2000 New York Giants Season Review
One Helluva Season
By David Oliver
How do you keep the music playing?
How do you make it last?
How do you keep the song from fading,
How do you lose yourself to someone?
And never lose your way?
How do you not run out of things to say?
It’s February 17, the 32nd Anniversary of my marriage to the most beautiful woman in the world. It’s been a good relationship, and like most things in my life has been part of the circular journey. Growing up in NJ, running wild in the City, family, the Giants, a never ending continuum. Sandy got me my Giants jacket for Christmas this year and a Giants watch. Her Mom, who has slowly recognized the reality of my existence, even came through with a Giants cap with a flashing NY logo on the front, which cracked the guys up in the locker room. She has suffered with me through the ups and downs of being a Giants’ fan. After all, the 32 years of marriage and two years of dating before that still fall short of a love affair with the Giants, which has lasted 49 years and running. Yes, I’ve been pretty constant in my relationships.
So it’s time to put a wrap on 2000. Our Giants took us through January this year, a surprise, but a wrench in the biorhythm of my life. January is my down time, I brood, I think, I turn thoughts to Auto Racing. But the Giants carried me right through the evil month and turned it into something special. Mom came down for a visit and she stayed the entire month. She hasn’t been here in three years and we celebrated her Birthday, 82 wonderful years on January 29 – damn, Mom’s Birthday, the Super Bowl, I was in a January groove.
The loss didn’t affect me as long as usual – I was still riding high from the crushing of the Vikings. That one was special for several reasons, among them, following the game. A couple of the young guys that I spend a little time with came down off the podium, joyous and emotional. Two came running over to me and threw their arms around me and we celebrated together. They thanked me for being there with them this year. In the locker room, it happened again and a couple of sophomores made a special point of coming over to me and grasping me with those big paws. It was overwhelming. I’m not like the regular media, and they know that. I’m not ashamed of being a fan, and where that might make less “objective” than the norm dictates, it does give me insights that normally aren’t available. The players know I’m on the field. They see me running, they know I sweat and get dirty and tired, and that means something to many of them.
So this was a season to remember. Many of you who have been on the journey with me from the start know that I have written how my life has run in cycles, like the Giants. The 60s were good years for the most part, the 70s, man, a blank, the 80s were great years, the 90s, up and down, mostly down. I can tell that the next decade is going to be great. I have that feeling for the Giants and for myself.
So I spent the past few weeks catching up on my reading and staying home on the weekends I was supposed to cover the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona, but didn’t. I had credentials to go to the Super Bowl events during the week, but not the game. Not being much of a party guy, and having Mom with me, I opted out. (Now starting to write again on February 22). Following the events of the past weekend, I regret not doing the 24 Hours because the Earnhardts were team racing a Corvette and it would have been great. There is a thread in The Corner Forum discussing the death of Dale, Sr, so I won’t reopen it here, but, in terms of sports history, his passing is a milestone, as he was the link to the formative years of the sport. As in many other sports, a new era has truly begun. So my reading started with a book written by Brassai, CONVERSATIONS WITH PICASSO. Brassai was a photographer in the 30s and 40s, famed for his black & white portraits. He spent time with Picasso and many of the other artistic giants of that era, Dali, Sartre, Celine, Camus, but he recorded for posterity the words of Picasso. I love the writers and artists of that time and have spent many enjoyable hours with Henry Miller, Celine, Sartre, Camus, D.H.Lawrence, that whole genre of depression and war artists. And as I sit here now staring out the window at the falling snow, damn, it’s like a scene out of Dr. Zhivago, Picasso’s words run through my head. He said to Brassai, late in his life, “I no longer want to see new faces. Why should I? But I am always here to my friends…and their visits are that much more precious to me because I live in seclusion…” They are resonant for me because I have felt much the same way since retiring. The days are long and I spend them here, writing or scanning photos, looking out the window, watching the beautiful cardinals, blue jays, doves, and the antics of the squirrels, and my cats, lounging in the sun on the deck below. After 30 years of constant, away from home activity for work, often away 40 weeks, full or partial, of the year, the respite is wonderful. I don’t go out for days at a time, but visits from my friends are precious. Dr. Joe calls regularly, Pat writes, several of you correspond by email – damn, life can be good and friends are always welcome.
Which brings me to another reading, MAESTRO, a tale of Alan Greenspan by Woodward. AG is a classic example of hubris unbounded, Potomac fever delirium, a man who stayed too long, bound by his own self-importance and need to be “in”. He has done some good things, but he will be remembered foe this, his last, the great collapse of 2000. How many thousands of young people have been put out of work?, how many good and decent people who believed in the great 401(k) promise have had their “excess” wealth sucked dry, all in the name of the soft landing. Hell, AG will have a soft landing but not the people he has hurt. Econometrics isn’t the whole story – confidence, as RR pointed out, and as FR first laid out, is a huge part of the equation.
And finally, MIDNIGHT DIARIES by Boris Yeltsin, of which I will have more to say later. So where is the connection here? This piece is about the Giants right? Well, I’ve already pointed out the connection of the Brassai book. Greenspan, well, he reminded me of Allie Sherman and Dan Reeves in a way. Men who took a winning combination and felt it wasn’t good enough to win now, that changes had to be made to create a soft landing, and who, in making those changes screwed up the operation for a while. Okay, so Reeves took over from Ray Handley, who did a pretty good wrecking job. But the prime materials were there. Simms, LT and several others had 1, maybe 2 years left. As did Huff and Mo and some others for Sherman. For me, transitions are difficult things. Having worked through so many of them in my other life, political transitions, I understand that change, although necessary, is not often smooth. There is a down time, a consolidation, a regeneration, and if the managers aren’t good, the results can be cataclysmic, not can be, often are. In football, as in life, go with a winning combo, that’s my philosophy. You can’t predict team chemistry, or productivity, so change is often designed for shock effect, or to emphasize control. So that’s where Greenspan comes in – I fear he may become the Allie Sherman of finance. Now we’ll see if he’s got the right stuff.
And how about Yeltsin? Here’s a quote from his book: “A sharp, unexpected, aggressive move always throws your opponent off balance and disarms him, especially if it is unpredictable and seems absolutely illogical.” The pledge, Coach Fassel’s mid-season pledge or pronouncement that the Giants would be in the playoffs, turned the entire season around. It not only energized his troops, it got the whole League to scratching it’s collective head, opponents laughed, and I’m sure everyone believed that the Giants were done, stick a fork in them, Coach has flipped. They were the worst team for this, and the worst team for that, led by a befuddled Coach who had finally popped off. So Yeltsin’s comment got me to thinking about the season. And let’s not kid ourselves, it was that “sharp, unexpected, aggressive” move by a beleaguered Coach that turned it around and made it a magical season.
Now we sit here at the crossroads, one eye looking back, assessing what was good and what needs improvement; and one eye on the future with Expensive Agency now upon us and the draft looming. Last year was relatively easy. Looking at what the Giants needed, the type of team they appeared to be, and what was available, there was a narrow band of selection available. In their position, the Great Dayne made the most sense. Whether it was a good choice has yet to play out. In the Agency sweepstakes, the Giants surprised everyone with Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker. Parker literally fell in their lap. Hey, don’t deny it, most of you questioned these signings. Lomas took so much criticism for his age, and Glenn, well, no one believed there was any gas in the tank. But they were the mainstays of the offense this year. And don’t kid yourselves, the Giants don’t fix what ain’t broken. So don’t look for any blockbuster signings in this department. And for the draft, with the #30 selection, I don’t foresee line help in Round 1. But in Round 4 or 5 and free agent signings, there will be plenty of big uglies on the scene.
Before I go any further, let me add that this year’s crystal ball is clouded by who stays and who goes. Right now, the most critical resigning for the Giants is Christian Peter. Whether he starts, rotates or backs up, with him the defensive line remains set. Without him, it becomes even thinner than last year, when they didn’t sign Harris. So, if Peter stays, defensive linemen fall to the lower rounds; if Peter is not re signed, the #30 pick becomes a potential for a defensive lineman. Next up is Cedric Jones. So many BBIers are clamoring for a replacement. Fuggedaboutit. CJ will stay – his teammates like him and he fits the defensive scheme. Part of the resurgence of Strahan can be attributed to CJ. But, the G-Men will look for help from a pass rush specialist to share time with CJ. The most likely, if he can be afforded, is Simeon Rice. The Giants wanted him once and he is a perfect passing down replacement for CJ. If the price is not right look for them to go after Ndukwe Kalu, if the Skins don’t re-sign him. An inexpensive speed rusher with experience, he will be given a shot. Failing that, look for a defensive end draft choice – 2nd or 3rd round.
Luke is a fixture as are Stone and Zeigler. But help is needed at guard. Although Tre Johnson is mighty attractive, he is too much money, so look for a potential signing of Pete Kendall. Kendall and Parker are perfect for the left guard duties. Parker is good for 8-10 games in a number of positions, Kendall will fill in on rotation, then take over for a few years. Rosey is much improved, but will remain a rotation man unless the Giants can’t sign a veteran at a reasonable price. At tackle, Ziemann is going to be the rotation man, but the Giants always bring in a number of tackles, either in the draft or as free agents. They will also sign a center or two in the post-draft scramble as competition for Engler. Whittle stays with Rosey as prime rotation man unless someone really better pushes him out in camp.
The hardest position for the Giants, and last year’s biggest mistake is the tight end position. For whatever reason Pete Mitchell has not been utilized and Dan Campbell looks to be the short yardage pass catcher. But they have no stretch the field, find the seam, break the blitz tight end. Oh, Shannon Sharpe, where are you? With Ernie Accorsi pronouncing that the Giants need a two-way tight end, don’t be surprised to see Mark Chmura show up in blue. There simply is no one else out there who fits the need at the price. Failing this, the Giants go to the draft and convince Howard Cross to return for another year.
In the backfield, the QB position is fixed at 1 and 2. Garrett told me he plans to return and I accept that at face value. For some reason, the #3 has become somewhat controversial. BBI doesn’t like Mike Cherry. SOTI says he is unpopular. Nightrain says go bet the farm Cherry won’t be back. Guys, a #3 is a #3. He carries the clipboard and hopes to be a #2. I talked to Galen Hall about Mike last week and he had some interesting comments. He told me Mike has a lot of talent. Then he thought about it and said he needs to play, he needs to play, he should have gone back over to Europe. Coach Hall said Mike just didn’t make plays for him. So it comes down to this; either the Giants give him a contract and give him the ball in camp, or they go sign a number 3 who looks promising enough to be a 2 next year. There are so many of these guys floating around in Europe, Arena and XFL that I don’t see the Giants drafting someone just to be #3. I think Cherry gets a 1-year extension.
The running backs, sort of set. This season belonged to Tiki. He started the Giants off on the right foot. He showed versatility as a pass catcher and runner. But there are still doubts about game carry durability. Enter Dayne. The future, or…? RD needs a good running back Coach; he needs to get over fear of lower body hits; he needs to keep from becoming another Jarrod Bunch. We won’t know if that happens until camp. Joe Montgomery will not stay under present circumstances. Being with a championship team is not as important to him as being “the Man”. I would expect the Giants to pick up a running back somewhere in the draft – or maybe HeHateMe (Rod Sharp) would like to audition for 3 back?
Now if the Giants can’t re-sign Tiki, whose agent says he wants top 5 money, well, Katie bar the door and all bets are off. The wideouts are also set. Amani and Ike, Dixon and JJ are ready to go. Thabiti Davis is on the bubble, saved by his specials team play, but if there are better choices out there, the Giants won’t be bashful. The most interesting free agent available, for my money, is Derrick Mason. He would fit in with the Giants – he can fly, he is kick returner, has experience, and would break the passing game wide open. Will the Giants spend on him? Probably not, but he is this year’s Shannon Sharpe.
The defense played up to standards this year. Again, free agency will determine the amount of change here. After Peter the next most important signing is Sehorn. Unlike many of you, I don’t think the Giants see this as a major weakness, with Sehorn. Without Sehorn, it becomes a glaring hole again. Thomas played well enough at the end of the year to keep his job. EMac turned out to be a great nickel and replacement back. Reggie Stephens showed enough to become a bona fide player, if he stays healthy. The Giants seem to have fallen victim lately to “broken corner” syndrome, so durability is a concern. Here are the variables. Jason Sehorn signs, corner is less of a problem. Jason leaves, expect Tiki to get his top 5 money as an incentive to bring in his brother. Even if Jason signs, Ronde is the best at the price available and may be in Blue to give Dave Thomas a run for the spot. Also, if Jason leaves, or if Ronde is not signed in any event, look for the Giants to use #30 to bring in Andre Dyson – although for my money, if Fred Smoot falls to that position, he is the guy.
The real puzzle in the secondary is the safety position. Lyle West is sticking by virtue of his special team ability. But he is nearing the pricey range and if the Giants find specials help somewhere, look for a safety to come high in the draft. Further support for this position is found in Shaun Williams durability – is he a 16 game player, or a 10-12 game player? Help is needed more at safety than at corner.
The linebackers also will depend on Free Agency. If Monty goes, Phillips might also. This becomes a money thing as well as playing time. As good as Brandon Short looks, I believe he is more a Mike than Sam, so the Giants will keep looking for SAM help. At will, look for Jack Golden to step up. He’s got the tools and energy. With Barrow playing at a high level still, will Monty want to wait one more year?
Thus, the draft will be finalized when Peter, Sehorn, Monty and to a lesser extent Tiki are settled. If everything breaks the Giants’ way in re signing, and Chmura is not the man, look at the tight end candidates carefully.
Think back to preseason. Many forecast a 6-10 to 8-8 season. Now, even after a Super Bowl appearance, the wailing has begun, rougher schedule, same old men, must have a corner, need a running back. The G-Men broke out of the gate 3-0. They did it because Tiki caught out of the backfield, Amani beat the secondaries deep, no one knew what RD brought to the table and because KC stepped up. The Cards game was an expected win, it was close, so no one believed. The Eagles were supposed to clean the Giants’s clock – it didn’t happen. The G-Men showed an iron defense and a surprising offense. The Bears game was tough, not pretty, but a victory. Suddenly, it was, hey, maybe. Then came the Redskins on that Sunday night. Smoke pouring from the tunnel, who let the dogs out blaring from the speakers, Jessie coming out in an all 4s stance barking and howling, and a goose egg. The doubters regrouped. The Titans game was an ugly thing. The Titans killed the G-Men in the first half. The tight end ran wild and no one could stop Eddie on the 3rd down. The second half was more respectable but too late. The team was in a funk – something in Jfs demeanor forecast it before the game. Now the doubt was growing.
A few more wins against beatable opposition and in came the Rams. They roughed up Amani early, the ball bounced the wrong way, the Giants got behind the 8 ball and never recovered. But they were never out of the game. The pleasant surprises, Brown and Parker, KC, Barrow starting to come around, Amani and Tiki. And Gone With The Wind, Coach Payton’s massive play book with all it’s motion, seemed to suit the Giants.
Then the Lions came to town. And the G-Men played the most desultory game of the year. They were flat, dispirited, frankly, not ready. Coach blew a fuse, Lomas blew a fuse, even Eric and I blew fuses. Then came the “guarantee” ( well, Eric and I both know that it was our reviews of the game that turned the season around but we want Coach to feel good, GRIN!!). Like a bolt of lightning, the Giants began to believe. They went into Washington and pushed the Redskins all over the field. Strangely, they couldn’t score and Eddie Murray’s 100-year old foot almost beat them. Well, the Giants were the “worst” everything and the Redskins were the Tenderloin boys, so Boy Dan popped his cork and fired his Coach, clearing the decks for a Giants Division Championship.
More importantly, the team began to believe and the fans were back. In the Pittsburgh game “The Bus” got parked and in the Jax game Brunell was grounded. We were living in hysteria. The playoffs brought the Eagles back to town again. The Giants couldn’t win three games in a year. Yeah, says who? Jason Sehorn broke their backs and even without an offense, the defense catapulted the G-Men into the Conference Championship. Now even Jaws told me he was a believer. Along come the Vikings and again the Giants were supposed to fold. Randy Moss showed up with an entourage of 20, who were promptly kicked off the field. Welcome to NY Randy, these security guys mean business. Dixon, West, Collins, Ike – the balls were flying, but it wasn’t Carter and Moss, it was G-Men everywhere. Comella scores his first and the D does it’s part and shows Culpepper a NY welcome. We are euphoric. The worst team ever has kicked some butt. The fans, the owners, the players, but most importantly, the Coaches have a piece of this. And it will never be forgotten.
Oh, the Super Bowl. A downer, sure, but short term. The G-Men weren’t supposed to be here, actually, they weren’t supposed to be within a 1000 miles. The ride here was fun. The team found a Coach, and a QB and it’s defense was back. Two old men were unlikely heroes. Even the weather was good. From the FANTASTICS “try to remember” comes to mind. For you younger guys, remember it, these thoughts will last you a life time. For you older, salty digs, they delivered for us again. It doesn’t get much better than this.
First Round pick – CB Andre Dyson