Shockey over Bavaro? I don't think so
Sports have enduring charm, not the least of which is this: Their incomparable knack to produce conversation. We discuss. We argue. And that’s what I’ve missed the most during their hiatus in this new abnormal.
So mad props and bon mots to SNY for screwing up the all-time Giants team enough to provide me with a long overdue sports conniption. It felt great to go volcanic about something that really doesn’t matter. And yet it does.
COVID-19’s effects have rendered many media outlets scurrying for content, leaving us awash in all-decade and all-time teams to generate conversation. Hence, SNY’s swing at the all-time starting team for the football Giants.
Here’s my take on such teams: Statistics should be used more like a lamp post — to illuminate — rather than a crutch. Numbers do not tell us everything. The great Tom Boswell wrote in the Washington Post once about how Baseball Hall of Fame voters bear the responsibility of “real time evaluation” of a player's place in his sport. The same goes for all-time teams. To me, the concept of “when” is as important as “what.”
I love no team more than the football Giants. My childhood consisted of this: Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church in Middletown at 11, Sunday dinner at 12, the Giants at 1 … and then abject failure at practicing what we just learned in church by yelling “Jesus!” at the television for all the wrong reasons.
SNY’s all-time defense:
Defensive tackles (2): Rosey Grier, Leonard Marshall. No vociferous argument here. Giants’ fan (and forever UConn play-by-play voice) Joe D’Ambrosio of WTIC says he’d swap Marshall for John Mendenhall. I agree, although Marshall did force Roger Craig’s game-changing fumble in the 1990 NFC championship game.
Defensive ends (2): Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck. Hard to argue. Notable omissions are Osi Umenyiora, George Martin and Andy Robustelli. But then, this is why Giants fans love their defense. It used to be really good.
Linebackers (3): Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Sam Huff. SNY decided to play a 4-3 defense here. If this were a 3-4, Carl Banks would be on the list.
Cornerbacks (2): Dick Lynch, Willie Williams. Lynch is a no brainer. But how do we ignore Corey Webster? A starter on two Super Bowl champs who beat Tom Brady twice. Williams played in the late 60s when the Giants were terrible.
Safeties (2): Emlen Tunnell, Jimmy Patton. I hate to omit Spider Lockhart here, who played 145 games and joined Dave Jennings as the only two Giants worth watching for about a five-year period.
SNY’s offense (here is where I’m going to get indignant):
Quarterback: Eli Manning. Not even a question.
Running backs: Frank Gifford, Tiki Barber. Gifford is an icon. But Tiki Barber? Nice stats. Nearly 11,000 yards. But I’ll take Joe Morris. One word: trustworthy. Barber fumbled 53 times in 10 years. Morris fumbled 27 times in seven years. He was The Man on a championship team. Barber’s teams never won anything.
Wide receiver (2): Amani Toomer, Odell Beckham Jr. No arguments over “the well-dressed Amani Toomer,” as Chris Berman used to say. But Beckham? Stop. This is not — repeat not — just about stats. Odell Beckham is all lime and salt — but not enough Tequila. The Giants were 31-49 with Beckham on the team. Not good enough. I called my father and asked him, “Dad, who’s the best Giants receiver ever?” In 0.1 seconds, he replied, “Del Shofner.” Duh. Father knows best. I’d put Plaxico Burress ahead of Beckham, too. Burress was a monumental part of a championship team.
Tight End: Jeremy Shockey. Question: How many Grey Gooses (Grey Geese?) did the person have who picked Shockey over Mark Bavaro? Did they miss the night Bavaro dragged half of San Francisco with him? Again: Shockey’s stats are noteworthy. But real-time evaluation? It’s not close. Again: “Dad, who’s the best Giants tight end ever?” In 0.1 seconds, he replied, “Bavaro.” Duh. Father knows best.
Tackles (2): Rosey Brown, Jumbo Elliott; Guards (2): Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara; Center (1): Mel Hein. All I know about offensive line play is this: The Giants should be ashamed of the five turnstiles they put in front of Manning for the last few years of his career.
Kicker: Lawrence Tynes. This is interesting. Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin were persnickety about their kickers. I’d go with Tynes because he made 84 percent of his field goals and made two kicks to send the Giants to the Super Bowl on the road. One in Green Bay when it was below zero and the ball was hard as a brick. Notez bien: Raul Allegre, Matt Bahr and Brad Daluiso were really good, too.
Punter: Dave Jennings. We used to celebrate fourth down in the old days because we could finally get our best player on the field.
So there it is. Shockey over Bavaro and Beckham over Shofner. I don’t think so.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro