 1972. After playing their first two games there in 1973, the Giants played the rest of their home games in 1973, as well as all of their home games in 1974, at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[43] This was done primarily out of a desire to have their own home field, as opposed to having to share Shea Stadium with the Jets.[44] However, between access problems, neighborhood issues, the fact that the Yale Bowl was not ideally suited for pro football (the stadium did not have lights, nor does it have lights today), the age of the stadium (it was built in 1914) and the lack of modern amenities, the Giants reconsidered their decision and ultimately agreed to share Shea Stadium with the Jets for the 1975 season.[43] The Giants left the Yale Bowl after losing all seven home games played there in the 1974 season and compiling a home record of 1–11 over that two year stretch.[45]

One of the bright spots in this era was tight end Bob Tucker who, from 1970 through 1977 was one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Tucker amassed 327 receptions, 4322 yards and 22 touchdowns during his years as a Giant.

"The Miracle at the Meadowlands"; Herman Edwards recovers Joe Pisarcik's fumble.

Despite their new home and heightened fan interest, the Giants still played subpar in 1976 and 1977. In 1978, the Giants started the year 5–6[46] and played the Philadelphia Eagles at home with a chance to solidify their playoff prospects. However, the season imploded on November 19, 1978, in one of the most improbable finishes in NFL history. The Giants were leading 17–12 and had possession of the ball with only 30 seconds left.[47] They had only to kneel the ball to end the game, as the Eagles had no time outs.[47] However, instead of kneeling the ball, offensive coordinator Bob Gibson ordered Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik to hand the ball off to fullback Larry Csonka. Csonka was unprepared to receive the handoff, and the ball rolled off his hip and bounced free.[47] Eagles safety Herman Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran, untouched, for a score, giving the Eagles an improbable 19–17 victory.[47] This play is referred to as "The Miracle in the Meadowlands" among Eagles fans, and "The Fumble" among Giants fans.

In the aftermath of the defeat, Gibson was fired, and the Giants lost three out of their last four games[46] to finish out of the playoffs for the 15th straight season, leading them to let coach John McVay go as well. However, following the 1978 season came the steps that would, in time, lead the Giants back to the pinnacle of the NFL.

Building a champion: 1979-1985

The Giants decided to hire a General Manager for the first time in franchise history following the 1978 season.[48] However, the search grew contentious and severely fractured the relationship between owners Wellington and Tim Mara. Finally, the Maras asked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to step in with a recommendation.[48] Rozelle recommended George Young,[49] who worked in personnel for the Miami Dolphins and had been an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts. Young was hired; however the rift between the Maras lasted for several years.[50]

Young hired Ray Perkins as head coach, and drafted unknown quarterback Phil Simms from Morehead State University to the surprise of many.[51] The Giants continued to struggle, finishing 6–10 in 1979 and 4–12 in 1980.[4] With the second overall draft pick in the 1981 draft, the Giants drafted linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The impact that Taylor had on the Giants' defense was immediate.[52] He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming to date the only rookie to ever win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. His arrival raised the Giants linebacker corps—which already included future Hall of Famer Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt—into one of the NFL's best. It also predicated the Giants transformation from allowing 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981.[52] The Giants went 9–7,[53] and defeated the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs 27–21.[53] They then lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers 38–24.[53]

Giants Stadium has been home to the Giants since 1976.

In the strike shortened 1982 season, the Giants lost their first two games before the strike and the first game upon returning.[54] They won their next three games to even their record at 3–3.[54] However, Coach Perkins announced that he was leaving to take the head coaching job at Alabama after the season and the team promptly went out and lost the next two contests, effectively knocking themselves out of the playoffs (despite defeating the Eagles in the season finale to go 4-5).[54] Lawrence Taylor remained a bright spot, again winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Perkins left the Giants after the 1982 season to become head coach of the University of Alabama. Young chose Bill Parcells, the Giants' defensive coordinator, as the team's new head coach.

Parcells first year proved difficult. In his first major decision, he selected Brunner over Simms at quarterback. At first it appeared Parcells' decision was justified, especially after a 27–3 Monday night victory over the Green Bay Packers gave the Giants a 2–2 record after four games.[55] However, the Giants then lost ten of their final 12 games.[55] Parcells ignored fans' protests and stuck with Brunner for most of the year, although Jeff Rutledge saw considerable late-season action.[56] In a week six game against the Eagles, he brought Simms back to thunderous fan applause, only to see him suffer a season–ending hand injury. Despite their record the Giants were competitive in many of their losses and Young ignored calls to fire Parcells.

Simms won the starting job back for the 1984 season and Brunner was released. The Giants experienced a resurgence, highlighted by a second half stretch where they won five out of six games.[57] Despite losing their last two games to finish 9–7 they still made the playoffs. In the first round, they defeated the highly favored Los Angeles Rams 16–13 on the road before losing, 21–10, to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.[57] Simms threw for 4,044 yards,[57] making him the first Giant to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.

The Giants continued their success by going 10–6 in 1985.[58] The defense carried the team and led the NFL in sacks with 68.[59] They won their first round playoff game, 17–3 over the defending champion 49ers.[59] In the divisional playoffs they were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears 21–0.[58] Many of the players that would play key roles on the Giants Super Bowl teams emerged in 1985. Joe Morris became the feature back, running for 1,338 yards, scoring 21 touchdowns[58] and making the Pro Bowl. Second year receiver Lionel Manuel led the Giants with 49 catches,[58] and tight end Mark Bavaro, a rookie, had 37 catches.[58] Simms threw every pass for the Giants for the second consecutive season, and passed for over 3,800 yards.[58] Defensive end Leonard Marshall recorded 15.5 sacks, and Taylor added 13.[58]

Back on top: 1986-1990

1986: Super Bowl Champions

The Giants entered the 1986 season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.[60] They had their first test in a Monday Night game against the defending Eastern division champion Dallas Cowboys. They lost at Texas Stadium 31–28. However, they won their next 5 in a row and 14 of their last 15, to finish the season with a 14–2 record. One of the signature plays of the season occurred during a Monday Night game in December. Here is a description of the play taken from a Monday Night Football broadcast in 2005: "On Dec. 1 1986...with the Giants trailing, (Mark) Bavaro catches an innocent pass from Phil Simms over the middle. It takes nearly seven 49ers defenders to finally drag him down, some of which are carried for almost 20 yards, including future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Bavaro’s inspiring play jump starts the Giants, who win the game and eventually the Super Bowl."[61] The Giants defense allowed only 236 points during the season, second fewest in the NFL[62] and Taylor set a single–season team record with 20.5 sacks. In addition to winning an unprecedented third Defensive Player of the Year Award, Taylor was also named NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) by the Associated Press.[63]

The Giants hosted the 49ers in the Divisional Playoffs and won easily, 49–3.[64] They then shut out the Redskins 17–0 in the NFC Championship Game at Giants Stadium.[64] The Giants advanced to play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI in front of 101,063 fans at the Rose Bowl.[28] After falling behind 10–9 at halftime,[65] the Giants defeated the Broncos 39–20.[64] Simms was named MVP after completing 22 of 25 (88%) of his passes—a Super Bowl record.[28]

1987-1989

The Giants lost their first two games before the 1987 players strike. Unlike the players strike five years previous, NFL owners made a decision to go forward with replacement players. The Giants lost all three replacement games, putting their record at 0–5 before the strike was over and the regular players returned.[66] Though the Giants went 6–4 over their final 10 games, they finished out of the playoffs at 6–9.[66] Bright spots for the season included tight end Mark Bavaro, who led the team in catches with 55, and three of the Giants linebackers making the Pro Bowl—Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks and Harry Carson.[67]

The Giants 1988 season got off to a rough start with an offseason scandal involving Taylor. Taylor had abused cocaine violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and was suspended for the first four games of the season.[68] Taylor's over the edge lifestyle was becoming an increasing concern for fans and team officials. However after his return Taylor played at his normal All-Pro level, recording 15.5 sacks in 12 games. The intense worry and scrutiny would prove to be for naught as for the rest of his career Taylor avoided suspension and passed his drug tests.

Predictably, the Giants started the season struggling. Taylor's absence, combined with a difficult early schedule had them alternating wins and losses through their first six games.[69] However with Taylor back and playing well, they were able to win their next four games. After two straight losses, the Giants won their next three games to set up a win-or-go-home game against the New York Jets in the season finale.[69] The Jets defeated the Giants 27–21.[69] When the 49ers lost to the Rams the following night, the Giants were out of the postseason despite a 10–6 record.[69]

The Giants' 12–4 record in 1989 was the NFC's second best.[70] They lost their divisional playoff game in overtime to the Rams 19–13.[71] The highlight of the game was wide receiver Flipper Anderson catch of the game winning touchdown pass. After catching the ball, Anderson made a long run to the endzone, silencing the crowd in attendance. In 1989, free agent acquisition Ottis Anderson ran for 1,023 yards and caught 28 passes.[71] Dave Meggett also emerged as a threat on third downs and special teams, catching 34 passes for 531 yards[71] and making the Pro Bowl.

1990: Champions again

The Giants won their first 10 games of the 1990 season, setting a record for the best start in the team's history.[72] The San Francisco 49ers also got off to a strong start, matching the Giants with their own 10–0 start. Although both teams lost their next game, their week 13 matchup was still eagerly anticipated. The Giants held the 49ers vaunted offense to only seven points. However, they scored only three, and suffered their second straight loss 7–3.[73]

The Giants won the following week against the Minnesota Vikings before facing the Buffalo Bills in their regular season home finale. Despite holding the Bills' powerful offense to 17 points and dominating them in time of possession,[74] the Giants lost 17–13, for their third loss in four games.[73] To compound the Giants' problems, Simms went down with an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the year. His replacement, Jeff Hostetler, was an unproven career backup who had only thrown 68 passes in his career.

The Giants won their final two games to secure a 13–3 record,[73] and the playoff bye as the NFC's second seed. They defeated the Chicago Bears, 31–3 in the divisional playoff round,[73] setting up a rematch with the 49ers in San Francisco for the NFC Championship. As they had in Week 12, the Giants defense held San Francisco's offense in check. In the game's waning moments Erik Howard caused a Roger Craig fumble, and Taylor recovered it.[75] The Giants drove down the field, and in the game's last play, Bahr hit a 42–yard field goal to defeat the 49ers 15–13.[76]

The win set up another rematch, this time in the Super Bowl against the Bills.

Super Bowl XXV

Super Bowl XXV took place amidst a background of war and patriotism.[28] The Persian Gulf War had begun less than two weeks previous and the nation rallied around the Super Bowl as a symbol of America. The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead,[77] however, the Bills scored the next 12 points. The Giants responded by running a nearly eight minute drive,[77] which culminated in a 14 yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to Stephen Baker.[78]

The Giants received the second half kickoff and mounted a record-setting drive. The opening drive ran for over nine minutes[77] (a Super Bowl record) and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Ottis Anderson, giving the Giants a 17–12 lead.[78] On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bills' Thurman Thomas ran for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Bills back in front, 19-17.[78] A few possessions later, the Giants drove down to the Bills 4 yard line and kicked a 21-yard field goal which gave them a 20–19 lead.[78] Both teams exchanged possessions before the Bills began one final drive, driving down to the Giants 30 yard line to set up what would be a potentially game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt by Scott Norwood. In what would become the game's signature moment, Norwood's attempt missed wide right, and the Giants won their second Super Bowl, 20–19.[78]

The Giants set a Super Bowl record for time of possession with a mark of 40:33,[28] and Ottis Anderson was named MVP of the game after rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown.[28]

End of an era

The 1990 season marked the end of an era. Shortly after the Super Bowl, defensive coordinator Bill Belichick left to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Parcells also decided to leave the Giants in the spring of 1991 to pursue a career in broadcasting. In addition, there was an ownership change in what had been one of the most stable front offices in professional sports. In February 1991, Tim Mara was diagnosed with Cancer,[13] and he sold his 50% interest in the team to Bob Tisch for a reported $80 million.[79] This marked the first time since their inception in 1925 that the Giants had not been wholly owned and controlled by the Mara family.[80]

After Parcells - The Handley era

Following the departure of Parcells and Belichick—who many people saw as the likely successor to Parcells—the surprise choice as head coach was running backs coach Ray Handley. Handley, however, was a somewhat reluctant coach, whose approach stood in stark contrast to the passionate and emotional style employed by Parcells.[81]

1991-1992

As with Parcells eight years previous, one of Handley's first major decisions involved replacing Phil Simms as starting quarterback. Jeff Hostetler, who had led the Giants to a win in the Super Bowl, was named the team's starter. Though the Giants won their opening game in an NFC Championship Game rematch against the San Francisco 49ers 16–14,[82] they lost three out of their next four games to drop to 2–3.[82] Though they rallied to finish the season 8–8,[82] and Simms reclaimed his starting job later in the year, the excitement that surrounded the Giants the previous year was gone. One of the few promising young players to emerge on the team was second–year running back Rodney Hampton, who led the Giants in rushing with 1,059 yards.[82]

Through the 1991 season it was clear that the team's core players on defense had aged quickly. This deterioration continued in 1992, when Lawrence Taylor ruptured his achilles tendon in the team's tenth game,[83] and the Giants promptly lost six out of their last seven games to finish the year 6–10.[84] The defense continued its descent, finishing 26th in the league in points allowed after leading the league in that category in 1990. Handley, who had become highly unpopular with both players and fans, was fired after the end of the regular season.[81]

Dan Reeves takes over

Handley was replaced by Dan Reeves, the successful former head coach of the Denver Broncos who led the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four years, one against the Giants. After his dismissal from the Broncos, Reeves took the unusual step of lobbying heavily for the job. After being publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates,[85] George Young was pleased that someone with Reeves's credentials clearly wanted the job.

1993-1996

The impact Reeves had was immediate. As Bill Parcells had done in 1984, Reeves named Phil Simms as his starting quarterback. The defense returned to form and allowed more than 20 points only once all season.[86] With two games to go, the Giants were 11–3[86] and appeared poised for an Eastern Division championship and a first round bye. However, they were upset by Phoenix, 17–6,[86] in the next to last week of the season, setting up a winner–take–all game against the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale. Though the Giants played well, it was Emmitt Smith's memorable performance with a separated shoulder that led the Cowboys to a 16–13 overtime win,[87] giving the Cowboys a sweep of the season series.[86] Despite the loss, the Giants made the playoffs as a Wild Card and won their first round matchup 17–10 over the Minnesota Vikings.[86] However, they were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers 44–3 in the second round.[86] Simms played in all 16 games, completing nearly 62% of his passes, and throwing for over 3,000 yards, and 15 touchdowns.[86] Simms, Hampton, offensive linemen Jumbo Elliot and center Bart Oates all made the Pro Bowl.[88] In addition, Reeves was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.[1] After the season, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms, the two biggest figures of the late 1980s and early 1990s Giants teams, retired.

Before the 1994 season Reeves named Dave Brown, who had been a No. 1 supplemental draft choice in 1992, as the Giants' new starting quarterback. Though Brown led the Giants to wins in their first three games of the season,[89] the Giants lost their next seven games.[89] They recovered and won their last six games of the season to finish 9–7.[89] During that stretch they never allowed more than 20 points in a game. Standout players included Rodney Hampton, who had his fourth straight 1,000 yard rushing season;[90] linebackers Jessie Armstead and Michael Brooks, and second-year defensive lineman Michael Strahan.

In 1995 the Giants regressed and finished the season with a 5–11 record.[4] Much of the blame for the Giants' poor performance was placed on Brown. Brown did not inspire fans' or teammates confidence and put up lackluster numbers. Though the Giants defense still played well, and Strahan and Armstead were emerging as elite defensive players, the Giants inspired tepid interest league-wide and sent no players to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.[91]

The Giants suffered through another poor season in 1996, finishing 6–10.[4] Though Brown again started every game for the Giants he turned in one of the worst seasons of any starting quarterback in the league, throwing for only 12 touchdowns against 20 interceptions.[92] The Giants offense was one of the worst in the NFL and, unlike in previous years, the defense was unable to carry the team. After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, Reeves was fired.[93]

Jim Fassel era

1997-1999

The Giants hired former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Jim Fassel as their head coach before the 1997 season. With the team's offense floundering once again and a 2-3 record after five games, Fassel turned to inexperienced Danny Kanell as the starting quarterback over Brown. The Giants experienced a resurgent season, finishing 10–5–1, and winning the NFC East.[94] They hosted a first–round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Giants led the Vikings for most of the game, including 22-13 in the fourth quarter, but following a muffed onsides kickoff, the Vikings booted a last second field goal to win, 23–22.[94] Following the season George Young left the Giants. He was replaced by Ernie Accorsi, a veteran General Manager who had successful stints building the Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns.[95]

The Giants regressed to an 8–8 record in 1998.[4] The strength of the team during the season was their defense, which featured two Pro Bowlers in Armstead and Strahan. However, the offense continued to struggle. Dave Brown had been released before the season and Danny Kanell regressed from his solid play of 1997, so Fassel turned to journeyman QB Kent Graham. As Kanell had done the year before, Graham ignited the offense and the Giants won five of their last six contests, hilighted by a week fourteen, last second upset of the previously undefeated Broncos at Giants Stadium. Before the 1999 season, the Giants signed quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins had been the first–ever draft choice of the Carolina Panthers and in his second season led them to the NFC Championship game. However, problems with alcohol abuse, conflicts with his teammates, and questions about his character led to his release from the Panthers. Although many people seriously questioned the wisdom of Accorsi and the Giants giving Collins a $16.9 million contract,[96] Accorsi was confident in Collins abilities.[96]

In 1999, Tiki Barber emerged as a solid 3rd down, receiving running back, catching 66 passes.[97] Amani Toomer also had a breakout season, accumulating over 1100 yards receiving and six touchdowns,[97] and Ike Hilliard finished just shy of 1000 yards receiving.[97] The defense rebounded, ranking 11th in the league, and Armstead and Strahan again were selected to the Pro Bowl. Though the Giants stood at 7–6 and poised for a playoff berth,[97] they lost their final three games to miss the playoffs.[97]

2000: Super Bowl season

The 2000 season was considered a make-or-break year for Fassel. The conventional wisdom was that Fassel needed to have a strong year and a playoff appearance to save his job. After two back-to-back losses at home against the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, the Giants fell to 7–4[98] and their playoff prospects were in question. At a press conference following the Giants' loss to Detroit, Fassel guaranteed that "[t]his team is going to the playoffs."[99] The Giants responded, winning the next week's game against Arizona and the rest of their regular season games to finish the season 12–4[98] and earn a bye as the NFC's top seed.

The Giants won their first playoff game against the Eagles 20–10, and then defeated the Vikings 41–0 in the NFC Championship game.[98] They advanced to play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. Though the Giants kept the game close early, and went into halftime down only 10–0,[100] the Ravens dominated the second half. The Ravens defense harassed Collins all game long, and he had one of the worst games in Super Bowl history. Collins completed only 15 of 39 passes for 112 yards and four interceptions, and the Ravens won the game 34–7.[100] The Giants only score came on a Ron Dixon kickoff return for a touchdown. On the very next kickoff, the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis also returned a kickoff for a score.[100]

2001–2003

The Giants were unable to build on their Super Bowl success in 2001, finishing the season 7–9[101] and out of the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Kerry Collins continued to have success as the Giants' starting quarterback, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 19 TDs.[101] In addition, Strahan set an NFL record by recording 22.5 sacks during the season.[102] In 2002, Collins had one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for over 4,000 yards,[103] and Tiki Barber rushed for 1,386 yards and caught 69 passes for 597 yards.[103] Rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey contributed 74 catches for 894 yards.[103] The Giants started the season 6-6, but won their last four games to finish 10–6 and qualify for the playoffs.[103]

In their first round playoff game they built a 38–14 lead against the 49ers.[104] However, the 49ers rallied, scoring a field goal and three touchdowns which gave them a 39–38 lead with a minute left in the game. Collins then drove the Giants down to the 49ers 23-yard line with six seconds to play, setting up what would be a 41-yard potentially game winning field goal attempt.[104] However, 40-year old long snapper Trey Junkin—who had just been signed for this playoff game—snapped the ball low and punter Matt Allen could not spot the ball properly for the attempt.[104] Allen picked the ball up and threw an unsuccessful pass downfield to offensive lineman Rich Seubert as time expired and the Giants lost 39–38.[104]

The Giants started the 2003 season 4–4,[105] but lost their final eight games.[105] With two games remaining in the season, Fassell requested a meeting with team management, and asked, if he was to be fired, that they do so now rather than wait until the end of the season.[106] Management complied with his request, and formally fired Fassel on (or around) December 17, 2003. However, they let him coach the final two games of the season.[106]

Eli Manning era: 2004-Present

Coming out of Ole Miss in 2004 Eli Manning was the prized draft pick in the 2004 NFL draft.

Eli Manning arrives

After a brief search, Accorsi hired former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin to be the Giants new Head Coach. Coughlin was considered a hard-nosed disciplinarian, in stark contrast to the departed Fassel whose lenient style was often criticized in his last seasons with the club.[107] Before the season, Accorsi coveted quarterback Eli Manning, brother of Peyton and son of Archie, in the 2004 NFL Draft. Manning, who had indicated before the draft that he did not want to play for the Chargers (who drafted him #1 overall),[108] forced a trade to the Giants.[108] After the trade, Kerry Collins expressed his displeasure with the Giant's drafting a new franchise quarterback and was released. The team later signed veteran quarterback Kurt Warner. The plan was for Warner to serve as the starting quarterback in the interim, while Manning was groomed to ultimately take over the starting job.[109]

2004

After losing to the Eagles in the 2004 season opener, the Giants, with Warner at quarterback, won five of their next six games to go 5–2.[110] They subsequently lost two close games, to the Bears and Cardinals, to drop to 5–4.[110] Coughlin then announced that Manning would be the starter for the rest of the season. Manning struggled in his first four starts, and the Giants did not score more than 14 points in any game.[110] However, Manning performed better in narrow losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants won their final game of the season against rival Dallas, to finish the season 6–10.[20] A top performer for the Giants in 2004 was Tiki Barber who established a personal career high in rushing yardage with 1,518 yards; he also had 52 catches and a total of 15 touchdowns—13 rushing, and two receiving.[110]

Wellington Mara's gravesite

2005: NFC East champions again

The Giants started 4–2 in 2005,[111] then on October 25, Giants patriarch Wellington Mara died after a brief illness at the age of 89.[112] Mara had been involved with the Giants since he was nine years old, when he was a ball boy for the Giants. Except a tour of duty in the military during World War II, Mara spent his entire adult life with the Giants.[112] The Giants honored Mara by shutting out their NFC East Rival Washington Redskins 36–0 on October 30.[111] Just twenty days after Mara's death, on November 15, the other Giants Executive Officer Bob Tisch died at the age of 79. The New York Giants honored Tisch by defeating fellow NFC East Rival Philadelphia Eagles 27–17 on November 20.[111] On December 17, 2005, in their 27–17 home victory against the Kansas City Chiefs,[111] Tiki Barber set a new team single game rushing yard record with 220 yards.[113] The Giants finished 11–5, and hosted the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs but were shut-out 23-0.[111]

Tiki Barber set Giants single season and single game rushing records in 2005

On September 29, 2005, the Giants, Jets, and New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, announced an agreement to build a new stadium, which is projected to be ready for the 2009 season.

2006

The Giants regressed to an 8–8 season in 2006.[20] The season featured inconsistent play, criticism of the coaching by the media and players, and inconsistent play from Manning.[114] The Giants won five consecutive games following a 1–2 start[115] to gain a two-game advantage in the NFC Eastern Division, but then key injuries to the offense and defense took their toll.[20] Frustrations with the lack of production and with head coach Tom Coughlin surfaced as the Giants lost six of seven games in the second half the season.[115] One of the team's most disappointing losses was a 24–21 defeat to Tennessee, in which the team surrendered a 21-point fourth-quarter advantage. Following a season-ending win at Washington, the Giants claimed a wildcard berth in the NFC playoffs, but were defeated in the first round by Philadelphia.[115]

Tiki Barber led the Giants with 1,662 yards rushing and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage,[116] Eli Manning threw for 3,244 yards and 24 touchdowns and Jeremy Shockey led the team in receptions.[117] Defensively the team struggled all season long with pass defense (28th in the league) and with gaining a consistent pass rush (tied for 23rd in the league).[118]

2007: Third Super Bowl title

In January 2007, defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, who was criticized for soft defensive schemes and diminished use of blitzing (New York's defense finished 26th overall in 2006), was fired. He was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who had worked under Eagles' defensive coordinator Jim Johnson for eight seasons. Spagnuolo, in contrast to Lewis, places a heavy emphasis on multiple blitz packages and putting pressure on the quarterback.

Coming into the 2007 season, most experts expected the Giants to miss the playoffs. It appeared that the aforementioned prediction would be correct after New York dropped its first two games. The Giants won their first game of the season in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins. After trailing 17-3 at halftime, New York scored three second-half touchdowns to take the lead, and sealed the victory with a goal-line stand in the final seconds of the match. The Giants won their next five games, including a 13-10 defeat of the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, to improve to 6-2 on the season. After returning to the United States, New York dropped its next three home games while winning its next three road games. Despite having secured the top wild-card spot the week before, Coughlin elected to play, rather than rest, his starters and attempt to beat the 15-0 New England Patriots in the finale to the regular season. Big Blue fell in a very close game, by a final score of 38-35, as New England completed the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history. The Giants finished the regular season 10-6. Because they lost just one away game while going 3-5 in the Meadowlands, they earned the moniker "Road Warriors". Still, however, Eli Manning was inconsistent, throwing a whopping 20 interceptions, tied with two other quarterbacks for the most picks that year.

After beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round of the postseason, New York traveled to Texas Stadium to play the top-seeded Cowboys, who had beaten the Giants twice during the regular season. New York stunned the home crowd, 21-17, avenging the regular-season sweep and advancing to its first Conference Title game since 2000. Cornerback R.W. McQuarters intercepted a pass from Dallas quarterback Tony Romo in the end zone with nine seconds remaining, preserving the upset. The following week, Big Blue took on the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. Playing in sub-zero weather, and with the score tied, 20-20, in the fourth quarter, Giants' kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals, including a 36-yarder as time expired that would have given New York the win in regulation. Instead, the game went into overtime. The Packers won the coin toss and received the kickoff, but on their second play from scrimmage, cornerback Corey Webster intercepted a pass by veteran passer Brett Favre, setting up a 47-yard attempt for Tynes. Despite missing two shorter field goals in regulation, Tynes connected on this attempt, sending New York to its fourth Super Bowl. The incredible postseason run was characterized by the sudden maturation of Eli Manning, who threw four touchdowns and zero picks.

The Giants entered Super Bowl XLII as 12.5-point underdogs to the Patriots, who were attempting to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl after completing an undefeated regular season. In a game that was largely a defensive struggle, as the fourth quarter opened with New England holding a 7-3 lead. New York pulled out in front with just over eleven minutes remaining in the period when Manning tossed a touchdown pass to David Tyree. However, New England retook the lead with just 2:42 left, when NFL MVP Tom Brady found a wide-open Randy Moss in the end zone. After starting their next drive at their own 17-yard line and needing a touchdown, the Giants converted on fourth-and-one with a two-yard plunge by Brandon Jacobs. Three plays later, they found themselves facing third-and-five on their own 44-yard line with just 1:15 remaining. After spinning away from a potential sack, Manning lobbed a high pass downfield for Tyree. However, Tyree managed to make a leaping catch, and maintained possession by pinning the ball against the back of his helmet with one hand as he fell to the ground. The 32-yard play is now considered one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. Four plays later, Manning threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with thirty-five second remaining. After the Patriots went four-and-out, New York ran out the clock to preserve its third Super Bowl title. Eli Manning, despite playing an unspectacular game (completing less than sixty percent of his pass attempts while throwing two touchdowns and an interception) was named the game's Most Valuable Player. The 2007 Giants became the fifth wild-card team to win the Super Bowl.

2008

In spite of the loss of their two starting defensive ends (the retirement of veteran Michael Strahan and a season-ending injury to rising star Osi Umenyiora), the Giants started out the 2008 season hot, winning ten of their first eleven games. Meanwhile, on November 28, receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself with a handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants while at a Manhattan nightclub. Although the injury was not life-threatening, Burress turned himself in to police to face illegal charges of possessing a handgun. On December 2, Burress posted bail of $100,000, and later in the day, he was suspended for the remainder of the season. After Burress' suspension, Big Blue lost back-to-back games for the first time since the beginning of the 2007 season, to division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. However, the Giants defeated the Carolina Panthers at home in a thrilling overtime game to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Despite finishing the regular season at 12-4, their best mark since 2000, New York was eliminated in the divisional round by the Eagles.

See also

Notes

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  112. ^ a b Goldstein, Richard. Wellington Mara, the Patriarch of the N.F.L., Dies at 89, The New York Times, October 26, 2005, accessed April 17, 2007.
  113. ^ Associated Press. Tiki torches Chiefs in Giants' win, espn.com, December 17, 2005, accessed March 21, 2007.
  114. ^ Branch, John. PRO FOOTBALL; After All That Turmoil, the Giants Now Seem Likely to Stay the Course, The New York Times, January 14, 2007, accessed March 22, 2008.
  115. ^ a b c 2006 New York Giants Schedule, espn.com, accessed March 21, 2007.
  116. ^ Tiki Barber, espn.com, accessed March 21, 2007.
  117. ^ 2006 New York Giants player stats, espn.com, accessed March 21, 2007.
  118. ^ espn.com, NFL Team Passing Stats: 2006, accessed May 24, 2007.
    * espn.com, NFL Team Sacks Stats: 2006 , accessed May 24, 2007.

External links


The history of the New York Giants, an American football team which currently plays in the NFL's National Football Conference, comprises more than 80 seasons. The Giants were founded in 1925 by original owner Tim Mara in the then five-year-old NFL. Mara owned the team until his death in 1959, when it was passed on to his sons Wellington and Jack. During their history the Giants have acquired seven NFL championships, three of which came in Super Bowls.

In just its third season, the team finished with the best record in the league at 11–1–1 and was awarded the NFL title. In a fourteen year period beginning in 1933, the Giants qualified to play in the NFL championship game eight times, winning twice. They did not win another league title until 1956, aided by several future Pro Football Hall of Fame players such as running back Frank Gifford, linebacker Sam Huff, and offensive tackle Roosevelt Brown. From 1958 to 1963, the Giants played in the NFL championship game five out of those six years, but failed to win. The 1958 NFL Championship game, in which they lost 23–17 in overtime to the Baltimore Colts, is widely credited with increasing the popularity of the NFL in the United States.

The Giants registered only two winning seasons from 1964 to 1980 and were unable to advance to the playoffs. But from 1981 to 1990, the team qualified for the postseason seven times in ten seasons. During that period, they won Super Bowl XXI (1987) and Super Bowl XXV (1991). The team's success during the 1980s was aided by head coach Bill Parcells, quarterback Phil Simms, and Hall of Fame linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson. The Giants struggled throughout much of the 1990s as Parcells left the team and players such as Simms and Taylor declined and eventually retired. They returned to the Super Bowl in 2001, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and in the 2007 season, the Giants upset the heavily favored New England Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.

File:GaintsXP.jpg
This article or section is part of
the New York Giants history
series.
History of the New York Giants
History of the New York Giants (1925–1978)
History of the New York Giants (1979–1993)
History of the New York Giants (1994–present)
Financial history of the New York Giants

Contents

Birth and success: 1925-1930

The Giants were founded in 1925 by original owner Tim Mara with an investment of $500.[1] Legally named "New York Football Giants" to distinguish themselves from the baseball team of the same name, they became one of the first teams of the then five-year old NFL. The Giants played their first game against All New Britain in New Britain, Connecticut, on October 5, 1925.[2][3]

Although the Giants were successful on the field in their first season, going 8–4,[4] their financial status was a different story. Overshadowed by baseball, boxing, and college football, professional football was not a popular sport in 1925. The Giants were in dire financial straits until the eleventh game of the season when Red Grange and the Chicago Bears came to town attracting over 73,000 fans.[5] This gave the Giants a much needed influx of revenue, and perhaps altered the history of the franchise.[6][7]

The 1927 season was a very successful one for the Giants, who finished 11–1–1.[8] Their defense posted 10 shutouts in 13 games and was the best in the league.[9] New coach Earl Potteiger led the team into a game against the Chicago Bears late in the season with first place on the line. The Giants won 13–7 in what Steve Owen called, "the toughest, roughest football game I ever played."[10] From then on it was an easy trip to the championship,[1] as they had a two game lead over the Bears by virtue of their head to head tiebreaker (note: the championship was determined by record in that era; it was not until 1933 that the NFL had a championship game).

Following a disappointing 4–7–2[4] 1928 season, Potteiger was out and Roy Andrews in as coach. Before the 1929 season owner Tim Mara purchased the entire squad of the Detroit Wolverines, including star quarterback Benny Friedman, a team which had finished in third place the year before.[11] The rosters of the two teams were combined under the Giants name and this led to immediate improvement as the Giants record soared to 13–1–1.[4] However, their only loss occurred in a November 20–6 game to the Green Bay Packers who by virtue of this win, and their 12–0–1 record, won the NFL title.[12] Following the season, Mara transferred ownership over to his two sons to insulate the team from creditors. At the time Jack was just 22, and Wellington only 14.[13]

In 1930, there were still many who questioned the quality of the professional game, claiming the college "amateurs" played with more intensity.[14] In December 1930, the Giants played a team of Notre Dame All Stars at the Polo Grounds to raise money for the unemployed of New York City. It was also an opportunity to establish the superiority of the pro game. Knute Rockne reassembled his Four Horsemen along with the stars of his 1930 Championship squad and told them to score early, then defend. But from the beginning it was a one-sided contest, with Benny Friedman running for two Giant touchdowns and Hap Moran passing for another. Notre Dame failed to score. When it was all over, Coach Rockne told his team, '"[t]hat was the greatest football machine I ever saw. I am glad none of you got hurt."[15] The game raised $100,000 for the homeless, and is often credited with establishing the legitimacy of the professional game.[14]

The Steve Owen era: 1931-1953

The Giants hired All-Pro offensive tackle[16] Steve Owen to be their new player-head coach prior to the 1931 season. He coached the team for the next 23 years, including two NFL championships, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.[17] Owen never had a contract with the Mara family, he coached his entire tenure on a handshake basis.[18]

In 1934, the team defeated the previously unbeaten Chicago Bears 30–13 at the Polo Grounds on an icy field with temperatures peaking at 25 degrees. Before the game, team treasurer John Mara talked with coach Steve Owen and captain Ray Flaherty about the field conditions. Flaherty suggested the Giants wear sneakers on the frozen field, as he had played in a game under similar circumstances at Gonzaga and the sneakers proved to be effective.[19] Mara dispatched equipment manager Abe Cohen to get as many sneakers as he could get.[20] Due to traffic and the inability to find any athletic goods stores open on Sunday, Cohen was unable to return before the game started and the Giants, wearing conventional footwear, trailed 10 to 3 at the end of the first half.[1] Realizing time was short, Cohen went to Manhattan College[20]—where he had a key to the equipment and locker rooms—and returned to the Polo Grounds at halftime with nine pairs of basketball sneakers, saying that "nine pairs was all I could get." Players donned the sneakers and the Giants, after allowing the Bears another field goal late in the third period, would respond with 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win their first NFL Championship game. The game would come to be known as "The Sneakers Game",[1] and the 27 points the Giants scored in the fourth quarter set a single–quarter championship game scoring record that stood for decades. After the game offensive tackle Len Grant expressed his sincere gratitude by stating simply "God bless Abe Cohen."[21]

The Giants were unable to repeat as champions in 1935 as they fell to the Lions 26–7 in the NFL Championship game.[8] The Lion staked a 13–0 lead before the Giants were able to cut the lead to 13–7 in the third quarter. However, the Lions defense helped their team score two late touchdowns with a blocked punt and an interception.[8]

The Giants were so successful from the latter half of the 1930s until the United States entry into World War II, that according to one publication, "[f]rom 1936 to 1941 the New York Giants annually fielded a collection of NFL all-stars."[22] They added their third NFL championship in 1938 with a 23–17 win over the Green Bay Packers.[8] The game was a tightly contested affair with the Giants having ridden two blocked Green Bay punts to an early lead, before the Packers came back to take a 17–16 lead. However, in the fourth quarter Ed Danowski threw a 23–yard touchdown pass to Hank Soar, and the Giants defense held the Packers scoreless.[8]

The Giants made the championship game again the next year, and lost in a rematch to the Packers 31–16.[8] They also advanced to the championship game in 1941, losing to the Bears 37–9.[23] Both games were close early before their respective opponents went on an offensive surge to break the game open late.[8] In 1944 the Giants reached the championship game where they faced the Green Bay Packers for the third time in ten seasons. They lost again, this time 14–7 as Ted Fritsch scored two touchdowns and the Packers defense was able to hold on to the lead despite a fourth quarter touchdown by the Giants.[8] By 1946, Mara had given over complete control of the team to his two sons. Jack controlled the business aspects, while Wellington controlled the on-field operations.[13] In 1946, the Giants again reached the Championship game, for the eighth time in 14 seasons, where they were beaten by the Sid Luckman led Bears 24–14.[8]

Before the 1948 season, the Giants signed defensive back Emlen Tunnell, who became the first African American player in team history,[24] and who would later become the first African American inducted into the Hall of Fame.[25] They struggled from 1947 to 1949, never finishing above .500,[4] but came back with a solid 10–2 record in 1950.[4] However, they lost to the Cleveland Browns, who they had beaten twice in the regular season, 8–3 in the 1950 divisional playoff game.[26] In 1949, halfback Gene "Choo-Choo" Roberts scored a league high 17 touchdowns,[27] and in 1950 he set a team record that would stand for over 50 years, when he rushed for 218 yards on November 12.[28]

Jim Lee Howell and the Hall of Famers: 1954-1958

Following the 1953 season, an important transition in Giants history occurred. After being the team's coach for 23 years, Steve Owen was fired by Wellington and Jack Mara, and replaced by Jim Lee Howell.[29] Wellington later described the move by calling it "the hardest decision I'd ever made".[29] The Giants went 7–5 in 1954 under Howell.[4] In their thirty-first and final season playing their home games at the Polo Grounds in 1955, they went 5–1–1 over their final seven games to finish 6–5–1.[30] They were led by rejuvenated running back Frank Gifford who played the entire season solely on offense for the first time in several years.[31]

The Giants won their fourth NFL Championship in 1956. Playing their home games at Yankee Stadium for the first time, the Giants won the Eastern Division with an 8–3–1 record.[4] In the NFL Championship Game on an icy field against the Chicago Bears, the Giants wore sneakers as they had 22 years previous. They dominated the Bears, winning 47–7. The 1956 Giants featured a number of future Hall of Fame players, including Gifford, Sam Huff and Roosevelt Brown. Equally notable, the team featured as its coordinators future Hall of Fame head coaches Tom Landry (defense) and Vince Lombardi (offense).

The Greatest Game Ever Played: 1958

The Giants had another successful year in 1958. They tied for the Eastern Division regular season title with a 9–3 record by defeating the Cleveland Browns 13-10 on the last day of the regular season on a last-second 49-yard field goal by Pat Summeral and beat the Browns again a week later in a one game playoff to determine the division winner.[32] They advanced to play the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game.[33] This game, which would become known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played", is considered a watershed event in the history of the NFL and marked the beginning of the rise of football into the dominant sport in the American market.[34] The game itself was highly competitive. The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead; however the Colts scored two touchdowns to take a 14–3 lead at halftime.[35]

A defensive stop by the Giants in the third quarter was a turning point of the game. The Giants, who had trouble mounting many drives to that point, mounted a 95-yard drive after the stop which culminated in a touchdown, making the score 14-10.[35] The Giants then drove again, with quarterback Charley Conerly throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Frank Gifford to take the lead, 17–14.[36]

The Colts put together one last drive with less than two minutes left. The standout player was wide receiver Raymond Berry, who caught three passes for 62 yards,[35] the last one for 22 yards to the Giant 13-yard line. With seven seconds left in regulation, Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal to tie the score 17–17, sending a game to overtime for the first time in NFL history.[36]

After winning the coin toss and receiving the ball, the Giants offense stalled and was forced to punt. From their own 20, the Colts drove the ball down the field, with Alan Ameche finally scoring from the one yard line to give the championship to the Colts, 23–17.[35]

More success: 1959-1963

The Giants success continued in the 1960s. They finished 9–3 in 1959 and faced the Colts in a championship game rematch.[37] They lost again, this time in a far less dramatic game, 31–16.[37] Led by quarterback Y. A. Tittle and head coach Allie Sherman, the Giants won three consecutive Eastern Division titles from 1961–1963. In 1961 they were beaten by the Packers, 37–0.[33] In 1962, they went into the championship game with a league best 12–2 record,[4] and a nine–game winning streak; but lost to the Packers again, 16–7.[33]

They finished with an 11–3 record in 1963, and faced the Bears in the NFL championship game. On an icy field in Chicago, the Giants' defense played well, but the Bears newly invented zone defense intercepted Tittle five times, and battered him throughout the game.[33] Sherman resisted calls from players such as linebacker Sam Huff to replace the struggling Tittle.[38] The Giants defense held the Bears in check, but they lost 14–10, their third straight NFL Championship Game defeat.[33]

The Giants run of six championship game appearances in eight years combined with their large market location translated into financial success. By the early 1960s, the Giants were receiving $175,000 a game under the NFL's television contract with CBS—four times as much as small-market Green Bay, which was one of the most successful teams of the era.[13] However, in the league's new contract, the Maras convinced the other owners that it would be in the best interest of the NFL to share television revenue equally; a practice which is still current, and is credited with strengthening the league as a whole.

Wilderness years begin: 1964–1972

After the 1963 season, the team fell apart quickly. A roster filled with mostly older veterans plus some bad personnel moves (the dispatching of Rosey Grier, Sam Huff and Don Chandler for instance) lead to a quick exit from the top of the standings. They finished 2–10–2 in 1964,[4] beginning an 18-season playoff drought. The team's worst won-lost record ever did come with a silver lining, 1965's number one draft choice. Faced with a selection board that featured such names as Dick Butkis, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath, Craig Morton and Verlon Biggs, the Giants chose Auburn runner Tucker Fredrickson.

The seasons of 1964 through 1980 in team history have often been referred to as "the wilderness years" for several reasons: 1) The franchise quickly lost its status as an elite N.F.L. team by posting only two winning, against twelve losing and three .500 seasons during this span. 2) The Giants became a "team of nomads," calling four different stadiums home in the 70's (Yankee Stadium, The Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium, and finally Giants Stadium in 1976). 3) The Giants tried several head coach and quarterback combination during this time, but with almost no success (beginning in 1964 though the 1983 season no coach or starting QB could boast even a .500 record).[13] The team rebounded with a 7–7 record in 1965,[4] (mostly due to the acquisition of QB Earl Morall during the off season) before compiling a league-worst 1–12–1 record, and allowing over 500 points on defense in 1966.[39] This season also included a 72–41 loss to the rival Washington Redskins at D.C. Stadium in the highest-scoring game in league history.[40] Interest in the team was waning rapidly, especially with the rapid rise of the New York Jets, with their wide-open style of play and charismatic quarterback Joe Namath.

The Giants acquired quarterback Fran Tarkenton from the Minnesota Vikings before the 1967 season for a bundle of high-round draft choices and quickly showed improvement. They finished 7–7 in 1967 and in 1968 they had a 7-3 record through ten games and trailed division leader Dallas by just one game.[4] Unfortunately, New York dropped its final four games to again finish at 7–7. Notably, in 1968, one of Tarkenton's favorite targets, wide receiver Homer Jones made the Pro Bowl. Through the 2007 season, no other Giants receiver has been selected for the Pro Bowl.[41] As of the completion of the 2008 season, Jones' average of 22.3 yards-per-reception for his career is still an N.F.L. record.

During the 1969 preseason, the Giants lost their first meeting with the Jets, 37–14, at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[42] Following the game, Wellington Mara fired coach Allie Sherman[43] and replaced him with former Giants fullback Alex Webster. On opening day of the 1969 regular season, Tarkenton led the Giants to a 24–23 victory over his former team, the Vikings, by throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The Giants finished 6–8 in the 1969 season.[4] The Giants showed marked improvement in 1970. After an 0–3 start they rebounded to finish 9–5,[44] narrowly missing the playoffs by losing their final game to the Los Angeles Rams. Tarkenton had one of his best seasons as a Giant and made his fourth straight Pro Bowl. Additionally, running back Ron Johnson also made the Pro Bowl and ran for 1,027 yards,[44] becoming the first Giant to gain 1,000 yards rushing in a season.[45]

In 1971, Johnson missed most of the season with a knee injury and the Giants dropped to 4–10,[4] resulting in Tarkenton being traded back to the Vikings. The Giants rallied somewhat the following season to finish 8–6,[4] behind veteran journeyman quarterback Norm Snead (acquired in the trade for Tarkenton), who led the league in completion percentage and had his best season.[46] Other stand-outs and Pro Bowl selections that year were running back Johnson who rushed for 1,182 yards (breaking his own team record) and caught 45 passes, tight end Bob Tucker who followed up his 1971 N.F.C. leading 59 catch season with 55 in '72, and defensive stars Jack Gregory and John Mendenhall. The Giants boasted the highest ranked (by yards) offense in the N.F.C. and after a season finishing 23-3 win at Dallas to secure their second winning campaign in three years, the future looked bright. After the 1972 season however, the Giants would suffer the flat-out worst prolonged stretches in their history.

Leaving New York: 1973–1978

Desiring their own home stadium, in 1973 the Giants reached an agreement with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to play their home games at a new, state-of-the-art, dedicated football stadium.[47] The stadium, which would be known as Giants Stadium, was to be built at a new sports complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey.[47]

As the complex was being built, and their current home at Yankee Stadium was being renovated, they would be without a home for three years. Their final full season at Yankee Stadium was 1972. After playing their first two games there in 1973, the Giants played the rest of their home games in 1973, as well as all of their home games in 1974, at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[48] This was done primarily out of a desire to have their own home field, as opposed to having to share Shea Stadium with the Jets.[49] However, between access problems, neighborhood issues, the fact that the Yale Bowl was not ideally suited for pro football (the stadium did not have lights, nor does it have lights today), the age of the stadium (it was built in 1914) and the lack of modern amenities, the Giants reconsidered their decision and ultimately agreed to share Shea Stadium with the Jets for the 1975 season.[48] The Giants left the Yale Bowl after losing all seven home games played there in the 1974 season and compiling a home record of 1–11 over that two year stretch.[50]

One of the bright spots in this era was tight end Bob Tucker who, from 1970 through 1977 was one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Tucker amassed 327 receptions, 4322 yards and 22 touchdowns during his years as a Giant.

"; Herman Edwards recovers Joe Pisarcik's fumble.]] Despite their new home and heightened fan interest, the Giants still played subpar in 1976 and 1977. In 1978, the Giants started the year 5–6[51] and played the Philadelphia Eagles at home with a chance to solidify their playoff prospects. However, the season imploded on November 19, 1978, in one of the most improbable finishes in NFL history. The Giants were leading 17–12 and had possession of the ball with only 30 seconds left.[52] They had only to kneel the ball to end the game, as the Eagles had no time outs.[52] However, instead of kneeling the ball, offensive coordinator Bob Gibson ordered Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik to hand the ball off to fullback Larry Csonka. Csonka was unprepared to receive the handoff, and the ball rolled off his hip and bounced free.[52] Eagles safety Herman Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran, untouched, for a score, giving the Eagles an improbable 19–17 victory.[52] This play is referred to as "The Miracle in the Meadowlands" among Eagles fans, and "The Fumble" among Giants fans.

In the aftermath of the defeat, Gibson was fired, and the Giants lost three out of their last four games[51] to finish out of the playoffs for the 15th straight season, leading them to let coach John McVay go as well. However, following the 1978 season came the steps that would, in time, lead the Giants back to the pinnacle of the NFL.

Building a champion: 1979-1985

The Giants decided to hire a General Manager for the first time in franchise history following the 1978 season.[53] However, the search grew contentious and severely fractured the relationship between owners Wellington and Tim Mara. Finally, the Maras asked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to step in with a recommendation.[53] Rozelle recommended George Young,[54] who worked in personnel for the Miami Dolphins and had been an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts. Young was hired; however the rift between the Maras lasted for several years.[55]

Young hired Ray Perkins as head coach, and drafted unknown quarterback Phil Simms from Morehead State University to the surprise of many.[56] The Giants continued to struggle, finishing 6–10 in 1979 and 4–12 in 1980.[4] With the second overall draft pick in the 1981 draft, the Giants drafted linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The impact that Taylor had on the Giants' defense was immediate.[57] He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming to date the only rookie to ever win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. His arrival raised the Giants linebacker corps—which already included future Hall of Famer Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt—into one of the NFL's best. It also predicated the Giants transformation from allowing 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981.[57] The Giants went 9–7,[58] and defeated the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs 27–21.[58] They then lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers 38–24.[58]

has been home to the Giants since 1976.]]

In the strike shortened 1982 season, the Giants lost their first two games before the strike and the first game upon returning.[59] They won their next three games to even their record at 3–3.[59] However, Coach Perkins announced that he was leaving to take the head coaching job at Alabama after the season and the team promptly went out and lost the next two contests, effectively knocking themselves out of the playoffs (despite defeating the Eagles in the season finale to go 4-5).[59] Lawrence Taylor remained a bright spot, again winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Perkins left the Giants after the 1982 season to become head coach of the University of Alabama. Young chose Bill Parcells, the Giants' defensive coordinator, as the team's new head coach.

Parcells first year proved difficult. In his first major decision, he selected Brunner over Simms at quarterback. At first it appeared Parcells' decision was justified, especially after a 27–3 Monday night victory over the Green Bay Packers gave the Giants a 2–2 record after four games.[60] However, the Giants then lost ten of their final 12 games.[60] Parcells ignored fans' protests and stuck with Brunner for most of the year, although Jeff Rutledge saw considerable late-season action.[61] In a week six game against the Eagles, he brought Simms back to thunderous fan applause, only to see him suffer a season–ending hand injury. Despite their record the Giants were competitive in many of their losses and Young ignored calls to fire Parcells.

Simms won the starting job back for the 1984 season and Brunner was traded. The Giants experienced a resurgence, highlighted by a second half stretch where they won five out of six games.[62] Despite losing their last two games to finish 9–7 they still made the playoffs. In the first round, they defeated the highly favored Los Angeles Rams 16–13 on the road before losing, 21–10, to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.[62] Simms threw for 4,044 yards,[62] making him the first Giant to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.

The Giants continued their success by going 10–6 in 1985.[63] The defense carried the team and led the NFL in sacks with 68.[64] They won their first round playoff game, 17–3 over the defending champion 49ers.[64] In the divisional playoffs they were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears 21–0.[63] Many of the players that would play key roles on the Giants Super Bowl teams emerged in 1985. Joe Morris became the feature back, running for 1,338 yards, scoring 21 touchdowns[63] and making the Pro Bowl. Second year receiver Lionel Manuel led the Giants with 49 catches,[63] and tight end Mark Bavaro, a rookie, had 37 catches.[63] Simms threw every pass for the Giants for the second consecutive season, and passed for over 3,800 yards.[63] Defensive end Leonard Marshall recorded 15.5 sacks, and Taylor added 13.[63]

Back on top: 1986-1990

1986: Super Bowl Champions

The Giants entered the 1986 season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.[65] They had their first test in a Monday Night game against the defending Eastern division champion Dallas Cowboys. They lost at Texas Stadium 31–28. However, they won their next 5 in a row and 14 of their last 15, to finish the season with a 14–2 record. One of the signature plays of the season occurred during a Monday Night game in December. Here is a description of the play taken from a Monday Night Football broadcast in 2005: "On Dec. 1 1986...with the Giants trailing, (Mark) Bavaro catches an innocent pass from Phil Simms over the middle. It takes nearly seven 49ers defenders to finally drag him down, some of which are carried for almost 20 yards, including future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Bavaro’s inspiring play jump starts the Giants, who win the game and eventually the Super Bowl."[66]

The Giants defense allowed only 236 points during the season, second fewest in the NFL[67] and Taylor set a single–season team record with 20.5 sacks. In addition to winning an unprecedented third Defensive Player of the Year Award, Taylor was also named NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) by the Associated Press.[68]

The Giants hosted the 49ers in the Divisional Playoffs and won easily, 49–3.[69] They then shut out the Redskins 17–0 in the NFC Championship Game at Giants Stadium.[69] The Giants advanced to play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI in front of 101,063 fans at the Rose Bowl.[33] After falling behind 10–9 at halftime,[70] the Giants defeated the Broncos 39–20.[69] Simms was named MVP after completing 22 of 25 (88%) of his passes—a Super Bowl record.[33]

1987-1989

The Giants lost their first two games before the 1987 players strike. Unlike the players strike five years previous, NFL owners made a decision to go forward with replacement players. The Giants lost all three replacement games, putting their record at 0–5 before the strike was over and the regular players returned.[71] Though the Giants went 6–4 over their final 10 games, they finished out of the playoffs at 6–9.[71] Bright spots for the season included tight end Mark Bavaro, who led the team in catches with 55, and three of the Giants linebackers making the Pro Bowl—Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks and Harry Carson.[72]

The Giants 1988 season got off to a rough start with an offseason scandal involving Taylor. Taylor had abused cocaine violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and was suspended for the first four games of the season.[73] Taylor's over the edge lifestyle was becoming an increasing concern for fans and team officials. However after his return Taylor played at his normal All-Pro level, recording 15.5 sacks in 12 games. The intense worry and scrutiny would prove to be for naught as for the rest of his career Taylor avoided suspension and passed his drug tests.

Predictably, the Giants started the season struggling. Taylor's absence, combined with a difficult early schedule had them alternating wins and losses through their first six games.[74] However with Taylor back and playing well, they were able to win their next four games. After two straight losses, the Giants won their next three games to set up a win-or-go-home game against the New York Jets in the season finale.[74] The Jets defeated the Giants 27–21.[74] When the 49ers lost to the Rams the following night, the Giants were out of the postseason despite a 10–6 record.[74]

The Giants' 12–4 record in 1989 was the NFC's second best.[75] They lost their divisional playoff game in overtime to the Rams 19–13.[76] The highlight of the game was wide receiver Flipper Anderson catch of the game winning touchdown pass. After catching the ball, Anderson made a long run to the endzone, silencing the crowd in attendance. In 1989, free agent acquisition Ottis Anderson ran for 1,023 yards and caught 28 passes.[76] Dave Meggett also emerged as a threat on third downs and special teams, catching 34 passes for 531 yards[76] and making the Pro Bowl.

1990: Champions again

The Giants won their first 10 games of the 1990 season, setting a record for the best start in the team's history.[77] The San Francisco 49ers also got off to a strong start, matching the Giants with their own 10–0 start. Although both teams lost their next game, their week 13 matchup was still eagerly anticipated. The Giants held the 49ers vaunted offense to only seven points. However, they scored only three, and suffered their second straight loss 7–3.[78]

The Giants won the following week against the Minnesota Vikings before facing the Buffalo Bills in their regular season home finale. Despite holding the Bills' powerful offense to 17 points and dominating them in time of possession,[79] the Giants lost 17–13, for their third loss in four games.[78] To compound the Giants' problems, Simms went down with an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the year. His replacement, Jeff Hostetler, was an unproven career backup who had only thrown 68 passes in his career.

The Giants won their final two games to secure a 13–3 record,[78] and the playoff bye as the NFC's second seed. They defeated the Chicago Bears, 31–3 in the divisional playoff round,[78] setting up a rematch with the 49ers in San Francisco for the NFC Championship. As they had in Week 12, the Giants defense held San Francisco's offense in check. In the game's waning moments Erik Howard caused a Roger Craig fumble, and Taylor recovered it.[80] The Giants drove down the field, and in the game's last play, Bahr hit a 42–yard field goal to defeat the 49ers 15–13.[81]

The win set up another rematch, this time in the Super Bowl against the Bills.

Super Bowl XXV

Super Bowl XXV took place amidst a background of war and patriotism.[33] The Persian Gulf War had begun less than two weeks previous and the nation rallied around the Super Bowl as a symbol of America. The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead,[82] however, the Bills scored the next 12 points. The Giants responded by running a nearly eight minute drive,[82] which culminated in a 14 yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to Stephen Baker.[83]

The Giants received the second half kickoff and mounted a record-setting drive. The opening drive ran for over nine minutes[82] (a Super Bowl record) and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Ottis Anderson, giving the Giants a 17–12 lead.[83] On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bills' Thurman Thomas ran for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Bills back in front, 19-17.[83] A few possessions later, the Giants drove down to the Bills 4 yard line and kicked a 21-yard field goal which gave them a 20–19 lead.[83] Both teams exchanged possessions before the Bills began one final drive, driving down to the Giants 30 yard line to set up what would be a potentially game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt by Scott Norwood. In what would become the game's signature moment, Norwood's attempt missed wide right, and the Giants won their second Super Bowl, 20–19.[83]

The Giants set a Super Bowl record for time of possession with a mark of 40:33,[33] and Ottis Anderson was named MVP of the game after rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown.[33]

End of an era

The 1990 season marked the end of an era. Shortly after the Super Bowl, defensive coordinator Bill Belichick left to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Parcells also decided to leave the Giants in the spring of 1991 to pursue a career in broadcasting. In addition, there was an ownership change in what had been one of the most stable front offices in professional sports. In February 1991, Tim Mara was diagnosed with Cancer,[13] and he sold his 50% interest in the team to Bob Tisch for a reported $80 million.[84] This marked the first time since their inception in 1925 that the Giants had not been wholly owned and controlled by the Mara family.[85]

After Parcells - The Handley era: 1991-1992

Following the departure of Parcells and Belichick—who many people saw as the likely successor to Parcells—the surprise choice as head coach was running backs coach Ray Handley. Handley, however, was a somewhat reluctant coach, whose approach stood in stark contrast to the passionate and emotional style employed by Parcells.[86]

As with Parcells eight years previous, one of Handley's first major decisions involved replacing Phil Simms as starting quarterback. Jeff Hostetler, who had led the Giants to a win in the Super Bowl, was named the team's starter. Though the Giants won their opening game in an NFC Championship Game rematch against the San Francisco 49ers 16–14,[87] they lost three out of their next four games to drop to 2–3.[87] Though they rallied to finish the season 8–8,[87] and Simms reclaimed his starting job later in the year, the excitement that surrounded the Giants the previous year was gone. One of the few promising young players to emerge on the team was second–year running back Rodney Hampton, who led the Giants in rushing with 1,059 yards.[87]

Through the 1991 season it was clear that the team's core players on defense had aged quickly. This deterioration continued in 1992, when Lawrence Taylor ruptured his achilles tendon in the team's tenth game,[88] and the Giants promptly lost six out of their last seven games to finish the year 6–10.[89] The defense continued its descent, finishing 26th in the league in points allowed after leading the league in that category in 1990. Handley, who had become highly unpopular with both players and fans, was fired after the end of the regular season.[86]

Dan Reeves takes over: 1993-96

Handley was replaced by Dan Reeves, the successful former head coach of the Denver Broncos who led the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four years, one against the Giants. After his dismissal from the Broncos, Reeves took the unusual step of lobbying heavily for the job. After being publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates,[90] George Young was pleased that someone with Reeves's credentials clearly wanted the job.

The impact Reeves had was immediate. As Bill Parcells had done in 1984, Reeves named Phil Simms as his starting quarterback. The defense returned to form and allowed more than 20 points only once all season.[91] With two games to go, the Giants were 11–3[91] and appeared poised for an Eastern Division championship and a first round bye. However, they were upset by Phoenix, 17–6,[91] in the next to last week of the season, setting up a winner–take–all game against the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale. Though the Giants played well, it was Emmitt Smith's memorable performance with a separated shoulder that led the Cowboys to a 16–13 overtime win,[92] giving the Cowboys a sweep of the season series.[91] Despite the loss, the Giants made the playoffs as a Wild Card and won their first round matchup 17–10 over the Minnesota Vikings.[91] However, they were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers 44–3 in the second round.[91] Simms played in all 16 games, completing nearly 62% of his passes, and throwing for over 3,000 yards, and 15 touchdowns.[91] Simms, Hampton, offensive linemen Jumbo Elliot and center Bart Oates all made the Pro Bowl.[93] In addition, Reeves was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.[1] After the season, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms, the two biggest figures of the late 1980s and early 1990s Giants teams, retired.

Before the 1994 season Reeves named Dave Brown, who had been a No. 1 supplemental draft choice in 1992, as the Giants' new starting quarterback. Though Brown led the Giants to wins in their first three games of the season,[94] the Giants lost their next seven games.[94] They recovered and won their last six games of the season to finish 9–7.[94] During that stretch they never allowed more than 20 points in a game. Standout players included Rodney Hampton, who had his fourth straight 1,000 yard rushing season;[95] linebackers Jessie Armstead and Michael Brooks, and second-year defensive lineman Michael Strahan.

In 1995 the Giants regressed and finished the season with a 5–11 record.[4] Much of the blame for the Giants' poor performance was placed on Brown. Brown did not inspire fans' or teammates confidence and put up lackluster numbers. Though the Giants defense still played well, and Strahan and Armstead were emerging as elite defensive players, the Giants inspired tepid interest league-wide and sent no players to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.[96]

The Giants suffered through another poor season in 1996, finishing 6–10.[4] Though Brown again started every game for the Giants he turned in one of the worst seasons of any starting quarterback in the league, throwing for only 12 touchdowns against 20 interceptions.[97] The Giants offense was one of the worst in the NFL and, unlike in previous years, the defense was unable to carry the team. After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, Reeves was fired.[98]

Jim Fassel era

1997-1999

The Giants hired former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Jim Fassel as their head coach before the 1997 season. With the team's offense floundering once again and a 2-3 record after five games, Fassel turned to inexperienced Danny Kanell as the starting quarterback over Brown. The Giants experienced a resurgent season, finishing 10–5–1, and winning the NFC East.[99] They hosted a first–round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Giants led the Vikings for most of the game, including 22-13 in the fourth quarter, but following a muffed onsides kickoff, the Vikings booted a last second field goal to win, 23–22.[99] Following the season George Young left the Giants. He was replaced by Ernie Accorsi, a veteran General Manager who had successful stints building the Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns.[100]

The Giants regressed to an 8–8 record in 1998.[4] The strength of the team during the season was their defense, which featured two Pro Bowlers in Armstead and Strahan. However, the offense continued to struggle. Brown had been released before the season and replaced by Kanell and Kent Graham. However, neither quarterback provided Pro Bowl caliber play. Before the 1999 season, the Giants signed quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins had been the first–ever draft choice of the Carolina Panthers and in his second season led them to the NFC Championship game. However, problems with alcohol abuse, conflicts with his teammates, and questions about his character led to his release from the Panthers. Although many people seriously questioned the wisdom of Accorsi and the Giants giving Collins a $16.9 million contract,[101] Accorsi was confident in Collins abilities.[101]

In 1999, Tiki Barber emerged as a solid pass–catching running back, catching 66 passes.[102] Amani Toomer also had a breakout season, accumulating over 1100 yards receiving and six touchdowns,[102] and Ike Hilliard finished just shy of 1000 yards receiving.[102] The defense rebounded, ranking 11th in the league, and Armstead and Strahan again were selected to the Pro Bowl. Though the Giants stood at 7–6 and poised for a playoff berth,[102] they lost their final three games to miss the playoffs.[102]

2000: Super Bowl season

The 2000 season was considered a make-or-break year for Fassel. The conventional wisdom was that Fassel needed to have a strong year and a playoff appearance to save his job. After two back-to-back losses at home against the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, the Giants fell to 7–4[103] and their playoff prospects were in question. At a press conference following the Giants' loss to Detroit, Fassel guaranteed that "[t]his team is going to the playoffs."[104] The Giants responded, winning the next week's game against Arizona and the rest of their regular season games to finish the season 12–4[103] and earn a bye as the NFC's top seed.

The Giants won their first playoff game against the Eagles 20–10, and then defeated the Vikings 41–0 in the NFC Championship game.[103] They advanced to play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. Though the Giants kept the game close early, and went into halftime down only 10–0,[105] the Ravens dominated the second half. The Ravens defense harassed Collins all game long, and he had one of the worst games in Super Bowl history. Collins completed only 15 of 39 passes for 112 yards and four interceptions, and the Ravens won the game 34–7.[105] The Giants only score came on a Ron Dixon kickoff return for a touchdown. On the very next kickoff, the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis also returned a kickoff for a score.[105]

2001–2003

The Giants were unable to build on their Super Bowl success in 2001, finishing the season 7–9[106] and out of the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Kerry Collins continued to have success as the Giants' starting quarterback, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 19 TDs.[106] In addition, Strahan set an NFL record by recording 22.5 sacks during the season.[107] In 2002, Collins had one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for over 4,000 yards,[108] and Tiki Barber rushed for 1,386 yards and caught 69 passes for 597 yards.[108] Rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey contributed 74 catches for 894 yards.[108] The Giants started the season 6-6, but won their last four games to finish 10–6 and qualify for the playoffs.[108]

In their first round playoff game they built a 38–14 lead against the 49ers.[109] However, the 49ers rallied, scoring a field goal and three touchdowns which gave them a 39–38 lead with a minute left in the game. Collins then drove the Giants down to the 49ers 23-yard line with six seconds to play, setting up what would be a 41-yard potentially game winning field goal attempt.[109] However, 40-year old long snapper Trey Junkin—who had just been signed for this playoff game—snapped the ball low and punter Matt Allen could not spot the ball properly for the attempt.[109] Allen picked the ball up and threw an unsuccessful pass downfield to offensive lineman Rich Seubert as time expired and the Giants lost 39–38.[109]

The Giants started the 2003 season 4–4,[110] but lost their final eight games.[110] With two games remaining in the season, Fassell requested a meeting with team management, and asked, if he was to be fired, that they do so now rather than wait until the end of the season.[111] Management complied with his request, and formally fired Fassel on (or around) December 17, 2003. However, they let him coach the final two games of the season.[111]

Eli Manning era: 2004-Present

, Eli Manning was the first overall selection in the 2004 NFL draft.]]

Eli Manning arrives

After a brief search, Accorsi hired former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin to be the Giants new Head Coach. Coughlin was considered a hard-nosed disciplinarian, in stark contrast to the departed Fassel whose lenient style was often criticized in his last seasons with the club.[112] Before the season, Accorsi coveted quarterback Eli Manning, brother of Peyton and son of Archie, in the 2004 NFL Draft. Manning, who had indicated before the draft that he did not want to play for the Chargers (who drafted him #1 overall),[113] forced a trade to the Giants.[113] After the trade, Kerry Collins expressed his displeasure with the Giant's drafting a new franchise quarterback and was released. The team later signed veteran quarterback Kurt Warner. The plan was for Warner to serve as the starting quarterback in the interim, while Manning was groomed to ultimately take over the starting job.[114]

2004-2006

After losing to the Eagles in the 2004 season opener, the Giants, with Warner at quarterback, won five of their next six games to go 5–2.[115] They subsequently lost two close games, to the Bears and Cardinals, to drop to 5–4.[115] Coughlin then announced that Manning would be the starter for the rest of the season. Manning struggled in his first four starts, and the Giants did not score more than 14 points in any game.[115] However, Manning performed better in narrow losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants won their final game of the season against rival Dallas, to finish the season 6–10.[115] A top performer for the Giants in 2004 was Tiki Barber who established a personal career high in rushing yardage with 1,518 yards; he also had 52 catches and a total of 15 touchdowns—13 rushing, and two receiving.[115] 's gravesite]]

The Giants started 4–2 in 2005,[116] then on October 25, Giants patriarch Wellington Mara died after a brief illness at the age of 89.[117] Mara had been involved with the Giants since he was nine years old, when he was a ball boy for the Giants. Except a tour of duty in the military during World War II, Mara spent his entire adult life with the Giants.[117] The Giants honored Mara by shutting out their NFC East Rival Washington Redskins 36–0 on October 30.[116] Just twenty days after Mara's death, on November 15, the other Giants Executive Officer Bob Tisch died at the age of 79. The New York Giants honored Tisch by defeating fellow NFC East Rival Philadelphia Eagles 27–17 on November 20.[116] On December 17, 2005, in their 27–17 home victory against the Kansas City Chiefs,[116] Tiki Barber set a new team single game rushing yard record with 220 yards, and the team's single season record with with ,,[118][119] The Giants finished 11–5, and hosted the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs but were shut-out 23-0.[116]


On September 29, 2005, the Giants, Jets, and New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, announced an agreement to build a new stadium, which is projected to be ready for the 2009 season.

The Giants regressed to an 8–8 season in 2006.[120] The season featured inconsistent play, criticism of the coaching by the media and players, and inconsistent play from Manning.[121] The Giants won five consecutive games following a 1–2 start[122] to gain a two-game advantage in the NFC Eastern Division, but then key injuries to the offense and defense took their toll. Frustrations with the lack of production and with head coach Tom Coughlin surfaced as the Giants lost six of seven games in the second half the season.[122] One of the team's most disappointing losses was a 24–21 defeat to Tennessee, in which the team surrendered a 21-point fourth-quarter advantage. Following a season-ending win at Washington, the Giants claimed a wildcard berth in the NFC playoffs, but were defeated in the first round by Philadelphia.[122]

Tiki Barber led the Giants with 1,662 yards rushing and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage,[123] Eli Manning threw for 3,244 yards and 24 touchdowns and Jeremy Shockey led the team in receptions.[124] Defensively the team struggled all season long with pass defense (28th in the league) and with gaining a consistent pass rush (tied for 23rd in the league).[125]

2007: Third Super Bowl Championship

In 2007, the Giants made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.[120] In a game against the Eagles on September 30, the Giants tied the record for most sacks as a team in an NFL game, after sacking Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb 12 times, with 6 of these coming from Osi Umenyiora.[126] The Giants became the third NFL franchise to win at least 600 games when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football 31-10. The Giants' week eight road game against the Miami Dolphins on October 28 in London's Wembley Stadium was the NFL first regular-season game to be played outside of North America.[127] The Giants defeated the Dolphins, 13-10. The Giants made the NFL Playoffs with a 10-6 record and played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. They avenged a third playoff loss from Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia by beating them 24-14.[128] Eli Manning earned his first playoff victory and Tom Coughlin picked up his first playoff victory as coach of the Giants. The next week the Giants defeated their division rival and NFC top seed Dallas Cowboys, winning their ninth consecutive road game.[128] In the NFC championship, the kicker Lawrence Tynes made a final field goal for a 23-20 overtime win over the Packers in Green Bay they headed to Super Bowl XLII.[129]

In Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14.[128] The arguably biggest play of the game was on third down on the Giants 44-yard line with 1:15 remaining. They were down 14-10 After the snap, Manning ran back and was surrounded by a cloud of defenders. Escaping three near sacks, he made a miraculous pass to David Tyree, who caught the ball against his own helmet, while being covered by veteran defender Rodney Harrison. This set up the Giants' final touchdown to win. Eli Manning was named MVP, completing 19 of 34 passes for 255 yards along with two touchdowns.[130] The Giants pulled off one of the bigger upsets in Super Bowl history by handing the New England Patriots their first loss of the season. Plaxico Burress hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds left to play to give the Giants the Super Bowl win since 1990.[120] This game was also a rematch of their final regular season game, in which the Patriots came back from a 12-point deficit to finish the regular season 16-0.

A parade was held in the Canyon of Heroes of Lower Manhattan two days after the win, followed immediately by a victory rally across the Hudson River inside Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

2008-present

The Giants won their Division again in 2008, with a record of 12-4 and earned themselves a first round bye.[131] The Giants won 11 out for their first twelve games before stumbling to lose 4 of their final five including a 23-11 loss to the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round.[132] Manning was named to the Pro Bowl after the season, in a year where he threw for 3,238 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.[132] Other standouts included Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward who both rushed for 1,000 yards,[132] as the Giants led the NFL in rushing yards.[131] Justin Tuck led the team with 12 sacks, while Antonio Pierce was the team's leading tackler.[132] The Giants featured a balanced offense with no receiver topping 600 receiving yards.[132] The year marked a changing of the guard on the defensive line as Giants careers sack leader Michael Strahan retired before the season.

The 2009 season began with the Giants winning their first five games, but then dropped the next four matches.[133] After beating the Falcons in overtime, they were routed by the Broncos on Thanksgiving. The Week 13 game with Dallas brought a 31-24 victory, but was followed by a 45-38 loss to Philadelphia.[133] The Giants nonetheless remained in the playoff picture until being crushed by the Panthers in Week 16, and ended the year with an 8-8 record after another overwhelming defeat in Minnesota.[134]

In the spring of 2010, the new Meadowlands Stadium was completed and the Giants and Jets opened it in August with their annual preseason match.[135] When the regular season started, the Giants inaugurated their new home by beating Carolina 31-18 and avenging the humiliation they suffered the previous December. However, they then went on the road for the second "Manning Bowl". Peyton outplayed Eli and the Colts won 38-14.[136] Discipline became a growing problem for the Giants during the season.[137] In the Colts' game Brandon Jacobs threw his helmet into the stands,[138] and in the next game offensive tackle David Diehl ripped off the helmet of Titans CB Cortland Finnegan.[137]

See also

Notes

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