As is always the case with any type of ranking, there will be plenty of room for debate. This is in no way a definitive list. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guys in the trenches, so some may say that I have included too many offensive linemen. Interestingly, I have found that most teams have a 5/4 split between offense and defense, or vice-versa. I didn't intentionally try to even it out, that's just how it turned out. This is just my opinion, and I tried to base it on both stats and status. I've learned a little bit of football history in the process as well, and having a bit of history is one of the appeals of collecting to me. In any case, it gave me another something to do with my cards, and that's why I did it in the first place.
The New York Giants have a long NFL history, so some of the franchise's best players, like Y.A. Tittle and Frank Gifford, played before the Super Bowl era. The Giants have appeared in 5 Super Bowls, winning 2 under Bill Parcells and 2 under Tom Coughlin.
1. Eli Manning, QB (2008 Topps Ring of Honor)
I'm not one to judge a quarterback's talent or worth by championships. Football is too much of a team game for that. So I can't say that Eli is a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame based on his two Super Bowl wins. The body of his career does place him as one of the best Giants QBs ever in my book. He tops the club's record book in basically all passing categories. His propensity for interceptions keeps him from rising higher, though. Still, over 50,000 yards and 300 touchdowns is a pretty good career.
2. Phil Simms, QB (1992 Skybox Impact)
Simms and Manning have a remarkably similar career, in my opinion. Both led the team to two Super Bowls (though Simms didn't actually get to play in the second), both were the top QB in franchise history at the time of retirement, and neither was ever solidly one of the elite QBs in the league, even though both would probably have a good argument. The stats look similar, too: Simms had a TD% of 4.3 to Manning's 4.6. His INT% was 3.4 while Manning's was 3.1. Simms finished with 33,000 yards and 199 TD.
3. Tiki Barber, RB (2005 Topps Turkey Red)
Barber is the Giants' all-time rushing leader, with over 10,000 career yards and 55 TD. He was also a receiving threat out of the backfield, tacking on another 5,000 yards and 12 TD receiving. During the early 2000s, before Eli Manning arrived, Barber was really the only offensive weapon the Giants had.
4. Chris Snee, G (2011 Topps)
Sometimes these selections surprise even myself. This is a prime example. I would have never considered Chris Snee as an all-time great, not even for only his team. But the fact is that Snee ranks fifth on the Giant's career Approximate Value board, according to Pro-Football Reference. He received four Pro Bowl invitations and two All-Pro nods, in 2008 and 2010.
5. Michael Strahan, DE (1995 Ultra)
Strahan spent his entire 15 year career with the Giants. In that time, he claimed the franchise's all-time sack total: 141.5 for his career. He led the league in sacks twice, including the controversial single-season sack record in 2001.
To top off a Hall of Fame career, Strahan rode off into the sunset after winning his first Super Bowl after the 2007 season.
6. Jessie Armstead, LB (1997 Stadium Club)
This was a tough choice. The final slot basically came down to Armstead and Carl Banks. In the end, it was Armstead's five consecutive Pro Bowl berths and 1st Team All-Pro nomination that pushed him to the top. In nine years with Big Blue, Armstead tallied 594 tackles, 12 interceptions, and 5 fumble recoveries. It may be an exaggerated memory, but my recollection of Armstead's playing days seems to involve his always coming up with a turnover.
7. Keith Hamilton, DT (1995 Upper Deck)
Hamilton never made a Pro Bowl (though he was named All-Pro in 2000), but he ranks 7th All-Time for the Giants in AV. In a 12-year Giant career, he racked up an impressive 63 sacks and nearly 400 tackles from his defensive tackle position.
8. Harry Carson, LB (1988 Topps)
Like Armstead, Carson was a turnover generating machine. In 13 seasons, he tallied 14 picks and 11 fumble recoveries. He made the Pro Bowl in 9 of those 13 seasons. He quarterbacked the 1980s Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense from his inside linebacker position. Oh, and he is also in the Hall of Fame.
9. Lawrence Taylor, LB (1990 Pro Set)
LT changed the game. His freakish athleticism forever altered how coaches and fans view edge rushers. He ended his Hall of Fame career with 132.5 sacks., but it's possible that his most impressive achievement was winning the NFL MVP in 1986, becoming only the third non-offensive player to do so; no one has done it in the nearly 30 years since.
The Giants were an interesting team for this project. They haven't had a ton of superstars, but they have a logjam of solid players who spent many years in blue and who probably could have been chosen. For that reason, I expect to have more people chime in about whom I have excluded with this team. There is just a lot of gray area here. They have one current superstar in Odell Beckham who will probably be on this team before too long. He's just not there yet.
What do you think? Who would you change out if you had to limit this team to the 9 best players of the past 50 years? Let the discussions begin!