The New York Giants have a place as one of the legendary franchises in the NFL today. The team has a rich and storied history, having existed for almost a century. In that time, they’ve managed 32 playoff appearances, 12 pre-merger championships, and four Super Bowl wins since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that shaped the modern day NFL.
The team has featured some all-time great players, such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, and currently features one of the best players in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, as well as future Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning as part of a competitive team that has won two Super Bowls in the last decade.
With a team that’s been around this long, there has, of course, been plenty of controversy throughout their history. Two of their most notable coaches, Tom Coughlin and Bill Parcells, alienated their share of players with their gruff, uncompromising attitudes. New York is also a famously difficult city to play in, with a passionate fan base and huge spotlight. As a result, there are many players who have worn a Giants uniform who can be split into opposite camps as either having loved their time in New York or hated it. With out further ado, let’s get into it…
15. Loved it: Antonio Pierce
For a while, Antonio Pierce was the heart and soul of the Giants defense. After signing with the team in 2005, the middle linebacker and defensive captain was a central figure in some impressive defenses, including the one that helped lead the 2007 Giants Super Bowl run.
Pierce was a respected figure in the NFL that oozed leadership and character during his time with the Giants. He made one Pro Bowl, and finished his career with 686 tackles, nine sacks, and seven interceptions. The Giants honored his contributions to the team by inducting him into their Ring of Honor last season, along with Tom Coughlin, Justin Tuck, and Ernie Accorsi. It’s pretty easy to see why Pierce loved his time in New York as a member of the Giants.
14. Hated it: Hakeem Nicks
A solid player during his time with New York, Nicks was hardly the diva wide receiver type the Giants have had their fair share of over the years. However, the talented wideout never really seemed happy during his time in New York. Despite some solid production, Hakeem Nicks never got the big contract he wanted with the Giants. A big part of that was his public dust-ups with coaches and teammates, with Tom Coughlin and other players criticizing a lack of effort on his part in some games. Nicks vocalized his unhappiness with several coaching decisions over the course of his career and ended up travelling around the league for a few years, and is currently unsigned. Whether or not Nicks takes the field next season remains to be seen but we can conclude that one team who will not be extended an offer to Nicks will be the Giants.
13. Loved it: Brandon Jacobs
One of the most physically imposing running backs the NFL has ever seen, Brandon Jacobs at times looked simple unstoppable as a 6’4″, 265 pound bruiser of a back. Jacobs spent several seasons as a fan favorite in New York and a member of some historically good backfields alongside Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Like most players, Jacobs had his clashes with coach Tom Coughlin, but in the end the pair’s success together fostered was overall a solid relationship. When Tom Coughlin was on his way out in New York, Jacobs was one of many former Giants to show his support for the coach. “I’d die for T.C.”, tweeted Jacobs, a short, simple tweet that summed up the respect and friendship the two shared.
12. Hated it: Jeremy Shockey
Jeremy Shockey was an undeniably talented tight end. But his personality and antics made his time in New York difficult for him, the team ownership, and Giants fans.
Selected 14th overall in the 2002, draft, Shockey made four Pro Bowls in his five seasons, proving himself on the field. Off the field, however, he was incredibly unpopular with his teammates and coaches and demanded a trade after the 2007 season after cursing out GM Jerry Reese. Former Giants receiver Amani Toomer called him a “bad teammate and worse person.”
11. Loved it: Ahmad Bradshaw
Ahmad Bradshaw was a seventh round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Over his career, he was a part of several crowded backfield situations, but became a fan favorite by embracing his role and excelling as the second or third string running back for much of his career. Bradshaw spent much of his career spelling Brandon Jacobs with his abilities as a receiver or change-of-pace runner. Known for his toughness, Bradshaw finished his time with the Giants as the team’s sixth all-time leading rusher.
While he was released in 2013 and spent some time with the Colts before retiring, Bradshaw had nothing but love for his former team, and has made it known publicly on multiple occasions how much he appreciated his fans in New York as well as his former teammates and coaches.
10. Hated it: Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress will be remembered primarily as a squandered talent who could never quite get his act together on or off the field. Standing 6’5″ and an incredible athlete, Burress never lived up to his potential. After some solid seasons with the Steelers, Burress signed with the Giants. He posted some solid numbers on the field, but had a sour relationship with coaches and fans due to a lack of effort off the field, a contract dispute, and missed practices and meetings. New York suspended him for a game during the 2008 season. It only got worse, however, as Burress made headlines later that season for shooting himself in the leg accidentally with an illegal firearm, marking the end of his time with the Giants, who released him shortly after.
9. Loved it: Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan was a big player with a big personality who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in Giants history. Strahan played every single one of his fifteen seasons with Big Blue, and retired with an incredible 141.5 stats, including an NFL record mark of 22.5 during the 2001 season.
Strahan closed out his remarkable career in the perfect way, and retired a champion after the Giant’s incredible victory in the 2007 Super Bowl. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and has had a successful TV career as a personality on Fox Sports, as well as appearing on and hosting several other shows. He is remembered fondly by Giants fans everywhere as one of their all-time great players.
8. Hated it: Ron Dayne
Ron Dayne was supposed to transform the Giant’s ground attack when they used the 11th overall pick in the 2000 draft on the Wisconsin star. Dayne’s powerful, bruising style was supposed to compliment Tiki Barber’s agility and speed and lead to an unstoppable ground game. However, Dayne is viewed today as one of the biggest draft busts in Giants history.
The big back was a bit too big for the Giant’s liking, but clashed with coaches during his time there due to his laziness and inability to lose weight. Dayne’s lack of commitment to the team or to the game led to a short, disappointing career, and the Giants ended up using him sparingly as a goal-line back and made no effort to resign him when his rookie contract expired.
7. Loved it: David Tyree
David Tyree is a perfect example of how someones life can completely change in a moment. The career special-teamer played sparingly at wide receiver, but was given a shot in the 2007 Super Bowl and delivered with one of the greatest plays in NFL history, his iconic, physics-defying helmet catch that led the Giants to the upset victory over the 18-0 Patriots.
Tyree had a rocky career early on, being known as a hard partier, drug user, and overall undisciplined and injury-prone player. However, his life has turned around since the catch and the worldwide exposure he got, and he currently is employed by the Giants organization in player development, providing guidance and counsel to the next generation of Giants players.
6. Hated it: Phil Simms
A Giants lifer, Phil Simms spent his entire 14-year NFL career in New York. He won two Super Bowls and had a good career by any standard. However, his inconsistency early in his career and rocky relationship with Giants coach Bill Parcells marred his time in the NFL.
When Parcells took over the Giants in 1983, his first move was to bench Simms in favor of Scott Brunner. Simms demanded a trade but was ignored. Giants fans were quick to turn on him, viewing the high draft pick as a disappointment.
Simms did get it together for the 1986 season and led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory with one of the most brilliant performances by a quarterback in the game’s history. However, not even that could get him the long term job stability he wanted, as injuries and competition with Jeff Hostetler plagued the twilight years of his career, culminating in a shocking release from the Giants after the 1993 season.
5. Loved it: Steve Weatherford
While Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and others have spoken out about how Giant’s players used to hate coach Tom Coughlin, Weatherford comes down emphatically on the opposite side of the Coughlin fence. When the former Giants punter found out Coughlin would be stepping down from his position with the Giants, he took to Twitter to let people know how he felt about his four seasons under Coughlin.
“He’s the finest man I’ve ever met. We should all be thankful for him”, Weatherford said. Weatherford also fondly remembered the way Coughlin inspired him to help and motivate others from his position as a professional athlete. Weatherford remembered Coughlin as a father figure who’s relationship with his players extended to genuine concern about their lives off the field.
4. Hated it: Jeff Hostetler
Jeff Hostetler had a rocky time in New York as part of Bill Parcell’s revolving door at starting quarterback and the controversy that came with his depth chart battles with Phil Simms. Hostetler was unquestionable talented, but never felt he got a fair shot with the Giants and expressed frustration with his lack of playing time. He did manage a Super Bowl win with the Giants, when he replaced the injured Simms late in the 1990 season and quarterbacked the Giants to a championship. However, consistent missed opportunities, injuries, and time spent on the bench soured Hostetler’s relationship with the Giants, as he was seemingly never able to do enough to be considered a consistent starter. Despite his two Super Bowl rings, he leaves behind a rocky and uncertain legacy from his time with the Giants.
3. Loves it: Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham is one of the brightest young stars in the league, and his electrifying athleticism and jaw-dropping catches have established him as a fan favorite around the league. However, he is also the next in a long line of high-profile “diva” receivers in the NFL, who talk as much off the field as they do make plays on the field. The Giants unquestionably need to be sure to keep Beckham in line, and ensure his fiery temper doesn’t get the best of him again like it has in the past.
But there’s no question Odell is living the dream. His Instagram feed is full of posts of him posing with fancy cars, throwing down crazy dunks, sitting courtside at basketball games, and just generally doing all the things we imagine we’d do if we were one of the best football players in the world starring in one of the best and brightest football cities in the world.
2. Hated it: Tiki Barber
While Tiki Barber had, by all accounts, a great career with the Giants, picking up over 10,000 rushing yards and becoming New York’s all-time leading rusher over his ten-year career with the team, his controversial switch to broadcasting and public feuds with former Giants players has revealed a less-than-rosy relationship.
Barber’s 2006 season with the Giants was controversial off the field, with Barber criticizing coach Coughlin and making his looming retirement a distraction for the team. Then, during the Giant’s improbable 2007 Super Bowl run, the year after Barber retired, he made waves when he ripped Eli Manning’s leadership abilities.
Giant’s fans did not appreciate Tiki Barber’s controversial post-football career, and made it known when they loudly booed their former star during his induction into the Giant’s Ring of Honor in 2010.
1. Loves it: Eli Manning
While he’s certainly a polarizing figure in the NFL quarterback conversation (people seem to either love or hate Peyton’s little brother), there’s no question Eli Manning has fully embraced his home with the Giants.
Manning’s impressive career with the Giants began controversially. The top prospect in the 2004 draft landed with New York after refusing to play for the San Diego Chargers, who drafted him but ended up trading him to the Giants for Philip Rivers. Once in New York, Manning immediately established himself as the franchise’s centerpiece, taking over midway through his rookie year and starting every single game for the Giants since then. Along the way, he’s picked up two Super Bowl MVP awards, four Pro Bowl nods, and an unquestioned place as the best quarterback in the Giant’s storied history.
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