New York Giants Eli Manning, Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

In his retirement press conference, Eli Manning said he’s “once a Giant…only a Giant.” What other New York Giants greats can say the same?

Jason Leach

This year’s NFL free agency frenzy has players switching teams from left to right. It’s going to be strange seeing some guys in different uniforms in 2020.

The biggest player to switch teams, of course, is Tom Brady, who signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The New York Giants have also seen some of the greatest players in the history of their franchise suit up for other teams. Carl Banks played for the Redskins and Browns, Justin Tuck played for the Raiders, and Mark Bavaro played for the Browns and the hated Eagles.

Nonetheless, there have been some all-time great Giants that never portrayed their talents for any other organization.

Wellington Mara, the late, great team owner, coined the phrase “Once a Giant, always a Giant.” During his retirement press conference, Eli Manning said for him, it’s “Only a Giant.”

Manning’s message was clear, and it remains important to him that he never plays for another organization.

 

5. Phil Simms (1979-93)

Phil Simms was one of the most underrated quarterbacks of his era, as he was overshadowed by the defense and Big Blue’s powerful ground game led by Joe Morris and Ottis Anderson.

Simms has an impressive win-loss record of 95-64 and was named to the Pro Bowl twice. He still holds the franchise record for most passing yards in a game with 513, which came in a loss to the Bengals in 1985.

Fans remember him for his miraculous performance in Super Bowl 21. During that matchup, he completed 22 out of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. His efforts earned him the game’s MVP Award.

Some feel Simms, who finished his career with 199 touchdown passes, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

4. Harry Carson (1976-88)

Harry Carson is one of the greatest linebackers of all time, and he isn’t mentioned enough in conversations. While Taylor receives the bulk of the credit for turning the Giants into a dominant defense, Carson was a two-time Pro Bowler before Taylor arrived. Not to mention, he helped mentor No. 56.

In total, Carson would earn nine Pro Bowl nods in his career and was named first-team All-Pro in both 1981 and 1984. Carson also made the Gatorade shower famous as he would dump a bucket on head coach Bill Parcells after every win during the 1986 season, including the Giants’ Super Bowl 21 victory over the Broncos.

Carson, Taylor, Banks and Gary Reasons would form arguably the best linebacker unit of the 1980s. After years of waiting, Carson was rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

3. Eli Manning (2004-19)

Manning would make the man that traded for him on draft day, Ernie Accorsi, look like a genius.

Eli went on to become the greatest quarterback in the history of the franchise and hold almost every Giants passing record. His 57,023 passing yards and 366 passing touchdowns currently rank seventh all-time. His ironman streak of playing in 210 consecutive games is third-most all-time for a quarterback.

But what Manning will be remembered most for is his ability to be clutch in the playoffs. He possesses an 8-4 postseason record, with only one of those victories coming at home. He led the Giants to two improbable victories in Super Bowls 42 and 46 and earned MVP in both games, having led two game-winning drives in the final minutes.

He’s also one of only five guys to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs, joining Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and the man he defeated twice on the biggest stage, Tom Brady.

2. Michael Strahan (1993-2007)

Michael Strahan was one of the best defensive ends of his era, having made the Pro Bowl seven times in his 15-year career. In 2001, he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award and set the all-time single-season sack record with 22.5. It’s a record that still stands today.

He would lead the league in sacks for a second time in 2003 when he recorded 18.5. In 2007, he broke Taylor’s franchise mark for career sacks and became the unquestioned leader of the Giants. He earned a spot on the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.

Strahan had perhaps the most memorable ending to a career as he helped guide the Giants to a 17-14 win over the then-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. He and the rest of the Giants defensive front put constant pressure on Brady and propelled New York to one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

No. 92 would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

1. Lawrence Taylor (1981-93)

Simply put, Lawrence Taylor is the greatest defensive player the NFL has ever seen. The Giants missed the playoffs from 1964-80. Luckily, the franchise’s fortunes changed immediately when they took LT with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1981 draft.

Taylor would become the Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in his inaugural pro season. Thanks to his efforts, the Giants went 9-7 and earned a playoff berth where they defeated the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21 in the wild-card round.

Five years later, he would record 20.5 sacks and win the NFL MVP Award. This helped the Giants to their first Super Bowl, where they ousted the Broncos 39-20. Big Blue would then win Super Bowl 25 over the Bills four years later.

Taylor earned 10 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1981-1990. When he retired in 1993, he was the all-time leader in sacks with 132.5. LT was eventually enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

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