Ranking the Greatest New York Giants of All Time

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David Kenyon Featured Columnist

    Exploring the history of professional football would not complete without devoting time to the New York Giants.

    Prior to the AFL- NFL merger in 1970, the organization regularly appeared in the league’s championship game. Since then, the Giants have celebrated four Super Bowl victories. Along the way, they’ve featured a few dozen players who eventually entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    And every era is represented in the ranking of top-10 Giants.

    Individual accomplishments, impact on team success and production all factored into the order. Additionally, only players’ contributions while on the Giants roster were considered.

    Tiki Barber: Tiki Barber is one of only eight players in NFL history with five straight seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards. At Barber’s retirement in 2006, his total of 55 touchdowns was a franchise record. His yardage total (10,449) remains the highest by more than 3,500 yards.

    Phil Simms: Highlighted by MVP honors in Super Bowl XXI, Phil Simms had a superb 15-year career in New York. He rewrote the Giants’ record books, finishing with 33,462 passing yards and 199 touchdowns. The team retired his No. 11 jersey in 1995.

    Andy Robustelli: A two-time NFL champion and six-time All-Pro, Andy Robustelli headed to the Hall of Fame in 1971. Though Robustelli’s stats are not official, teammate Frank Gifford remembered him for being “far and away above the other defensive ends of his era.”

    Chris Snee: Injuries caused Chris Snee to retire at just 32 years old but only after he spent 10 seasons at right guard. A second-round pick in the 2004 draft that landed Eli Manning, Snee made four Pro Bowl teams and won two Super Bowls with the Giants.

    Amani Toomer: After contributing primarily as a punt returner for three seasons, Amani Toomer ripped off five straight 1,000-yard campaigns. He played for the Giants during all 13 years of his career and is the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (668), yards (9,497) and receiving touchdowns (54).

    Despite a terrific college career at Miami, Jessie Armstead fell to the Giants in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL draft. Concerns about his recovery from a torn ACL precipitated the drop.

    It’s safe to say he proved everyone wrong.

    Armstead racked up 777 tackles over nine seasons in New York and paced the NFL with 21 stops for loss in 1999. The weak-side linebacker was a first-team All-Pro in 1997 and earned trips to the Pro Bowl for five straight seasons to end his Giants career.

    Similar to Sam Huff, Armstead played his last NFL snap with Washington. However, a one-day contract in June 2007 allowed Armstead to officially retire as a member of the Giants.

    Although he played just eight seasons in New York, Sam Huff was a fixture on title-contending defenses.

    During the middle linebacker’s tenure, the Giants won the 1956 title and appeared in the championship six times. Huff earned four Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro honors while with New York.

    Among his many unofficial tackles, Huff collected 18 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. After finishing his NFL career with Washington, he eventually headed to the Hall of Fame in the 1982 class.

    Decades later, Harry Carson looked back at his career and told Sports Illustrated he wouldn’t want to relive a 13-year NFL career because of the traumatic effect football can have on the brain.

    That’s a striking piece of honesty from a Hall of Famer.

    Carson was an integral contributor to the “Crunch Bunch” and “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” defenses of the 1980s. The middle linebacker’s efforts landed nine Pro Bowl honors, AP second-team All-Pro four times and one Super Bowl ring in 1986.

    After several near-misses and a public battle, Carson secured his deserved place in the Hall of Fame in 2006.

    Eli Manning’s career hasn’t always been pretty. We can debate all day about aesthetics, but he’s brought two rings to New York and obliterated the franchise passing records.

    Entering the 2019 campaign, he’s passed for 55,981 yards and 360 touchdowns. Those rank No. 7 and 8, respectively, in NFL history.

    A four-time Pro Bowler, Manning also secured Super Bowl MVP honors during the 2007 and 2011 seasons. He led fourth-quarter drives in both games to propel the Giants past Tom Brady and the Patriots.

    Though his resume will lead to spirited debates, Manning’s multiple rings have him in the conversation for the Hall of Fame.

    Frank Gifford did a little bit of everything for the Giants throughout a fascinating 12-year career.

    The USC product scampered for 3,609 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns, also catching 367 passes for 5,434 yards. After his final retirement, Gifford held the franchise’s receiving yards record for 39 years until Amani Toomer surpassed the mark in 2003.

    Gifford initially left the NFL in 1961 because of a brutal hit by Hall of Fame linebacker Chuck Bednarik that resulted in a head injury. However, he returned one year later.

    The versatile star―who also played defense―secured eight Pro Bowl selections, four All-Pro honors and the 1956 league MVP.

    One of the most feared pass-rushers of his era, Michael Strahan spent much of his 15-year career in the opposing backfield.

    Strahan wrapped up his playing days with 141.5 quarterback takedowns, a mark that ranks sixth in NFL history since 1982. Despite the controversy and lingering frustration surrounding the final one, he set a single-season record with 22.5 sacks in 2001 when he received Defensive Player of the Year.

    In addition to that prestigious award, the 2014 Hall of Fame inductee garnered four All-Pro honors and seven Pro Bowl trips.

    Strahan retired after the Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He notched one sack in that game.

    When he decided to hang up the cleats, Emlen Tunnell retired as the most dangerous defensive back in NFL history.

    The four-time All-Pro snatched 74 of his then-record 79 interceptions over an 11-year tenure with the Giants. He remains the only player ever with 10 seasons of six-plus interceptions.

    “Emlen changed the theory of defensive safeties,” former Giants assistant Jim Lee Howell said of the tall, physical defender. “He would have been too big for the job earlier, and they’d have made him a lineman. But he had such strength, such speed and such quickness I’m convinced he was the best safety ever to play.”

    The Undefeated notes Tunnell is the “first black player and first pure defensive player” to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    In the 1930s, rules limiting substitutions meant players rarely left the field. Mel Hein spent 15 years excelling for the Giants on both sides of the football, earning first-team All-Pro recognition five times and winning two championships.

    “He was truly a football legend and a giant among men,” former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said, per the New York Times. “Mel was one of the greatest football players who ever lived.”

    Also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Hein is one of 17 members of the inaugural class inducted into Canton in 1963.

    Selected in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL draft, Roosevelt Brown turned out to be quite the steal for the Giants.

    He immediately became the starter at left tackle, a position he locked down for 13 years. Brown started 159 games during that span, collecting first-team All-Pro distinction six times, nine Pro Bowls and an NFL championship in 1956.

    “I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it weren’t for him,” Frank Gifford once said of Brown, per the New York Times.

    Brown himself was immortalized in Canton in 1975.

    Lawrence Taylor’s football resume is full of accolades.

    In 1981, he won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and overall Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor secured All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors that season―the first of eight and 10, respectively. He repeated as Defensive Player of the Year in 1982 and added a third DPOY in 1986, also taking home the league MVP that season.

    A key contributor for two Super Bowl-winning teams, L.T. ranked second all-time with 132.5 sacks when he retired. Taylor later headed to the Hall of Fame as part of the 1999 class.

    Off-field issues have clouded his NFL legacy, but Taylor’s impact on the gridiron is undeniable and lasting.

    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.