New York Giants' All-Time Mount Rushmore
Last month, Pro Football Talk had its readers vote on an all-time "Mount Rushmore" for each team in the NFL. If you're not familiar with the popular "Mount Rushmore" discussion in sports, it basically goes like this: Pick the four best players that, together, define what the franchise means to its fans and to the league, and what it has accomplished throughout the course of its existence. It may seem like a simple exercise at first, but the debate quickly grows intense, and you soon realize that picking only four players and coaches from a history that spans sometimes seven or eight decades is a lot more difficult than you'd think.
For a team with as decorated and celebrated a history as the New York Giants, you can imagine how difficult such a task would be. After all, the team has won eight NFL titles in its 88 years (if you do the math, that's one every 11 years) and has had even more remarkable players and Hall of Famers put on the trademark Giants blue. So who are the players and coaches that the readers of PFT chose to be immortalized on a hypothetical Giants Mount Rushmore? Bill Parcells, Eli Manning, Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan.
Now this list is fine, for the most part, and it includes some of the most important figures in recent Giants history, while incorporating the team's past success as well. Here's my biggest gripe: It doesn't delve far enough into the past. The Giants have won eight NFL titles, and four of them came before there was such a thing as the Super Bowl. The team was incredibly dominant during the 1930s and 1940s, and they made eight trips to the NFL championship between the years of 1933 and 1947. They won two titles in the '30s and another in 1956, a decade before the beginning of the Super Bowl era. While the Giants have had a lot of success in the last few decades, beginning with the Bill Parcells era, it would be a huge disservice not to include anyone from earlier Giants teams.
This is what my criteria for picking a Giants Mount Rushmore would look like. I'd have the most important player from each of the Giants' three most successful eras: one from the '30s, '40s and '50s, one from the late-'80s/early-'90s and one from the most recent two Super Bowl teams, and I'd also include one coach. Eli Manning would remain, as he has unquestionably been the heart and soul of the team's two most recent Super Bowl titles, earning two Super Bowl MVPs and becoming the face of the franchise. Since 2004 it's been all Eli, all the time in Giants Nation, and that should be recognized on Mount Rushmore. I would also keep Lawrence Taylor, as he epitomized New York Giants football in the '80s and early '90s as a member of two Super Bowl title teams, while also managing to completely revolutionize the way the linebacker position was played.
From the Giants' earlier era, it becomes a little harder to find one defining player to put on the mountain. There are a handful of Hall of Famers who played on those championship teams in the '30s, and guys like Tuffy Leemans and Mel Hein, while recognized as all-time greats, unfortunately don't have the kind of name recognition that more recent players like Michael Strahan do. If you want to find a player to represent the earlier Giants teams but also has the kind of name recognition to warrant a spot on Mount Rushmore, my vote would be for Frank Gifford. Gifford was the league MVP in 1956 and a member of the '56 championship team. He also was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a six-time All-Pro selection and is enshrined in Canton.
As for the coach that will be immortalized on the Giants' Mount Rushmore, it has to be Bill Parcells. When weighing the options though, it's a lot more difficult than you'd think. Steve Owen, Parcells and Tom Coughlin each won two titles as coach of the Giants, and have all managed to carve their own individual legacies. However, the choice is Parcells because, much like Taylor, he was the face of Giants' late-'80s and early-'90s success, and is responsible for completely turning around a franchise that went through some difficult times in the late-'70s and early-'80s. Owen, while an all-time great in his own right, didn't embody the larger-than-life persona that Parcells did. As for Coughlin, he's not quite there yet, but perhaps one more title on his way out would do the trick.