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Looking Back On Justin Tuck's Career With The Giants

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Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images.

Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants versus the undefeated New England Patriots. New England has the ball, 1st-and-10 on the Giants’ 44-yard-line with 22 seconds left in the second quarter. New England is up 7-3 and is looking to score points before the half. The ball is snapped. Giants DE Justin Tuck runs through All-Pro LG Logan Mankins, sacked future Hall-of-Fame QB Tom Brady, and forced a fumble that the Giants recovered. After the play, Tuck hustled back to the sidelines, sat down, and one of the Giants’ assistant coaches demonstrably slapped Tuck on the shoulders acknowledging his big-time play.

The Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history that night in Glendale, AZ. When I think of Tuck’s time with the Giants, I think about this play. In this piece, we will examine Tuck’s career with the Giants and bid farewell.

Tuck played college football at the University of Norte Dame, and was drafted by the Giants in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Tuck has been an excellent player with the Giants, recording 60.5 sacks in nine seasons, and he has four double-digit sack seasons with the Giants (2007, 2008, 2010 and 2013). He was selected to the Pro Bowl two times (2008, 2010), named first team All-Pro in 2008 and named second team All-Pro in 2010.

Tuck is a solid all-around defensive end. At 6-5, 268 pounds, Tuck is strong enough to win battles on the edge against opposing teams who seek to run the ball. At the same time, he is athletic enough to be a very effective pass rusher whether lining up at defensive end or defensive tackle in obvious passing situations. Tuck is known for his high motor and being an every-down player.

When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, head coach Tom Coughlin cited the creation of a leadership council as being crucial to the team’s success. The council consisted of several players on the team who would meet with coach Coughlin, and they discussed team matters and other issues to make sure the players and coaching staff were on the same page. Tuck has consistently been a fixture on the council, and he has been one of coach Coughlin’s biggest supporters. Last season, after the Giants lost to the Kansas City Chiefs to fall to 0-4, Tuck said, “If anyone turns on our coach, I would be the first one to punch him in the mouth.” Tuck’s play and leadership is one of the main factors behind the Giants salvaging their season by winning seven of their last 10 games. Their improved play in the second half is a testament to the leadership in the locker room and the coaching staff’s competence.

Tuck has decided to leave the Giants and sign a two-year contract with the Oakland Raiders worth $11 million. Tuck’s departure from the Giants seems to have left a sour taste in his mouth. According to an interview with the New York Daily News,Tuck felt he was “strung along” and is “upset” about the way his departure from the Giants went down. We have all seen this story before in the NFL: a team with many roster and cap constraints needs not re-sign a veteran who is on the wrong side of 30 due to skepticism as to how much he has left in the tank and how much money he wants.  

So is it the end of the road? On March 29, Tuck will turn 31 years old. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Tuck struggled with injuries. After nine seasons in the NFL, any player, especially a player that mostly battles in the trenches like Tuck, can incur some significant wear and tear to his body.

Tuck has had a great career with the Giants. He’s been a very solid player and a stand-up person. There will be some big shoes to fill on the Giants defensive line and in the locker room with his departure. I think time will heal these wounds, and I’m confident Tuck will receive a very warm welcome when he returns to Giants stadium.