The Giant Insider Online

Giants’ Mount Rushmore Revealed: LT, Frank, Eli and Michael

If you were going to commission a New York Giants’ version of Mount Rushmore, who would be the four faces you’d put up there? That’s a tough task, considering the franchise has been in existence for 93 years, has 31 Hall of Famers associated with it has and retired the numbers of twelve players.

I narrowed it down by throwing a ton of names on the wall and see who stuck. The criteria was also simplified by favoring players who played for the club exclusively during their careers and yes, longevity counts. Throw in the individual’s overall persona and standing in league history.

To make it clearer, I decided to not look back any further than the 1950s because football was different game until the Paul Brown era and I don’t really consider it the same game. The ball was rounder before then, the rules were much different and so were tactics and strategies.

This is the first part of a four-part series. The first three posts will consist of honorable mentions with the final piece revealing the four face of New York Giants Football.

In Part One, we revealed three Honorable Mention candidates: LB Sam Huff, OT Rosey Brown and QB Charley Conerly.

In Part Two, we revealed four more Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Patton, Andy Robustelli, Tiki Barber and Y.A. Tittle.

In Part Three, we listed our four runners-up: Phil Simms, Harry Carson, Emlen Tunnell and Dave Jennings. 

In this piece, the final of a four-part series we present the four faces we believe belong on the Giants’ Mount Rushmore.

Frank Gifford, offensive and defensive back; flanker 

There is no way one can go through this exercise and not put Gifford on the face of the mountain. He was more than just a great Giant and a pro football legend. He was a seminal figure in the NFL’s gradual rise from a fledgling league to an international phenomenon and powerhouse both on and off the field.

Gifford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft out of USC and after being used predominantly on defense for his first few seasons, eventually made a huge impact as a two-way player for them. He made the Pro Bowl at three different positions: running back, defensive back and flanker. Gifford played 12 seasons for the Giants and led them to the NFL Championship Game five times, winning it all in 1956.

He was one of the first athletes to fully realize his branding potential in the television age. His good looks, cool demeanor and high profile translated perfectly into the  broadcasting and advertising realms and he became a staple on key football and sports-related coverage for nearly forty years.

Gifford was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a six-time first team All-Pro. He was the MVP of the NFL in 1956 and the Comeback Player of the Year in 1962. His No. 16 is retired by the Giants and his name sits prominently in their Ring of Honor. Gifford was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He passed away in 2015 at age 84.

Lawrence Taylor, linebacker 

Taylor would be on any team’s Mount simply because he just might be the best defensive player of all time. Taken with the second overall pick out of North Carolina in 1982, “LT” dominated on the gridiron for the next decade, terrorizing opponents and leading the Giants back to prominence after two decades of futility.

There’s no real comparison for Taylor in football. He’s the Jordan, the Gretzky, of the NFL. He had no peers either before or after his career. Teams still go to the draft to this day looking for the next “LT”. They haven’t found him, and they probably won’t. “LT” was a dynamo, a perfect concoction made by the football gods that consisted of size, speed, power and anger. And he was a Giant.

“Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen,”  John Madden once said. “He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”

Taylor played 184 games over his 13-year career – all with the Giants. He was named to the Pro Bowl ten times, was an eight-time first team All-Pro and a three-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was selected the NFL MVP in 1986, only the second defensive player to ever garner the award. Taylor is a two-time Super Bowl champion and a member of the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team as well as the league’s 75th Anniversary Team. His No. 56 is retired by the Giants. He is a member of the Giants’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Michael Strahan, defensive end 

After being drafted in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Texas Southern, Strahan became the cornerstone of the Giants’ defense in the wake of Taylor’s retirement.  He played 216 games over his 15 year career, which was all with the Giants. No Giants defensive player has played more games (216) or has more quarterback sacks (141.5).

Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a four-time All-Pro. He holds the NFL record for sacks in a single season with 22.5 (2001) on his way to being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He is one of seven players to lead the league in sacks twice. His 9.5 sacks in Dec 2001 is tied with Minnesota’s Chris Doleman for the most sacks in a single month.

Strahan is a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and the Giants’ Ring of Honor. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Strahan’s final NFL game was  Super Bowl XLII, in which the Giants upset the undefeated New England Patriots, 17-14. Strahan in which he recorded two tackles and a sack of Tom Brady.  During the Super Bowl run he coined the phrase “Stomp You Out!” which became the team’s battle cry.

He currently works as a television host on ABC’s Good Morning America after a four-year stint co-hosting Live! With Kelly and Michael replacing longtime co-host Regis Phibin.

Eli Manning, quarterback

Very rarely does and active player appear on such lists, but Manning has made such an impact on the Giants’ organization, it is impossible to exclude him from any exercise when naming the franchise’s greatest players.

After GM Ernie Accorsi pulled off a draft day trade for Manning in 2004, many fans and pundits wondered if the youngest member of football’s royal family would ever pay off dividends. It took four seasons, but the ultimate dividend was realized when Eli led the Giants on an improbable playoff run in 2007, culminating in the stunning upset over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. In that game, Manning was on the throwing end of what is widely considered the greatest play in Super Bowl history – David Tyree’s helmet catch.

Manning was named MVP of that game and four years later, he did it again, leading the Giants to a 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. His individual accomplishments sometimes get clouded by stretches of mediocre play, but over his 15 seasons with the Giants in which he has played 216 games (tied with Strahan for the franchise record) and before getting benched in November of last season, Eli was working on a string of 210 starts, second in NFL history to Brett Favre’s 297.

Eli holds many of the Giants’ All-Time passing records including attempts, completions, touchdowns, interceptions, wins and completion percentage. He is sixth all-time in the NFL in passing attempts, completions and yards and eighth in touchdowns. And he’s far from done…

 

 

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