New York Giants
The New York Giants play in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) and are based at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey. They have won the National Football League (NFL) seven times, and count among their players over the years Hall of Famers like Frank Gifford and Mel Hain. After a long series of disappointing seasons, the Giants are back on top in the sport, having won Super Bowl XLII in early 2008.
The Giants were founded by Tim Mara in New York in 1925, becoming one of the teams in the newly formed National Football League. They played the Frankford Yellow Jackets in their first home game, unfortunately losing 14-0, but they went on to have a successful first season.
Home games against big clubs like the Chicago Bears gave a boost to the side, drawing in crowds and income, and helping the club to firmly establish itself in the league.
It didn’t take long for the Giants to show their potential, taking the NFL title in 1927. The following year, they eclipsed that showing by only losing one game, against the Green Bay Packers (who went on to win the NFL title).
Many players were added to the club to build on this period of improvement, including the whole of the Detroit Wolverines, which included star quarterback Benny Freidman. At the end of the season, Mara passed the ownership of the Giants to his sons Jack and Wellington, mainly to secure the financial stability of the club.
On Top Form
In 1930 the Giants played a charity match against a Notre Dame All Stars team. Fighting against public opinion that it would be an easy win for the All Stars, the Giants proved the critics wrong, preventing the All Stars from scoring a single point in the game.
Their win helped add much needed credibility to professional football, which at the time didn’t receive much recognition in the eyes of the American public.
The following years saw the Giants on good form, with Steve Owen coaching them to the Divisional Championship eight times between 1933 and 1946, coming away twice with the NFL Championship.
Their second NFL Championship win came in 1934, in a game where unconventional footwear held the key to their success. They faced the unbeaten Chicago Bears on an icy field, with conditions making it impossible to perform to their best.
A suggestion was made that they wore sneakers to provide better grip on the field, and after some were tracked down from Manhattan College, the Giants’ game improved dramatically, as they went on to defeat the Bears comfortably, 30-13.
The Giants added their third NFL championship in 1938, taking on and narrowly defeating the Green Bay Packers 23-16. However, the following year the Packers exacted revenge with some style, thumping the Giants by the astonishing score of 27-0.
Nevertheless, the Giants continued to reach the final stages of the competition in 1941, 1944 and 1946, only to fall at the final hurdle on every single occasion. The last of these also coincided with the complete takeover of the Giants by Jack and Wellington Mara.
In Second Place
After a successful run dampened by continual failure when it mattered, the Giants began to struggle full stop, as the rest of the 1940s proved a frustrating time for the team and supporters. The one bright spot in this forgettable period was the signing in 1948 of Emlen Tunnell, the first African American player in the team’s history and the first to reach the Hall of Fame.
The defensive back would spend a full decade at the Giants and would be a regular participant in the Pro-Bowl and a perennial All-Pro.
Despite such individual brilliance, the Giants didn’t see success again until 1956, when they exploded back onto the scene to reach the final of the NFL Championship.
Taking on the Chicago Bears in freezing, icy conditions, the team of 1956, which included legends like Frank Gifford and Sam Huff, were successfully masterminded by coach Jim Lee Howell to a famous and emphatic victory, 47-7.
This marked the beginning of another great period for the franchise, as they would appear no fewer than five times in the NFL Championship game between 1958 and 1963. However, like the previous golden era, the team succumbed on each occasion in the final.
Nevertheless, the entertainment which accompanied all of their games helped the development of American Football, most notably the final against the Baltimore Colts in 1958, which ended 23-17 in the Colts’ favour.
Despite constantly reaching the Championship game, the Giants failed to win another title, and 1963 marked the start of an unmemorable stretch in the club’s history where they failed to reach another post season game until 1981. Worse still, 1966 saw the club record its worst ever league record, with just 1 victory all season.
In 1967, quarterback Fran Tarkenton was bought by the club with the hope that he would turn things around. Tarkenton had previously played with the Minnesota Vikings and his first few seasons with the Giants started well, as the Giants only narrowly missed the playoffs in 1970.
The following year though, after a spell marked by poor form, he was traded back to the Vikings. In hindsight this may have proved an unwise move, with Tarkenton going on to lead the Vikings to three Super Bowls.
By contrast, the years from 1973 onwards marked a low for the club, with just 23 wins coming cumulatively in the following six seasons. Larry Csonka was added to the club in 1976 in the hope he would bring some new life to the offence, but injury meant his time with the Giants did little to revive their fortunes.
This period also saw the Giants forced to relocate while the Yankee Stadium was renovated. From 1973 to 1974 they played at the Yale Bowl, which they shared with the Jets, but the stadium failed to meet safety requirements due to general wear and tear, access problems and lack of lighting.
In 1974, they lost all their games at the Yale Bowl and moved to the Shea Stadium in Queens. Mercifully, this itinerant period was concluded when they finally moved in 1976 to the Meadowlands in New Jersey and into the brand spanking new Giants Stadium.
Unfortunately, the switch didn’t make too much different in their form and, in 1978, the Giants drew attention to themselves for the wrong reasons.
In the match against the Philadelphia Eagles they were within seconds of victory and opted, rather than having the quarterback kneel to waste time, to call a running play. The result was disastrous, as the Eagles turned things around and condemned the Giants to a highly embarrassing defeat. This debacle summed up the entire era for the Giants.
Back to the Top
After so many years of uncompetitive play and woeful results, the Giants finally found their form again in the eighties. They won the NFC East Division title twice and, more importantly, took the unprecedented step of following an NFL Championship with the Super Bowl in 1986.
The foundations were being laid during the late 1970s and 1979 saw signs of improvement, with Phil Simms joining the team, followed by Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Taylor won two NFL awards that season and the Giants reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963.
1982 was marked by the entry of Ray Perkins, who replaced by Bill Parcells as head coach. Parcells had previously been the team’s defensive co-coordinator and proved crucial in the team’s gradual climb back to success.
He had a challenging first year in charge, but players like Taylor helped rouse the team continually, as the Giants made the playoffs in 1984. Despite losing out in the second round, this was a promising result and, two years later, the club built on this experience.
Led by star quarterback Phil Simms and Taylor, who was fast becoming the greatest linebacker in history, the Giants went all the way to Super Bowl XXI after defeating the 49ers and the Redskins in the play-offs. Their opponents were the Denver Broncos and, with Simms in MVP winning form, the Giants had too much for the Broncos to handle, running out comfortable 39-20 victors.
Despite Lawrence Taylor proving a crucial player in the Giants’ success, 1988 saw controversy surround him. Taylor faced accusations over his abuse of cocaine and violating the league rules for a second time, resulting in his suspension from the first four games of the season. This rocked the Giants somewhat and was reflected in their form during the subsequent seasons.
More glory in the 1990s
Fortunately, 1990 again saw the Giants back on form, winning their first ten games in the season and enjoying their best ever start. A well-oiled machine under head coach Parcells, who continued his policy of ‘power football’ based around defense, the Giants picked up a 13-3 record in the regular season and defeated the Chicago Bears and then the 49ers to take the NFC Championship.
Coming up against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, the affair was a gripping one, as the Bills’ Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal in the dying seconds to ensure the Giants won by a single point, 20-19.
After the euphoria of the 1990 season, Parcells resigned and was replaced by Ray Handley as head coach. Unsurprisingly, Handley struggled to maintain the standards Parcells had set for the team and the Giants were unable to match their previous Super Bowl performances in the early 90s.
The reliance on Taylor’s skill and the decline of the Giants’ defense was evident in 1991 when Taylor ruptured his Achilles tendon during the season and the club went on to lose six of their last seven games.
After leading the league in 1990, the club fell to the other end of the scale, finishing 26th in the league in 1992. Handley was promptly fired and replaced by Dan Reeves, formerly of the Denver Broncos.
1991 also saw a huge change in ownership as the Mara family sold 50% of the club to Preston Tisch, one of the country’s most successful businessmen and fan of the Giants. The change in the backroom had some impact on the field as, in 1993, the Giants reached the playoffs.
This achievement also marked the end of the careers of Simms and Taylor, both of whom had proved key in the club’s success.
Finding the next Parcells
Following the departure of Taylor and Simms, the Giants once again began to struggle, missing the playoffs in 1994. Reeves was fired at the end of the 1996 season and Jim Fassel became the next in the line of coaches.
Danny Kennel was named starting quarterback and Fassel led the team to the playoffs in 1997, picking up the NFL Coach of the Year award in the process. However, the Giants went on to lose to the Vikings in the first round.
After finishing 3rd in the Division in 1998, Kerry Collins was brought to the club to lead the team. He had previously been the first draft choice of the Carolina Panthers in 1995, and had helped them reach the NFC Championship in his second season.
He arrived with some controversy though, as a quick temper and alcohol problems had made him an uncontrollable player who was later dropped by the Panthers.
Fassel had a lot to prove as coach and in 2000 he was under the pressure of producing a winning team or risk losing his job. The season started badly but a turnaround saw the Giants fight back to win the rest of their games that season and finish as the NFC top seed.
Securing their position in the playoffs was a big boost to the side and they progressed impressively to the Super Bowl XXXV. Coming up against the Baltimore Ravens, the Giants started well but, with the opposition defense well on form, the result was a disappointing one for the supporters, with the Giants going down 34-7.
The decline thereafter was palpable. 2001 saw them unable to match the previous year, missing out on the playoffs and, in 2002, they dropped out in the first round. After another bad season in 2003, Fassel coached the last two games knowing that his time with the club was at an end.
Victory in Sight
Tom Coughlin was next to take up the task of coaching the Giants back to the top. Known as being a much tougher coach than Fassel, Coughlin began his tenure with the inspired decision to bring quarterback Eli Manning to the club.
Coughlin’s time with the club has seen ups and downs, as the Giants reached the playoffs on two occasions but failed to win until 2007. Their success in reaching the playoffs in 2005 honored the deaths that year of Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, key figures in the Giants history.
In 2006 the club faced criticism over Coughlin’s coaching, with the supporters growing restless over the lack of success. They led the Eastern Division at the beginning of the season but injury affected performance, going on to lose all but one game in the second part of the season.
They almost had another chance, winning their last game at Washington and receiving a wildcard entry into the NFC playoffs, but Philadelphia knocked them out in the first round.
In 2007 they made the playoffs yet again, in a year when victory over the Atlanta Falcons saw them became only the third franchise in the NFL to win over 600 games. They also defeated the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in the first NFL game played outside of America.
The year also saw them not only reach the playoffs but progress through them to reach the NFC Championship. Beating the Green Bay Packers, they went on to face the all-conquering New England Patriots, who were on the cusp of a perfect season, in Super Bowl XLII.
Despite being huge underdogs, Eli Manning outshone the Patriots’ darling Tom Brady to take the MVP award and the Giants took the game 17-14. Now flying high as Super Bowl champions, the foundations have been laid for another golden era in the Giants’ already glorious history.
- Super Bowl Championships – Winners (1986 (XXI), 1990 (XXV), 2007 (XLII))
- NFL Championships – Winners (1927, 1934, 1938, 1956)
- Conference Championships – NFL Eastern Winners (1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963), NFC Winners (1986, 1990, 2000, 2007)
- Division Championships – NFL East Winners (1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1946), NFC East Winners (1986, 1989, 1990, 1997, 2000, 2005)