The New York Giants have a storied history that spans over 90 years. Many hall-of-fame talents have suited up for Big Blue since the team’s inception in 1925. Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Joe Morrison, Phil Simms, and Lawrence Taylor are all icons in Giants lore. However, they are 20th century icons. The Giants’ resurgence in the new millennium birthed new team legends.
Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer immediately come to mind. Sure, Strahan and Toomer were established players pre-2000, but their post-2000 production truly solidified their immortality with the G-Men. They helped lay the foundation that led to two Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
Of course, you take the good with the bad. The Giants have misfired on draft picks and free agents, and have seen many players fall short of expectations. Sinorice Moss, William Joseph, and Ron Dayne struggled to live up to their respective abilities with the Giants.
The Giants’ 2012 first-round pick David Wilson could’ve joined the “worst” category. Yet, his sample size was too small, as he suffered a career-ending neck injury in just his second season. Jason Pierre-Paul was also considered for “best,” but his inexplicable 2015 fireworks accident and recent injury woes didn’t work in his favor.
Nonetheless, the Giants have re-established themselves as the dominant football team in the post-2000 New York football market.
Here are the eight best and seven worst New York Giants players since 2000.
15. Best: Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress was the most dynamic wide receiver the Giants had until the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. While OBJ may be a superior talent in terms of statistical achievement, Burress’ playoff success cannot be overstated.
He caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning to secure the Giants’ upset 17-14 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He had 23 receptions, 310 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns in six playoff games with the Giants.
He caught 33 regular-season touchdown passes during his four seasons in New York, as Eli Manning’s number one target. Burress’ run with Big Blue met an untimely end after he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a nightclub in November of 2008. The team released Burress in 2009.
14. Worst: Ereck Flowers
Flowers’ tenure with the Giants thus far has been anything but rosy. The 330-pound offensive tackle was the team’s first round pick in 2015, but has struggled in his two years as a pro. Coaches lamented his lackluster technique and criticized his confrontational attitude. By 2016, Flowers had become a primary culprit in the Giants’ porous offensive line. He took 13 penalties last season, tied for second most in the league. His nine offensive holding penalties were also a league-high.
His attitude issues made headlines after a Sunday Night Football loss to the Green Bay Packers last October. ESPN reporter Jordan Raanan approached Flowers, who told him to “get out of my face” when he tried to ask a question. He then shoved Raanan when the reporter refused to move.
It’s one thing to struggle with on-field performance. It’s a whole other issue to pair those struggles with a poor attitude.
13. Best – Brandon Jacobs
Anyone who has watched the Giants this past season knows that the team has no running game. Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins, and Orleans Darkwa all failed to establish the ground attack for New York last season.
Fans longed for the days of Earth, Wind, and Fire. That is, the three-headed monster of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw. This running back core fortified the G-Men as a run-heavy, defense-first team in the late 2000s.
Jacobs was the lynch pin in the running game. At 6-foot-4, and 265 pounds, Jacobs outweighed most NFL running backs by at least 30 pounds. He used his towering size to literally barrel over defenders and gain extra yards. In eight seasons with Big Blue, Jacobs ran for a franchise-record 60 touchdowns. He also accrued over 5,000 rushing yards. He added another 461 yards and four rushing touchdowns in 11 playoff games.
Jacobs was also a valued leader on the team during his tenure, and retired as a Giant in 2014.
12. Worst: William Joseph
The Giants took Joseph with the 25th overall selection in the 2003 draft. He was the fifth defensive tackle taken in that year’s draft. He was selected after Dewayne Robertson, Jonathan Sullivan, Kevin Williams, and Jamie Kennedy.
However, he was also taken two picks ahead of power running back Larry Johnson and six picks ahead of shutdown corner Nnamdi Asoumugha. Joseph spent five seasons with the Giants, and totaled just 52 tackles and seven sacks. For a strong defensive core that boasted Michael Barrow, Dhani Jones, and Michael Strahan, Joseph couldn’t mesh. He registered five tackles and one sack during his rookie year.
His Giants tenure ended on injured reserve in 2007. He still received a Super Bowl ring due to the team’s victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42.
11. Best – Justin Tuck
Tuck was an integral piece of the vaunted Giants’ defense of the late 2000s. Michael Strahan captained the defense to the 2007 Super Bowl, but Tuck took the mantle from then on. He, along with Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, led a strong defense that won the Giants another championship in 2012.
Over his nine-year Giants career, Tuck amassed 18 forced fumbles and 60.5 sacks. Tuck also had over 300 tackles, and served as a leader on defense.
Even after signing with the Oakland Raiders in 2014, his heart never truly left New York. In 2016, he signed a one-day contract with New York so he could retire as a Giant. He remains close to his Giants brethren and regularly makes appearances on ESPN New York’s ‘The Michael Kay Show” to offer analysis on his former team.
10. Worst: Sinorice Moss
Sinorice Moss is best known for his relation to Santana Moss, the former Redskins’ star receiver. Unfortunately, the younger Moss couldn’t continue the family tradition. Despite his second-round selection in 2006, Moss failed to establish himself as a prominent slot receiver for the Giants.
From a quadriceps injury during his first training camp, to a season-ending sports hernia suffered before the 2010 season, Moss struggled to stay healthy. When he was healthy, his production still fell short. He managed just 39 receptions and three touchdown receptions in four seasons with the Giants.
The Giants waived Moss in November of 2010, a few months after he was placed on injured reserve. He tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles the following year, but was released shortly before the start of the 2011 season.
9. Best – Odell Beckham Jr.
Say what you will about his sideline antics, outlandish personality, and off-field escapades. There is no denying Odell Beckham Jr.’s on-field talent. He may not be the greatest Giant, but he is certainly the most talented player on the current roster.
He holds many franchise records, including most receptions and receiving yards by a rookie (91 and 1,305, respectively). Some of his NFL records include fastest to reach 250 receptions (38 games), and fastest to reach 3,500 receiving yards (35 games), Beckham Jr. is also the only player in NFL history to begin his career with three straight seasons of 70+ catches and at least 10 receiving touchdowns.
He is Eli Manning’s number one target, and oftentimes, his only reliable one. Given the Giants’ struggles in the running game in 2016, Eli relied heavily on his receivers. Beckham was his main weapon. He had a career-high 101 receptions on 169 targets in 2016.
The only thing keeping OBJ from a higher ranking on this list is a lack of playoff success. Granted, he played just one playoff game, but didn’t perform up to expectations. He clearly has the skills, but now he needs the focus.
8. Worst: Rueben Randle
Eli Manning has had no shortage of great pass catchers over his career. From tight ends like Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss to wide receivers like Plaxico Burress and Odell Beckham Jr., Eli’s crop of receivers never seems to dwindle.
However, Rueben Randle couldn’t gel with Manning on the same level as those aforementioned players. The LSU alum spent the first three years of his career with the Giants, and caught 131 passes and 12 touchdowns. He ran poor routes, dropped passes, and struggled to communicate with Manning.
In 2013, Randle even admitted fault for several of Manning’s interceptions. “Maybe some of them were not being competitive or open a lot on my part,” he said. “At least 80 percent of them are miscommunication.”
He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, but was cut in late August. The Eagles had one of the worst receiving cores in the entire NFL this past season, so Randle’s inability to crack their roster says something.
Yet, he signed with the Chicago Bears in January of 2017. Perhaps he needs the change of scenery, and the Windy City is that very change.
7. Best: Amani Toomer
Like Burress, Amani Toomer was a core receiver on the Giants’ Super Bowl team in 2007. He also spent the first three seasons of his career as a punt returner, and was the Giants’ premier pass catcher through the early 2000s.
Toomer holds numerous franchise receiving records, including most receiving yards (9,497), most receptions (668) and most touchdown receptions (54).
Odell Beckham may eventually break Toomer’s receiving records, but he still has a lot to prove in the playoffs. Toomer, on the other hand, caught seven TD passes in 11 playoff games. Toomer has also shown tremendous dedication to the Giants, having spent his entire 12-year career with them.
He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, but was cut before the season started. Toomer never played a regular season down for a team other than the Giants.
The Giants honored Toomer’s commitment and excellence by inducting him into their “Ring of Honor” in 2010.
6. Worst: Clint Sintim
The Giants have had many great defensive players. Linebacker Clint Sintim could have been one of them. A series of untimely ACL injuries derailed a promising career for the University of Virginia alum.
The Giants took Sintim in the second round of the 2009 draft. His rookie year got off to a great start, and he accrued four tackles in his first game against the Oakland Raiders. However, his total dropped from 20 in 2009 to 13 in 2010. He missed the entire 2011 season after the tearing his ACL, and failed his physical prior to the 2012 season. He announced his retirement in 2013.
Fortunately, Sintim remained in football post-retirement as a linebackers coach for several collegiate programs. One has to wonder how the team’s defense might’ve fared if Sintim had stayed healthy, The team missed the playoffs in four straight seasons after that Super Bowl victory, and their defense hit a snag. They have since recovered, but with a healthy Sintim, perhaps they never would’ve slowed down.
5. Best: Tiki Barber
If Toomer was the Giants’ greatest wide receiver in the early 2000s, Tiki Barber was their go-to running back. Before the aforementioned trifecta of Jacobs, Bradshaw, and Ward, Barber was the spark plug of New York’s rushing attack for the better part of a decade.
The Giants selected Barber in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft, and saw him become arguably the greatest running back in franchise history. Barber had a breakout season in 2000, rushing for 1,006 yards and eight touchdowns. He went on to set several team records including most rushing yards in a single season (1,860), most 1,000-yard seasons (six) and most career rushing yards (10,449).
Barber was voted the Giants’ Most Valuable Player in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Sports Illustrated named him NFL Player of the Year in 2005. That same year, Barber became the first player in NFL history to amass 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a single season.
Yet, he retired at the end of the 2006 season. The Giants won the Super Bowl the following year, during which Barber came under scrutiny for comments questioning QB Eli Manning’s leadership.
Fortunately, the two sides eventually cleared the air. Barber currently enjoys a second career as a morning talk show host on CBS Sports Radio.
4. Worst: Ron Dayne
Dayne enjoyed a great senior season at the University of Wisconsin in 1999. He won that year’s Heisman Trophy after compiling over 2,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 12 games.
The Giants hoped Dayne could replicate that success at the NFL level. They selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Dayne and fellow running back Tiki Barber created a formidable duo in the Giants’ backfield. However, by 2002, Dayne got fewer carries, and often clashed with head coach Jim Fassel.
Dayne had just 52 carries for 179 yards and one touchdown in 2004. He failed to see eye-to-eye with new head coach, Tom Coughlin. Dayne signed with the Denver Broncos at season’s end. In five total seasons with the Giants, Dayne rushed for 16 touchdowns and 2,067 yards. He remains one of the biggest draft busts in team history.
3. Best: Michael Strahan
Strahan is better known today as a television personality, but it was his leadership and greatness that carried the Giants’ defense for 15 years. Strahan served as defensive captain during the Giants’ epic Super Bowl XLII upset victory over the New England Patriots, and is a two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
He set the NFL single-season sack record in 2001 with 22.5, and has 141.5 total sacks for his career. Strahan also forced 24 fumbles and had 651 solo tackles. He was named to the NFL’s all-decade team, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Strahan retired in 2008 as a seven-time Pro-Bowler. He stayed around the New York area, hosting “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” and later began co-hosting “Good Morning America.” He lives in Rutherford, New Jersey and was inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor in 2010.
2. Worst: Matt Dodge
I hate to cast judgment on Matt Dodge based on just one play. However, in football, where games count for so much, one play can make or break a player’s career. Such was the case with Dodge on December 19, 2010, when he famously botched a punt against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dodge, a rookie at the time, was instructed to punt the ball out of bounds, and preserve the Giants’ chances to win the game after blowing a 31-10 lead. However, he punted it right to DeSean Jackson, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown. The Eagles went on to an improbable 38-31 win.
Coach Tom Coughlin admonished Dodge in his postgame press conference, and Dodge was released the following year.
“I knew I screwed up,” Dodge admitted in 2015. “That was really my first time seeing how big the game of football was and just how serious people took it. That was very, very tough.”
He hasn’t played in an NFL game since. He lost the punter job to Steve Weatherford in training camp before the 2011 season, and was subsequently released. Fortunately, Dodge found success as a wealth management consultant, and put that memory of the botched punt behind him.
1. Best: Eli Manning
No single player has meant more to the Giants post-2000 success than Eli Manning. Yes, his interceptions and occasional inconsistency are frustrating, but without Manning, the Giants never would’ve experienced a rebirth in the new millennium.
Since arriving in New York in 2004, Manning has never missed a game, having started 194 straight since his debut. He holds many franchise records, including most career passing yards, most career completions, and most touchdown passes. Eli may not have the regular-season prowess of his older brother, Peyton, but his clutch play in the fourth quarter and the playoffs cannot be ignored. He holds an NFL single-season record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He also tied the NFL record with eight game-winning drives in 2011. Most importantly, Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
He remains the only Giants’ player from those two Super Bowl victories still on the team today. He stays humble despite playing in the biggest city in the world, with larger-than-life personalities like Odell Beckham Jr. Manning will be missed once he retires, as he has anchored this team for over a decade.
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