The New York Times recently ran a piece with the headline, "Everything Is Closed, Except the NFL.”
Selected by the Giants in the first round of the 1984 draft, Banks was a tackling machine and vital cog of the club's first two Super Bowl wins. Banks didn't spend his entire career as a Giant, but his impact and legacy are indisputable. Banks recorded 627 tackles as a Giants linebacker, and the only reason we don't talk about him as the best or second-best linebacker in team history is because he was sandwiched by them, in Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson.
Can you name all the NFL players drafted out of Morehead State over the last quarter century? There aren't any. In fact, there's only one player ever picked in the first seven rounds of the NFL draft from the small Kentucky school. That would be No. 11, who was picked by the New York Giants with the seventh overall pick in 1979.
Few knew who Phil Simms was, other than a tough kid with blinding blonde hair. After three seasons, Simms' record was 14-20. He missed the truncated 1982 season with a knee injury and sat most of the 1983 season. In 1984, he began to play for second-year coach Bill Parcells. From 1984 to ’86, Simms led the Giants to a 33-15 record, culminating in the Big Blue’s first Super Bowl title in 1986. Simms played perhaps the greatest game for a QB in Super Bowl history, completing 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and was named the game's MVP.
Someone should get a gold star for scouting and drafting a defensive lineman from Texas Southern — hardly a college football factory — with the 40th pick in the 1993 draft. Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and was named first-team All-Pro four times and AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2001. Known as a vocal leader who was renowned for talking smack and the signature gap between his front teeth, Strahan was a rabid pass rusher who sealed his place in history with 141½ sacks and as the old lion on that fierce defensive front that battered Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII.
All the drama in Manning’s career came before he took a single snap for the Giants, when he demanded a trade from the Chargers during the 2004 draft. After then, Eli was all Big Blue, blue-collar business. He neither missed nor tapped out of an NFL game because of injury despite the savage pounding he took over his 16 seasons. He retired in January as the team's all-time leader in passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes.
If winning Super Bowls is the main metric for an NFL club, then Manning has to be considered one of the all-time great Giants. Folks point to his pedestrian 117-117 regular season record, saying Manning was a two-trick pony who got hot for eight games and bagged two Lombardi Trophies. But it's hard to imagine plowing a more rugged road than the two Super Bowl runs the Giants made in 2007 and 2011, each time winning as a wild-card entrant. And it's not as if Manning was just there to watch — he was named MVP of both games while beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
The greatest defensive player in NFL history, Taylor owned the field the moment he was drafted by the Giants with the second overall pick in 1981 out of North Carolina. In 1981, Taylor was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler and an eight-time first-team All-Pro selection and is the only defensive player in history to win NFL MVP (1986). He won Super Bowl rings in 1986 and 1990 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
Perhaps LT’s magnum opus came in New Orleans in Week 13 of the 1988 season -- appropriately named "The Pain Game -- when he tore ligaments in his shoulder and had to wear a harness just to keep it in place. Playing in writhing pain, Taylor recorded seven tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Even the ornery Bill Parcells took a moment to marvel at his linebacker. Despite his notoriously late Saturday nights, no defender ever played harder, or better, on Sundays than Lawrence Taylor.