The Giants and their fans have endured their fair share of disappointment since the team’s Super Bowl run in 2000. That season was nothing short of magical, highlighted by head coach Jim Fassel’s famous guarantee and a 41-0 romp of the Vikings in the NFC Championship game. However, Ray Lewis and the Raven’s prolific defense quickly stomped all over these memories by shutting down QB Kerry Collins and the Giants in the Super Bowl, setting a precedent for the frustration to come.
The next time the Giants made the playoffs was in 2002, where they experienced perhaps the worst loss in postseason history. The G-Men managed to squander a 24-point fourth-quarter lead and fell to Terrell Owens and the 49ers 39-38. The Giants’ special teams were absolutely horrendous, brought to light by the 19-year veteran Trey Junkin who they had signed the week before specifically for long snapping. I’ll repeat that; he was signed the week before for the sole purpose of bending over and chucking a football through his legs! Junkin ended up botching three of these snaps. Matt Bryant didn’t help matters by missing an easy 42-yard field goal, either. I don’t think Giants’ fans will ever forgive him for that. Well, maybe…if somehow he left the Giants, had a terrible three years, but then suddenly happened to make the second-longest field goal in NFL history to stun the Eagles and catapult the Giants into first place… like that’s going to happen.
Fast-forward to this year and the Giants impressive 4-2 start. After a nearly impossible opening schedule, the Giants have emerged atop the NFC East with a 3-0 record in their division. These victories include a miraculous comeback against the NFC powerhouse Eagles in Philadelphia, convincing victories in Atlanta and Dallas, and a decisive win at home againstthe Redskins.
After the team’s 1-2 start, highlighted by the complete lack of a pass rush, it seemed the Giants were going nowhere. It could have easily been an 0-3 start if it wasn’t for their (I hate to say it) lucky win against the Eagles. After their bye week however, the Giants returned with a vengeance and have simply torn through the competition. Big Blue defenders have been sinking jump shots in celebration after their rejuvenated squad has amassed an astounding 13 sacks in their last two games. For those of us who questioned the Giants trading up for Eli Manning in the draft two years ago, giving up the potential to draft Ben Roethlisberger and Shawn Merriman the next year, look at the situation now. Roethlisberger looks absolutely atrocious and Merriman was recently suspended for steroid use. Manning on the other hand has never looked better and after a mere thirty-two starts in the league has emerged as one of the premier quarterbacks in football. He has displayed poise throughout the season, as he never seems rattled or upset at teammates. Leading the Giants to fourth-quarter comebacks numerous times throughout his young career, Manning’s heart is simply undeniable.
However, the biggest story of the Giants’ season so far is the announcement of Tiki Barber’s retirement at season’s end. Tiki is the heart and soul of the Giants’ franchise, being an unquestioned emotional leader and arguably the best running back in football (and in my opinion, without a doubt a Hall of Famer). Barber is still in search of his first Super Bowl ring and, like Jerome Bettis’s situation last year with the Steelers, I expect his announcement to serve as a rallying cry for the team as the season progresses.