- History of the New York Giants (1979–1993)
The history of the
New York Giantsfrom 1979 to 1993, covers one of the most successful periods in the American footballfranchise's history. Currently members of the NFL's National Football Conference, the Giants struggled after reaching the NFL Championship gamein 1963. Beginning in 1964, they began a 15 year stretch in which they were unable to make the playoffs. However, in 1979 they started rebuilding and assembled a team that would become highly competitive in the 1980s and early 1990s. From 1981 to 1990, the team qualified for the postseason six times in ten seasons. During that period, they won Super Bowl XXI(1987) and Super Bowl XXV(1991).
The period encompasses the careers of
quarterback Phil Simmsand linebacker Lawrence Taylor, two of the most accomplished players in team history. Simms was drafted to little fanfare out of tiny Morehead State Universityin 1979, and struggled in his initial seasons, before becoming a Pro Bowlquarterback. Taylor was the second selection in the 1981 Draft and, in contrast to Simms, was an immediate success, winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award as a rookie. The team's success in this period was aided by head coach Bill Parcells, running backJoe Morris, and Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson. Following the 1990 season, and Super Bowl XXV victory, Parcells resigned as coach and was replaced by the team's offensive coordinator Ray Handley.
Handley served as coach for two disappointing seasons (1991–92), in which the Giants went from Super Bowl champions to a 6–10 record. He was fired following the 1992 season and replaced by former
Denver Broncos' coach Dan Reeves. In the early 1990s, Simms and Taylor, the teams' largest figures in the 1980s, played out the last years of their career with steadily declining production. The Giants experienced a resurgent season with Reeves at the helm in 1993 however, and they ended their careers as members of a winning team.
Building a champion: 1979-1985
The Giants made the decision to hire a General Manager for the first time in team history following the 1978 season.Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE1DD133FF936A15752C0A961948260 Sports of the Times; Ten Giant Steps to Superdom] , "
The New York Times", January 25, 1987, accessed March 25, 2008. ] However, the search grew contentious and severely fractured the relationship between owners Wellington and Tim Mara. Finally, the Maras asked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelleto step in with a recommendation. Rozelle recommended George Young,Goldberg, Hank. [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/giants/2005-10-25-mara-obit_x.htm Giants owner Wellington Mara dies at age 89] , " USA Today", October 25, 2005, accessed March 21, 2007. ] who worked in personnel for the Miami Dolphinsand had been an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts. Young was hired; however the rift between the Maras lasted for several years [ [http://www.patriots.com/mediacenter/index.cfm?ac=audionewsdetail&pid=13514&pcid=85 Belichick Press Conference] , patriots.com, October 26, 2005, accessed March 21, 2007. ] (in fact, at one point a partition was put between the two in the owner's boxBurke, Monte. [http://www.forbes.com/2003/08/29/cz_mb_0829giants.html Turning $500 Into A $573 Million NFL Team] , forbes.com, August 29, 2003, accessed June 1, 2007. ] ).
One of Young's first actions was to hire
Ray Perkinsas head coach. In his first draft, Young drafted quarterback Phil Simmsfrom Morehead State Universitywith the seventh overall draft pick to the surprise of many.Katz, Michael. [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00615FE3F5D12728DDDAC0894DD405B898BF1D3 Giants Defend 'Value' in Choice of Simms; Perkins Optimistic Giants Selections] , "The New York Times", May 5, 1979, accessed March 20, 2007. ] Simms had never played on a winning team at Morehead State, and acknowledged after he was drafted that " [m] ost people have never heard of me." Young was certain of the choice though saying, " [o] nce in a while you get a chance to get a guy with a great arm and great potential and you'd darn sight better take it." The Giants continued to struggle, finishing 6–10 and 4–12, in 1979 and 1980 respectively. [http://nfl.com/history/teams/NYG NFL History: New York Giants] , NFL.com/history, accessed January 23, 2007. ] Simms won the starting job as a rookie, but his play was inconsistent, as he combined for 28 touchdowns against 33 interceptions while completing 48.8% of his passes over his first two seasons. With the second overall draft pick in the 1981 draft, the Giants selected Lawrence Taylor, linebacker out of the University of North Carolina. Taylor impressed right from the start; in training camp his teammates took to calling him Supermanand jokingly suggested that his locker should be replaced with a phone booth.Whitley, David. [http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Taylor_Lawrence.html L.T. was reckless and magnificent] , espn.com, accessed January 29, 2007. ] The impact that Taylor had on the Giants' defense was immediate, and predicated the defense's transformation from allowing 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981. [http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/nflrookies.html LT best NFL rookie of all time] , espn.com, accessed February 3, 2007. ] He was named 1981's 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 Defensive Player of the Year award. His arrival raised the Giants linebacker corps—which already included Brad Van Peltand future Hall of Famer Harry Carson—into one of the league's best.
The Giants started the 1981 season 5–3; [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1981 1981 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 16, 2007. ] but lost their next three games to fall to 5–6. Further complicating things, Simms went down with a separated shoulder in the November 15 loss to the
Washington Redskins, [Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 724 ] to be replaced by Scott Brunner. However, with Brunner leading the team, the Giants beat the defending conference champion Philadelphia Eagles20–10 before losing to the San Francisco 49ers17–10. They then defeated the Los Angeles Rams10–7 and the St. Louis Cardinals 20–10 setting up a season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, in which a win, along with a New York Jetsvictory over the Green Bay Packersthe next day, would clinch a playoff berth for the Giants. Wearing their white jerseys at home (so as to force the Cowboys to wear their "unlucky" blue jerseys) the Giants won the game 13–10 in overtime on a Joe Danelofield goal. The Jets defeated the Packers, thus clinching the Giants' first playoff berth since 1963. The Giants defeated the Eagles on the road 27–21 in the Wild Card round for their first playoff win since 1958 and first post season win ever on the road, but then lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers38–24. The Giants were unable to build on their success in 1982, due largely to the 1982 NFL Players Strikethat reduced the schedule to 9 games and to Ray Perkins' untimely, mid-season announcement that he was leaving the team at season's end to coach at the University of Alabama. The Giants lost their first two games before the strike and their first game upon returning. They then won their next three games against the Detroit Lions, the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia to even their record at 3–3. However, they lost their next two games to effectively knock themselves out of the playoffs, despite getting a win against the Eagles in the season finale. Phil Simms, who had been unable to stabilize the quarterback situation up to that point, missed the entire season with a knee injury suffered in the preseason against the New York Jets.Wolff, Craig. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F30F10FA3E5C0C768DDDA10894DC484D81 Giants Give Simms Starting Role; Carson Leaves Camp] , "The New York Times", August 15, 1984, accessed March 18, 2007. ] Lawrence Taylor however, remained a bright spot, again winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Ray Perkinsleft the Giants after the 1982 season to replace Bear Bryantas head coach of the University of Alabama. George Young's choice to replace Perkins was Bill Parcells, the Giants' defensive coordinator.
Parcells first year proved difficult. In his first major decision as head coach, he selected
Scott Brunner, who had played an important role in helping the Giants to the playoffs in 1981, over Phil Simms as the team's starting quarterback. At first it appeared that Parcells' decision was justified, especially after a 27–3 victory over the Green Bay Packersgave the Giants a 2–2 record after 4 games. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1983 1983 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 16, 2007. ] However, the Giants proceeded to win only one of their final 12 games. Brunner had a particularly subpar season, as he completed only 49.2% of his passes and threw 9 touchdowns against 22 interceptions. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=BRUNNSCO01 Scott Brunner] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 19, 2007. ]
Parcells ignored fans' protests and stuck with Brunner, although third stringer
Jeff Rutledgesaw considerable action.Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 766 ] Finally, 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. The Giants' poor play caused 51,589 no–shows for the December 4 game in Giants Stadium. One of the few bright spots was rookie placekicker Ali Haji-Sheikh, who set an NFL record with 35 field goals in 42 attempts. Despite their record the Giants were competitive in many of their losses and Young ignored calls to fire Parcells by retaining him for the 1984 season.
Phil Simms won the starting job back for the 1984 season and Brunner was released. Parcells announced the decision by saying, " [h] e gives us our best chance to win right now." Simms responded by throwing for 4,044 yards, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1984 1984 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 16, 2007. ] making him the first Giant to reach 4,000 yards passing in a season. The Giants had a resurgent season, highlighted by a midseason stretch where they won 5 of 6 against opponents such as the defending conference champion Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys and their new co–tenants at
Giants Stadium, the Jets. With 2 games left the Giants had a 9–5 record and a chance to win their first divisional title in 21 years. Yet despite the fact that they lost those final two games to finish 9–7, the Giants still made the playoffs as a Wild Card. In the first round, they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 16-13 in Anaheimbefore losing, 21–10, to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. Standout performers included Rob Carpenterand Joe Morris, who split running back duties, combining for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. Four receivers had over 30 catches on the year, including tight end Zeke Mowattand receiver Bobby Johnsontying for the team lead with 48 catches each.
The Giants started out the 1985 season 3–1. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1985 1985 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 16, 2007. ] They then lost to the Cowboys 30–29 in one of the first Sunday night national TV games, and to the
Cincinnati Bengals35–30, despite 513 yards passing from Simms, to drop to .500. They rallied to win their next 4 in a row, and alternated wins and losses the rest of the season to finish 10–6, and in a three–way tie for 1st. Though the Giants lost the division to the Cowboys on a tiebreaker, they still made the playoffs as a Wild Card. For the third straight time the Giants won their first round Wild Card playoff game, this time playing at home (the first Giants home playoff game since 1962), 17–3 over the defending champion 49ers. In the divisional playoffs they were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears21–0.
Many of the players that would play key roles on the Giants Super Bowl teams emerged in 1985. Joe Morris, known as "Little Joe" for his diminutive stature (Morris stood 5 ft 7 in and weighed 195 pounds), emerged as the main running threat on the Giants, rushing for 1,336 yards, scoring 21 touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl. Second year receiver
Lionel Manuelled the Giants with 49 catches, and tight end Mark Bavarohad 37 catches in his first season. Simms again threw every pass for the Giants that season, passing for over 3,800 yards, and 22 touchdowns. Taylor, Leonard Marshall, and George Martin combined for 38.5 sacks.
1986: Super Bowl champions
The Giants entered the 1986 season as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. [McClain, John. [http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=1986_459551 Looking ahead/The Bears appear to be an easy pick to repeat, but the Orange is ready to apply a Giant Crush] , "
Houston Chronicle", September 4, 1986, accessed March 28, 2007. ] They had their first test in the opening week " Monday Night Football" game against the defending Eastern Division champion Dallas Cowboys. The Giants played well at Texas Stadium, but lost the opener, 31–28. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1986 1986 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 16, 2007. ] The Giants, however, won their next 5 in a row and 14 of their last 15, to finish the season with an impressive 14–2 record.
The turning points of the season was a three-game stretch in November. Trailing the
Minnesota Vikings20–19 late in the fourth quarter in the Metrodome, Phil Simms completed a desperate fourth and 17 pass to Bobby Johnson for a first down.Anderson, Dave. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F50716F6345E0C748DDDA80994DE484D81 Sports Of The Times; Phil Simms's Biggest Pass] , "The New York Times", November 17, 1986, accessed March 20, 2007. ] The completion led to Raul Allegre's fifth field goal and an important Giants victory. The following week, veteran defensive endGeorge Martin intercepted a pass from Denver Broncosquarterback John Elwayand returned it 78 yards for a touchdown.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F5071FFF3B5F0C778EDDA80994DE484D81 Giants At 10-2; Redskins Stay Even; Allegre Kick At :006 Tops Broncos] , "The New York Times", , accessed March 20, 2007. ] Then in the final two minutes of the game, Simms hit fan–favorite Phil McConkeyfor a 46-yard pass. This led to another game-winning kick from Allegre as the Giants defeated Denver 19-16. In a Monday night encounter at San Francisco the next week, the Giants overcame a 17–0 halftime deficit to Joe Montana's 49ers en route to a 21–17 victory.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F50712FE3E5C0C718CDDAB0994DE484D81 One Quarter buys playoff ticket for Giants] , "The New York Times", December 2, 1986, accessed March 26, 2007. ] In the win, Simms threw for nearly 400 yards and wide receiver Stacy Robinsonmade an acrobatic catch at the goalline to set up the winning touchdown. Another important play also occurred during that "Monday Night Football" game. Here is a description of the play taken from a Monday Night Football broadcast in 2005: "On Dec. 1 1986, New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro cements his reputation as one of the toughest men in the NFL. With the Giants trailing, 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." [ [http://media.espn.com/MediaZone/PressKits/NFL2005/MNF_list.htm MNF 36: The List Monday Night Football Special (Original Air Date: Aug. 25, 2005)] , ESPN.com, accessed January 3, 2007. ] The defense set the tone for these Giants, allowing only 236 points all year, 2nd in the NFL. Lawrence Taylor was the standard bearer, and set a single–season team record with 20.5 sacks. Taylor was so dominant that in addition to winning an unprecedented third NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awardhe was named NFL MVP by the Associated Press, [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/awards/award.htm?a=APDPOY AP Defensive Player of the Year Winners] , databasefootball.com, accessed April 17, 2007. ] [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F50711F73B5E0C728FDDAB0994DE484D81 Taylor Voted Top Player] , "The New York Times", December 31, 1986, accessed April 17, 2007. ] becoming only the third defensive player to win the award.
On offense, Joe Morris had another standout season in 1986, rushing for 1,516 yards, scoring 14 touchdowns and making his 2nd straight Pro Bowl. Also making the Pro Bowl were Bavaro, who caught 66 passes for 1,001 yards, Carson, Jim Burt,
Leonard Marshall, and Brad Benson, giving the Giants 7 representatives. [ [http://pro-football-reference.com/teams/nyg1986.htm 1986 New York Giants] , pro-football-reference.com, accessed March 21, 2007. ] For Taylor and Carson the Pro Bowl berths marked their sixth straight selections.
Having won their first divisional title in 23 years, the Giants hosted the 49ers in the Divisional Playoffs and won easily, 49-3. The Giants then shut out the Redskins 17–0 in the NFC Championship Game at Giants Stadium. At the end of the game, mindful of how loyal and supportive their fans had been through some very lean years, the Giants flashed a message on the stadium message board thanking "the best fans in the world".
The Giants went on to play the
Denver Broncosin Super Bowl XXIin front of 101,063 fans at the Rose Bowl. [http://www.giants.com/history/ChampionshipGames1950present.asp Championship Games 1950-present] , giants.com, accessed May 20, 2007. ] After falling behind 10–9 at halftime, the Giants defeated the Broncos 39–20. A turning point of the game came on the first possession of the second half. The Giants received the second half kickoff, and led a short drive that stalled at their own 47-yard line.Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 845 ] On fourth and 1, the Giants lined up in a punt formation before shifting to a traditional set. Second string quarterback Jeff Rutledgethen ran a quarterback sneakfor a first down. The Giants scored on the drive, and built a 39–13 lead before a late touchdown by the Bronocs made the final score 39–20. Quarterback Phil Simmswas named MVP after completing 22 of 25 (88%) of his passes—a Super Bowl record.
It was these 1986 Giants that popularized the football tradition of dousing the head coach with a cooler of
Gatoradenear the end of a victorious game. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=almanac/1987 Almanac 1987] , espn.com, accessed April 17, 2007. ] This originally started in 1985 when Jim Burt, incensed by what he thought was mistreatment he received in practice the week leading up to a game, exacted revenge on Bill Parcells by dumping a cooler of Gatorade on him after the Giants won that weeks game.Farmer, Sam. [http://www.bupipedream.com/092303/sports/s7.htm Origins of Gatorade dunking revealed] , " The Washington Post", September 23, 2003, accessed April 17, 2007. ] Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson later picked up on the ploy and would often sneak up on Coach Parcells near the end of games to dump the remaining Gatorade over his head. The dousing was a big hit with fans, and the Gatorade dumping would continue on throughout the season after each win, with Taylor, Carson, and several other players (Burt had since ceased doing it) concocting increasingly elaborate, sneaky and playful rouses, so as to at least attempt to keep the inevitable dousing a surprise. [Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DEEDB1138F931A25751C0A961948260 Giants Video: Thrills, Spills and a Finale with 101,000 Extras] , "The New York Times", February 12, 1987, accessed March 25, 2008.
* Rovell, Darren. [http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=rovell/051014 How the dunk was born] , espn.com, accessed May 20, 2007. ]
The 1987 season was a disappointment for the Giants. They lost their first two games of the season before the
1987 NFL Players Strike. As opposed to the players strike five years previous, NFL owners made a decision to go forward with replacement players. Unlike other teams such as the Washington Redskinsand Houston Oilers, who made specific and elaborate plans to deal with the replacement games, the Giants made no plans. This resulted in the Giants losing all three replacement games, putting their record at 0–5 [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1987 1987 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 18, 2007. ] before the strike was over and the regular players returned. Though the Giants went a respectable 6–4 over their final 10 games, they finished out of the playoffs at 6–9. A particular disappointment was the running game, which due to injuries to the offensive line (including tackle Karl Nelsonmissing the entire season due to Hodgkin's diseaseNeft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 846 ] ) struggled all season. Standouts 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(who was voted the team's MVP by the players [Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 894 ] ), and Harry Carson.
The Giants 1988 season got off to a rough start with an offseason scandal involving
Lawrence Taylor. Taylor had abused cocainewhich violated the NFL's substance abuse policy and was suspended for the first four games of the season. Taylor's over the edge lifestyle was becoming an increasing concern for fans and team officials. This was especially true given the eventual career paths of talented players like Hollywood Hendersonand Dexter Manleywhose drug problems derailed their careers. 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 passed his drug tests and avoided suspension.
Predictably the Giants started the season struggling. Taylor's absence, combined with a difficult early season schedule had them alternating wins and losses through their first six games. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1988 1988 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 18, 2007. ] However, with Taylor back and playing well they were able to take full advantage of their remaining easier games (due to their last–place schedule from the year before), winning their next four games against the Cowboys, the
Atlanta Falcons, and the Detroit Lionstwice. 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. The Jets game was technically a "road" game, and though the Jets were playing for little other than pride and a winning season, they defeated the Giants 27–21. In the game quarterback Ken O'Brienfound Al Toonin the corner of the endzone in the final minute to put the Jets ahead. When the 49ers lost to the Rams the following night, the Giants were out of the playoffs despite a 10–6 record. Season highlights included Joe Morris, in what would be his last year with the Giants, rushing for 1,083 yards, and the emergence of wide receiver Lionel Manuel, who led the team with 65 catches and 1,029 yards receiving.
The Giants started the 1989 season 8–1 and did not allow more than 24 points in any game. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1989 1989 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 18, 2007. ] After suffering through a 1–3 stretch, including a 31–10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Anaheim, the Giants rallied to win their final three games to secure the second best record in the NFC at 12–4. [http://www.databasefootball.com/leagues/leagueyear.htm?lg=nfl&yr=1989 1989 NFL Standings, Stats and Awards] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 18, 2007. ] The division clinching season finale was highlighted by kick returner Dave Meggett's first career punt return for a touchdown. Though many people predicted an NFC Championship showdown between the Giants and the 49ers, the Giants lost their divisional playoff game to the Rams 19–13 in overtime. The highlight of the game was wide receiver
Flipper Anderson's catch of the game-winning touchdown pass over cornerback Mark Collins. After he caught the pass, Anderson raced down the sideline, through the end zone, and into the tunnel that led to the locker rooms, silencing the crowd. [Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DF1539F93BA35752C0A966958260 Rams Win Toss and Game as Giants' Season Ends] , "The New York Times", January 8, 1990, accessed March 25, 2008. ]
During the 1989 season, 11–year veteran
Ottis Anderson, a Plan B Free Agent, emerged as the Giants new featured running back. His style of power running was an ideal fit for Parcells' offensive strategy and he ran for 1,023 yards and caught 28 passes. Dave Meggett also emerged as a threat on third downs and special teams, catching 34 passes for 531 yards and making the Pro Bowl.
1990: Champions again
The Giants had one of the most successful seasons in franchise history in 1990. They won their first 10 games, setting a franchise record for best start to a season. In those 10 wins the Giants did not allow more than 20 points in any game, and allowed 7 points or less 5 times. [http://databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1990 1990 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 17, 2007. ] The San Francisco 49ers also got off to a strong start, matching the Giants with their own 10–0 start. As their Week 13 "Monday Night Football" matchup approached, it became increasingly possible that it would become the first matchup of 11–0 teams in NFL history. However, the Giants lost their next game, 31–13 to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the 49ers also lost their next game. The game was eagerly anticipated nonetheless. The Giants held the 49ers vaunted offense to only 7 points. However, they were held to only three points, in suffering their second straight loss 7–3.
The Giants rallied and 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, the Giants lost 17–13, for their third loss in four games. To compound the team's problems, Phil Simms suffered a broken foot that put him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. His replacement,
Jeff Hostetler, had thrown a meager total of 68 passes in his NFL career.
To secure a first round bye, the Giants needed to beat two of the NFL's worst teams, the Phoenix Cardinals and
New England Patriotson the road. The Cardinals game was close throughout before the Giants finally won, 24–21. Their game against the Patriots was a de facto home game, as many Giants fans made the trip up to Foxborough to sell the stadium out.Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE7DF1331F932A05751C1A966958260 Sports of The Times; Scrambles and a Super Dream] , "The New York Times", December 31, 1990, accessed March 25, 2008. ] The Patriots, who came in 1-14 and on a 13-game losing streak in a scandal-plagued season, played the Giants surprisingly tough, but a missed Patriot field goal proved the difference as the Giants held on for a 13-10 win. The win secured a 13-3 record, and the playoff bye as the NFC's second seed. The team discipline Parcells installed was exemplified by the Giants setting the record for fewest turnovers in a season with 14 [Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 914 ] (this is still the NFL record as of 2007).
The Giants defeated the Chicago Bears 31–3 in the divisional playoff round, setting up a rematch with the 49ers in San Francisco for the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth. As they had in Week 12, the Giants defense held San Francisco's offense in check, limiting San Francisco to one touchdown and two field goals. The 49ers defense also held the Giants' offense in check, limiting the Giants to four Matt Bahr field goals through the midway point of the fourth of quarter. In the game's waning moments
Erik Howardcaused a Roger Craigfumble, [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8914214/wid/6448213/page/2/ Pats not talking about drive for third straight] , msnbc.com, accessed January 31, 2007. ] and Lawrence Taylor recovered it. The Giants drove down the field and got into field goal range for Bahr. On the game's last play, Bahr hit a 42–yard field goal to give the Giants the NFC title, 15–13, over the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. Bahr set an NFC Championship Game record with his fifth field goal of the day.
The win set up another rematch for the Giants, this time in the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. Throughout the 1990 season, the Bills' emergence as a championship caliber team had been one of the largest storylines. The Bills had a cutting edge,
no-huddle offense, led by head coach Marv Levy, quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, wide receiver Andre Reedand an offensive line led by Kent Hull. They had also recorded a 13–3 record during the 1990 season, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=BUF&lg=nfl&yr=1990 1990 Buffalo Bills] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 20, 2007. ] culminating with a 51–3 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Heading into the game the Bills were installed as seven point favorites. [Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 935 ]
uper Bowl XXV
Super Bowl XXVtook place amidst a background of war and patriotism in front of 73,813 fans at Tampa Stadium, in Tampa, Florida. The Persian Gulf War had begun less than two weeks previous and the nation rallied around the Super Bowl as a symbol of America. Adding to the patriotism was Whitney Houston's stirring rendition of the National Anthem, which became known as one of the greatest renditions in Super Bowl history. [Harris, Elliot. [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4155/is_20030902/ai_n12515964 Noteworthy] , " Chicago Sun-Times", September 2, 2003, accessed March 26, 2007. ] The game lived up to the stirring Anthem, as it went down as (to date) the most competitive Super Bowl in history, and the one-point margin of victory still stands as the narrowest margin in a Super Bowl. The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead.Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 935 ] However, the Bills scored the next 12 points, on a field goal, a touchdown by backup running back Don Smith, and a safety after Jeff Hostetlerwas sacked in the end zone by Bruce Smith, to give the Bills a 12–3 lead. The Giants then ran a drive that took nearly 8 minutes, and culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to Stephen Bakermaking the score 12–10 at halftime. [http://www.superbowl.com/history/recaps/game/sbxxv Super Bowl XXV] , NFL.com/history, accessed April 13, 2007. ]
The Giants received the second half kickoff and mounted a record-setting drive. The opening drive ran for over 9 minutes (a Super Bowl record) and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Ottis Anderson, giving the Giants a 17–12 lead. The signature play of the drive came on a third down play, when Giants receiver
Mark Ingramappeared about to be tackled well short of a first down. However, Ingram evaded several tacklers, and dragged one defender just enough to get the Giants the first down, and kept the drive alive. By this time, the Giants strategy to handle the Bills offense had become clear: keep them off the field. Indeed, the Giants two touchdown drives consumed over 17 minutes.
The Bills struck back quickly. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Thurman Thomas ran for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Bills back in front, 19–17. A few possessions later, the Giants drove down to the Bills 4 yard line, but were unable to score and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bahr that gave the Giants a 20–19 lead. Both teams exchanged possessions before the Bills began one final drive. The Bills drove 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. Just before the kick, ABC showed a graphic indicating that, on grass that season, Norwood had only made 3–of–7 field goals from at least 40 yards. A few moments later, in what became the game's signature moment, Norwood's attempt missed wide right, and the Giants won their second Super Bowl, 20–19.
End of an era
The 1990 season and Super Bowl win marked the end of an era for the Giants. Shortly after the win, defensive coordinator
Bill Belichickleft to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Parcells had grown increasingly restless as coach of the Giants and yearned for complete control of the team. Knowing that he would not get that opportunity with George Young as GM, Parcells decided in the spring of 1991 to leave the Giants for a career in broadcasting.
Finally, there was an ownership change in what had been one of the most stable front offices in professional sports. In February 1991, after being diagnosed with Cancer, Tim Mara sold his 50% interest in the team to Bob Tisch for a reported $80 million. [Eskenazi,Gerald. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE6D71E3FF931A15751C0A967958260 FOOTBALL; Tisch Doesn't Plan to Be A Figurehead for Giants] , "The New York Times", February 22, 1991, accessed March 25, 2008. ] The sale was actually worked out before the Super Bowl but not announced until afterwards, so as to avoid distracting the team. [ Tisch and Weber. pg. 46 ] It marked the first time since their inception in 1925 that the Giants had not been wholly owned and controlled by the Mara family.
After Parcells - The Handley era
Following the departure of Parcells and Belichick—whom many people saw as the likely successor to Parcells—the surprise replacement of Parcells was
offensive coordinator Ray Handley. Handley, however, was a somewhat reluctant coach, whose approach stood in stark contrast to the passionate and emotional style employed by Parcells.Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7DB1F31F932A05751C1A964958260 PRO FOOTBALL; Handley's Unhappy Reign Is Brought to an End] , "The New York Times", December 31, 1992, accessed March 25, 2008. ]
As with Parcells eight years previous, one of Handley's first major decisions as head coach involved replacing Phil Simms as the starting quarterback. Jeff Hostetler, who had led the Giants to a win in the Super Bowl, was named as the team's Opening Day starting quarterback. Though the Giants won their opening game in an NFC Championship Game rematch against the San Francisco 49ers 16–14, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1991 1991 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 20, 2007. ] they lost three out of their next four games to drop to 2–3. Though they rallied to a record of 7-5 after a dramatic 21-14 win at Tampa Bay in week 13 and were squarely in the hunt for a post-season spot, the Giants lost their next three behind behind Phil Simms who reclaimed his starting position when Hostetler went down with a broken back. The excitement that had surrounded the Giants the previous year was gone. One of the few promising young players to emerge during the year was second–year running back
Rodney Hampton, who led the Giants in rushing with 1,059 yards, while also catching 43 passes. The season was also marked by the decline of Lawrence Taylor. Although Taylor still finished with a respectable 7 sacks, 1991 marked the first time in his career he was not elected to the Pro Bowl.
Throughout the 1991 season it was clear that the team's defense, which had led the league in points allowed in 1990, was declining. This deterioration continued in 1992, when the team finished 26th in the league in points allowed. The Giants started 1-3 with Simms at the helm, rallied behind Hostetler to take four of their next five to get to 5-4, but lost their next five after Taylor and then Hostetler joined Simms on the injured list. Six losses out of their last seven games meant a 6–10 record, their first double digit loss season since 1983. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1992 1992 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 20, 2007. ] The team's pass rush, in particular, struggled after Taylor missed the last six games with a torn
Achilles tendon. Handley, who had become highly unpopular with both players and fans, was fired after the end of the regular season.
Dan Reeves arrives
Handley was replaced by
Dan Reeves, the successful former head coach of the Denver Broncoswho 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. Especially after being publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates, [Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE0D91338F933A15752C0A965958260&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Sports of The Times; Third Down, Coach to Go For Giants] , "The New York Times", January 20, 1993, accessed March 22, 2008. ] George Young was pleased that someone with Reeves's credentials clearly wanted the job, and Reeves was hired as Giants head coach.
The impact Reeves had was immediate. As Bill Parcells had done before the 1984 season with Scott Brunner, Reeves immediately named Phil Simms as the starting quarterback and released Hostetler. [Smith, Timothy W. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE4DF133BF935A25755C0A965958260 FOOTBALL; Giants Tell Simms That He's The Boss] , "The New York Times", June 16, 1993, accessed March 22, 2008. ] (Ironically, Simms had posted a 2-6 record in two years as a starter under Handley, while Hostetler had gone 12-9.) They won their first three games, [http://databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1993 1993 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 17, 2007. ] and five of their first six. The defense was back to its Parcells-era levels and allowed more than 20 points only once all season. With two games to go, the Giants were 11–3 and battling for an Eastern Division crown and a first round bye. However, they were upset by Phoenix, 17–6, 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, giving the Cowboys a sweep of the season series. Despite the loss, the Giants made the playoffs as a Wild Card and won their first round game 17–10 over the Minnesota Vikings. However, they were then defeated by the San Francisco 49ers 44–3, in their worst performance of the season in the second round.
As he had done in 1984 when Bill Parcells restored him to the starting quarterback's job, Phil Simms responded with a solid season in 1993. Playing in all 16 games, he completed nearly 62% of his passes, threw for over 3,000 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. The season marked the first time in seven years that Simms started every game for the Giants. [Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 980 ] Simms, Hampton, offensive linemen Jumbo Elliot and center
Bart Oatesall made the Pro Bowl. [ [http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/nyg1993.htm 1993 New York Giants] , pro-football-reference.com, accessed March 24, 2007. ] In addition, Reeves was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. [http://www.giants.com/history/TeamHistory.html History of the New York Giants] , giants.com, accessed January 12, 2007. ] Following the season Lawrence Taylor retired and Phil Simms was released by the team, leading to his eventual retirement. Simms and Taylor had been the faces of the franchise since 1979 and 1981 respectively. Both players were later honored with separate Jersey-retiring ceremonies on Monday Night Football - Lawrence Taylor's ceremony was during the 1994 season and Phil Simms' ceremony took place during the 1995 season.
New York Giants seasons
Logos and Uniforms of the New York Giants
List of New York Giants players
*Neft, David S., Cohen, Richard M., and Korch, Rick. "The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present." New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994 ISBN 0312114354
*Tisch, Jonathon and Weber, Karl. "The Power of We: Succeeding Through Partnerships", Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2004 ISBN 0471652822
* [http://www.giants.com/history/index.html giants.com/history]
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