My All Time Favorite New York Giants Players
The New York Giants started play in 1925 in the NFL. In 1927, they won their first NFL Championship, before there were Championship Games. They also won in 1934, 1938, and 1956. After a long drought, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl during the 1986 and 1990 seasons under Bill Parcells. Then in 2007 they beat the undefeated New England Patriots for another Super Bowl crown and again won in 2011.
The New York Giants are one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NFL. With a plethera of Hall of Fame players, the Giants certainly do not lack talent.
Eli Manning, pending an injury, will likely go down as the leader in most of the Giants passing categories. He led the Giants to the most improbable Super Bowl championship ever, beating the New England Patriots who were favored by as many as 14.5 points. He won Super Bowl MVP after leading the Giants on two 80 yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, famously hooking up with Plaxico Burress for the game winning score. He has been up and down in his Giants career, often causing fans to turn on him. However more recently he’s improved to that of a top 10 quarterback and will likely end his career as the greatest QB in Giants history.
Phil Simms didn’t get the stats of some of his peers during the 1980s boom era of quarterbacks, but he did exactly what his coach expected of him, which is the trait of a great player. He certainly had the capability of letting it loose and being a gun slinger, but Bill Parcells turned him in to a game manager and that is all that team needed to win titles. And win they did. He was great at protecting the ball and rarely made mistakes that costed his team a game. His performance in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos is legendary. In that game he went 22/25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns—a 150.9 near perfect QB rating. The performance proved that the moment was never too big for Simms and when his team needed him in big moments he would perform.
If not for the absolute brilliance of Y.A. Tittle in his four years with the Giants, Charlie Conerly would be the greatest QB in Giants history. Sure the record books may have Phil Simms a notch or two ahead of Conerly in terms of production, but the era of the quarterback was much different in Conerly’s time. 173 touchdown passes in the 1950s looks a whole lot better than the 199 touchdown passes from Phil Simms in the 1980s, especially when so many of Simms’ peers surpassed the 200 mark. Conerly was the definition of a field general, something he likely picked up while touring with the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II. His teammates went to battle with him and he led them to greatness. It’s a damn shame Conerly played in the era he did, overshadowed by his peers Otto Graham and perhaps Norm Van Brocklin, as well as by teammates Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and Rosey Brown. He would likely have garnered Hall of Fame honors if it weren’t for those extenuating circumstances. Gifford constantly pleaded with voters to put Conerly in the Hall but to no avail; the Giants still rewarded him by retiring his No. 42 jersey at the end of his career.
Y.A. Tittle made a name for himself for the San Francisco 49ers before joining the Giants in the twilight of his career, and nobody expected him to be as successful. He led the Giants to the Eastern title in 1961, 1962, and 1963, winning the NFL MVP in some fashion in all three seasons. He first came to the Giants as a resented player who was replacing team favorite Charlie Conerly, but soon won over his teammates with his unbelievable play. Although he made the title game with the Giants those three years, the title still eluded him and people point to that as a reason why he’s not in the conversation for greatest in that era. He still holds the record, along with a couple others, for tossing seven touchdown passes in a single game. He is one of the few Giants to have his number retired. Though the Giants only had Tittle’s service for four seasons, he tossed 96 touchdowns and only 68 interceptions during those four years.
Although Fran Tarkenton is most remembered for guiding the Minnesota Vikings to several Super Bowl trips, he spent five years with the Giants between his two stints in Minnesota, making the Pro Bowl four times. His incredible career is considered one of the top 10 in NFL history, being the first quarterback who combined elite passing ability with the threat of the run to keep defenses honest. He finished his career holding just about every passing record, though most believe he doesn’t hold a candle to Johnny Unitas because Tarkenton never won a championship. His passing numbers were as follows: 3,686 pass completions, 47,003 passing yards, and 342 touchdowns. That number of passing touchdowns stood 30 years before passed by Dan Marino in the 90s, and he is still fourth in the category and sixth in career passing yards.
Though not the most popular guy off the field now, you can’t ignore all the records that Tiki Barber shattered in his time with the Giants. It took a few years for him to really etch his name among the NFL’s best running backs, but when he did he put to bed any notion of him being only a third down running back. Among many other records, he’s the Giants leader in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns—the three major categories. He also, more amazingly, had over 5,000 receiving yards and joins only Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen as guys who rushed for over 10,000 yards and also had 5,000 receiving yards.
Frank Gifford was an offensive machine and a triple threat on offense. He could do it all; pass, run, catch, return kicks, and even played some very good defensive back. Speaking to his incredible versatility, he made the Pro Bowl eight times and did so at three different positions—running back, defensive back, and wide receiver (flanker as it was known then). In his career, he amassed 10,573 yards from rushing, passing, receiving, and return yards as well as 92 total touchdowns. In 1956 he was the NFL MVP and the Giants won the NFL Championship that season.
Drafted as the next great running back in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft, Rodney Hampton would become one of the best at the position in Giants history. He was an integral part of the 1990 Super Bowl team, spelling Super Bowl MVP Otis Anderson on occasion, and took over the starting job the very next year. In the next five years Hampton had five straight 1000 yard seasons and never rushed for fewer than five touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl twice in that span.
Although it seems highly likely that Amani Toomer will have most of his records shattered by either Steve Smith or Hakeem Nicks, if both stay healthy, there is no denying that Toomer is one of the best receivers the Giants have ever had. He famously became Eli Manning’s security blanket in desperate situations, rarely dropping a ball that he absolutely had to come down with. He still holds every major Giants receiving record.
Mark Bavaro is easily the greatest tight end in Giants history, despite only having six productive years with the team. He still holds records for most yards in a single season and is tied with Jeremy Shockey for most receptions in one season. He may not have as many yards or receptions as Shockey does, by a long shot, but he did score more touchdowns and had a reputation as one of the toughest players in the NFL. On on particular play against the San Francisco 49ers, he carried at least seven defenders for 20 yards, including All Pro and known big hitter Ronnie Lott. The play defined Bavaro, who’s also known as ‘Rambo.’
Jeremy Shockey was supposed to be the next Mark Bavaro. Though not as big and supposedly not as tough, Shockey was an elite blocking prospect who also had the speed to kill defenses. He played with a mean streak and looked to punish defenders at any given moment. In essence, he was the perfect weapon. Shockey holds some records for a tight end with the Giants (receptions, yards).
OG – Jack Stroud (1953-1964)
If there is anyone who could challenge Rosey Brown as the Giants best offensive lineman, it’s Mel Hein. Hein is the first and only offensive lineman to win the MVP award, playing 15 years with the Giants and never missed a single game due to injury. He retired in 1945, was one of the first inductees in to the Hall of Fame when it opened in 1963, named the starting center on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, and even named No. 74 on The Sporting News’ Top 100 players of all time. Hein was Chuck Bednarik before there was a Chuck Bednarik; he dominated as the team’s starting center and middle linebacker, often making as many plays on defense as he did opening holes on offense. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Hein played 60 minutes a game and only called a timeout for himself once, so the people on the sideline could repair a broken nose and he could get back in to the game.
OG – Darrell Dess (1959-64, 66-69)
John “Jumbo” Elliott
Though recognized for his great play with only one Pro Bowl, Jumbo Elliot was certainly a favorite of fans and Bill Parcells alike. Known for his incredible size and athleticism, he could handle any opposing team’s leading pass rusher, allowing Phil Simms to have a wonderful end to his career. After Elliot was drafted in 1988, the number of sacks allowed by the Giants offensive line dropped dramatically. Parcells loved Elliot so much that he made sure to bring him along when he returned to coaching with the New York Jets in 1996.
Michael Strahan is the Giants All-Time leader in sacks, was defensive player of the year in 2001 and 2003—setting the single season record for sacks in ’01 with 22.5—and made the Pro Bowl seven times.
Justin Tuck has emerged in the last couple of seasons as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He had 79 tackles and 11.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles in 2010 and was named to the second team All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl. He accomplished that same feat in 2008. He and Osi Umenyiora are one of the best tandem’s at defensive end in the NFL. Tuck is one of the leaders on defense that leads by example. His quiet, soft spoken nature goes away when game time roles around.
The New York Giants 3-4 defense of the 1980s may not have been possible were it not for the dominance of defensive end George Martin. Though they still could have been good, a great defense does not function without great defensive line play. Most people nowadays associate the 3-4 defensive end as mainly a run stopping specialist, but Martin could get to the quarterback as if he was playing in the 4-3. He is credited with an astonishing 96 sacks in his career with the Giants, as well as an incredible seven defensive touchdowns. He was a big play machine and you could always count on Martin to make a big play when offenses took their eyes off him.
Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier
Roosevelt Grier was another incredible piece to the puzzle that allowed the Giants to win the 1956 NFL championship. He was a monster in the middle of their defense and was elected to the All Pro team as a defensive tackle five times with the Giants.
Arnie Weinmeister was a larger than life talent whose career was another one cut short by service in the army. Though he played only four seasons with the Giants, he absolutely dominated on defense during that time. In a time when over 5’9” 200 lbs was considered a good sized man, Weinmeister sat at 6’4”, 240 lbs. He was elected to both the Pro Bowl and the All Pro team from 1950-1953 (his four years with the Giants) and remains one of the more celebrated Canadian born players in NFL history. Not only did Weinmeister wow fans with his incredible size, but he was widely considered the fastest lineman in his era. Weinmeister combined his brute strength and size with his speed to be a defensive machine, both stopping the run and rushing the passer. There was little anyone could do when Weinmeister picked up a head of steam and was one of the first defensive players to really capture the excitement from the fans. His six year career is the shortest of any Hall of Famer in NFL history, which should tell you how dominant he was.
Andy Robustelli’s career might have been a bit more exotic had the NFL kept quarterback sacks as a stat back in those days. As it stands, he’s still one of the best defensive ends to play the game and is a legend among Giants fans. He is credited for being an emotional leader and the glue to the 1956 NFL Championship team, which was loaded with Hall of Famers. He had an incredible work ethic; the Rams drafted him to catch passes in 1951, but already had star wide outs at the time so Robustelli dedicated himself to the defensive side of the ball. He is a hall of famer and made the Pro Bowl and All Pro rosters seven times each.
Roosevelt “Rosey” Brown
Easily the greatest offensive lineman in the New York Giants history, Rosey Brown led the way for many great offensive players, including Charlie Conerly, Y.A. Tittle, and Frank Gifford. A center piece on the 1956 championship and a member of the Giants coaching staff/scouting for many years after his retirement, his career on and off the field is something to marvel at. He made nine Pro Bowls and was named the 56th best player on the The Sporting News’ top 100 list. Brown was not necessarily the first great athlete to play offensive line, but he may have been the first most gifted athlete at his size. He was very quick with his feet and it was impossible to get around him, using those quick feet with his long arms to keep guys in front of him. This is why many consider him to be the greatest pass blocker of his era. Charlie Conerly owes a lot of his success to the protection he received from Brown. Brown is one of those guys that could have made it in any time period.
This isn’t even close. Anyone who doesn’t have Lawrence Taylor as the greatest player in Giants history is kidding themselves. Not only that, but he is arguably the greatest defender and player to ever play the game. He is one of only two defensive players that have won the AP NFL MVP award, won Defensive Player of the year three times, made 10 Pro Bowls, 10 All Pro selections, and won two Super Bowls with the Giants. For a team most known for their defensive prowess, L.T. set the bar higher than anyone had before and no one has come even close to reaching that height since. The 3-4 defense was created for him specifically so he could showcase his abilities and tenacity. Not only could he defend the pass and run with the best of them, but he was unbelievable at rushing the passer. He was truly one of those players that just couldn’t be stopped.
Sam Huff started his career dominating for the Giants before joining the Redskins, but he definitely made a lasting impact on the Giants to say the least. He made five Pro Bowls in eight seasons with the Giants and was named the NFL’s best linebacker in 1959. His story is an interesting one. He was drafted as a guard out of college and the head coach at the time—Jim Lee Howell—had a difficult time finding a spot for Huff. Discouraged by this, Huff left for the airport and was chased down by an assistant coach who saw talent in him. His name was Vince Lombardi, and he convinced Huff to return. Defensive Coordinator Tom Landry created the 4-3 defense, middle linebacker Ray Beck got hurt, and the rest is history.
What Harry Carson meant to the Giants during the Bill Parcells era is difficult to put in to words. While Lawrence Taylor was dominating during that time, it was no secret who was the leader and captain of that those teams. Carson played the game with reckless abandoned and rarely missed games due to injury. He was the most dominant when the moment was greatest, signifying the characteristic of a truly great player. He was part of two great linebacker groups, first playing with Taylor, Brad Van Pelt, and Brian Kelley in what was known as the “Crunch Bunch.” Carl Banks, Taylor, Carson, and Gary Reasons were arguably the greatest linebacker crew to ever suit up, getting dubbed the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” in 1986. The Giants went 14-2 that year and only allowed 23 points in three playoff games en route to the title.
The many great linebackers in the 1980s and early 90s passed the torch to Jesse Armstead, who continued to exude excellence from the position. He was elected to the Pro Bowl five times with the Giants and led them to the Super Bowl in 2000. That Giants defense was ranked number two in the NFL and it was due in large part to the leadership and play of Armstead.
Mark Haynes looked like one of the best defenders in the game for three years in the early 80s. He was arguably one of the best cover corners at that time and made both the All Pro and Pro Bowl from 1982-1984. However, he would not finish his career with the Giants, leaving after the 1985 season to join the Broncos in 1986. In his final great season in 1984, he had seven interceptions.
CB – Carl Lockhart (1965-1975)
Though Erich Barnes was only on the Giants for four seasons, he made the Pro Bowl each year for the team and was a staple on a defense that led the Giants to the title game three years in a row from 1961 to 1963. The Giants went through a period of down times in the late 60s and 70s, which was due mainly to them losing several of their defensive stars, and Barnes is included in that when the Giants traded him to Cleveland. He had 18 interceptions in four season with the Giants and his 102 yard touchdown return on an interception tied an NFL record at the time.
The fact that Jimmy Patton and Emlen Tunnell only got to play together for four seasons is a travesty. Emlen Tunnell is one of the best safeties of all time and Patton is right behind him on the all time list of Giants safeties. Patton amassed 52 interceptions in 12 seasons with the Giants and made the Pro Bowl five times. He was part of six teams that made the NFL championship and a major piece to the 1956 championship team.
Emlen Tunnel is another player who will last through the history of the NFL as one of the greatest defensive players ever. The first African American player for the Giants as well as the first African American player to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Tunnell was definitely influential off the field as much as he was on it. In one year, Tunnell actually had more interception and kick return yards than the NFL’s leading rusher. He was known as the “offense on defense” in the famed Umbrella defense. He’s on any sane person’s list of the greatest players of all time, and rightfully so. He had 79 interceptions in his career, second only to the career leader Paul Krause who has 81. Tunnell was one of the reasons Steve Owen’s famed umbrella defense worked so well. It was designed to keep everything in front of four defensive backs whose job was to make life hell for opposing passers. In his first 10 years in the league, Tunnell never had less than six interceptions in any one season. He made nine Pro Bowls and his 79 picks were a record at the time of his retirement.
Before he was Tom Landry the Giants defensive coordinator and then the greatest Dallas Cowboys coach ever, he was a defensive back for the Giants. Not only was he a great defensive back, collecting 32 interceptions, but he returned punts and was the team’s punter. He displayed characteristics on the field—leadership, intelligence, and the ability to read offenses—that would make him such a great coach in the future. In his first season as an assistant coach only (he was a player-coach in 1954-55), he created the 4-3 defense specifically for rookie Sam Huff in 1956. The Giants would go on to win the NFL championship that season. Though, admittedly, his Hall of Fame status was almost certainly due to his work as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. He amazingly was their coach for 29 straight seasons, surpassed only by Chicago Bears head coach George Halas. He coached the Cowboys to their first winning season in 1966, and they never fell below .500 again for the next 20 years. That’s incredible.
PR/KR – Dave Meggett
To describe Steve Owen as a person, you need only look at the contract he signed with the Mara family when he became the team’s head coach. Oh wait, he didn’t sign one. He and Tim Mara agreed he would become the head coach only on a hand shake. The agreement would last 24 years. Before that, Owen was one of the first great lineman with the Giants. He captained the 1927 team and along side Cal Hubbard they dominated opponents by a margin of 197-20 on the way to the title. Owen would lead the Giants to eight of the first 14 NFL Championships, winning two as the team’s head coach and one as a player.
- Owner Tim Mara “borrowed” the Giants name from the city’s Major League Baseball team of the same name. This was not unusual among early day pro football franchises. At one time or another there were NFL franchises named the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Braves, and Detroit Tigers.
- Bob Folwell (1925)
- Joe Alexander (1926)
- Benny Friedman (1927-1928)
- LeRoy Andrews (1929-1930)
- Benny Friedman/Steve Owens (1930)
- Steve Owens (1931-1953)
- Jim Lee Howell (1954-1960)
- Allie Sherman (1961-1968)
- Alex Webster (1969-1973)
- Bill Arnsparger (1974-1976)
- John McVay (1976-1978)
- Ray Perkins (1979-1982)
- Bill Parcells (1983-1990)
- Ray Handley (1991-1992)
- Dan Reeves (1993-1996)
- Jim Fassel (1997-2003)
- Tom Coughlin (2004-2015)
- Ben McAdoo (2016-2017)
- Steve Spagnuolo (2017)
- Pat Shurmur (2018-Present)
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
- Super Bowl XXI (1986) – New York Giants defeat Denver Broncos 39-20
- Super Bowl XXV (1990) – New York Giants defeat Buffalo Bills 20-19
- Super Bowl XLII (2007) – New York Giants defeat New England Patriots 17-14
- Super Bowl XLVI (2011) – New York Giants defeat New England Patriots 21-17
NFL CHAMPIONS (PRE-1966)
- 1927, 1934, 1938, 1956
SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES
- Super Bowl XXI (1986) – New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos
- Super Bowl XXV (1990) – New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills
- Super Bowl XXXV (2000) – New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens
- Super Bowl XLII (2007) – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
- Super Bowl XLVI (2011) – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES (PRE-1966)
- 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1946, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
- 1986, 1990, 2000, 2007, 2011
- 1927, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011
- 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1950, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011
- 24-24 .500
HALL OF FAME PLAYERS
- Morris “Red” Badgro E (1930-1935)
- Roosvelt Brown OT (1953-1965)
- Harry Carson LB (1976-1988)
- Larry Csonka FB (1976-1978)
- Ray Flaherty E (1928-1929, 1931-1935)
- Benny Friedman QB (1929-1931)
- Frank Gifford WR/RB (1952-1964)
- Joe Guyon RB (1927)
- Mel Hein C (1931-1945)
- Wilbur “Pete” Henry T (1927)
- Arnie Herber QB (1944-1945)
- Cal Hubbard T (1927-1928, 1936)
- Sam Huff LB (1956-1963)
- Tuffy Leemans RB (1936-1943)
- TIim Mara Owner (1925-1959)
- Wellington Mara Owner (1930-2005)
- Don Maynard WR (1958)
- Hugh McElhenny RB (1963)
- Steve Owen Coach (1930-1953)
- Andy Robustelli DE (1956-1964)
- Ken Strong RB (1933-1935, 1939, 1944-1947)
- Fran Tarkenton QB (1967-1971)
- Lawrence Taylor LB (1981-1993)
- Jim Thorpe RB (1925)
- Y.A. Tittle QB (1961-1964)
- Emlen Tunnell DB (1948-1958)
- Arnie Weinmeister DT (1950-1953)
- 1 Ray Flaherty E (1928-1929, 1931-1934)
- 4 Tuffy Leemans RB (1936-1943)
- 7 Mel Hein C (1931-1945)
- 11 Phil Simms QB (1979-1993)
- 14 Y. A. Tittle QB (1961-1964)
- 16 Frank Gifford RB/WR (1952-1964)
- 32 Al Blozis T (1942-1944)
- 40 Joe Morrison RB/WR (1959-1972)
- 42 Charlie Conerly QB (1948-1961)
- 50 Ken Strong RB (1933-1935, 1939, 1944-1947)
- 56 Lawrence Taylor LB (1981-1993)
PRO BOWL MVP
- 1959 Frank Gifford RB
- 1961 Sam Huff LB
- 1986 Phil Simms QB
COACH OF THE YEAR
- 1950 Steve Owens
- 1956 Jim Lee Howell
- 1986 Bill Parcells
- 1993 Dan Reeves
- 1997 Jim Fassel
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- 1981 Lawrence Taylor LB
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- 1981 Lawrence Taylor LB
- 1982 Lawrence Taylor LB
- 1986 Lawrence Taylor LB
- 2001 Michael Strahan DE
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- 1938 Mel Hein C
- 1956 Frank Gifford RB
- 1959 Charlie Conerly QB
- 1963 Y.A. Tittle QB
- 1986 Lawrence Taylor LB
SUPER BOWL MVP
- Super Bowl XXI – Phil Simms QB (1986)
- Super Bowl XXV – Ottis Anderson RB (1990)
- Super Bowl XLII – Eli Manning QB (2007)
- Super Bowl XLVI – Eli Manning QB (2011)
Since 1925, the New York Giants have been the standard bearers for the National Football League. Their record speaks for itself: 22 division titles and six world championships including four Super Bowl victories. the great moments in Giants history including their upset victories over New England Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
Thanks for including that wonderful Football Card of Jimmy Patton. I always wondered what he looked like up Close. A real southern “good ole Boy”!
And a great Football Player too. RIP
I am glad you found something nostalgic. That card is from my dad’s collection and was one of his favorites.