Giants gear up for tough campaign in defense of Super Bowl title
The time when a National Football League team could win a championship, go home during the off-season and enjoy it, and then return hungry to training camp the following year is probably gone forever. Today, players all want to capitalize financially on their newfound glory, and none more so than the New York Giants, who beat the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI.
Since that triumph just over seven months ago, at least ten Giants, including coach Bill Parcells, have come out with books about either themselves or the 1986-87 season, with many of their well-paid disclosures causing potential friction with teammates.
It isn't so bad when some fan calls you a hot dog, but when the guy in the next locker decides to do a number on you in print, it can only lead to trouble on and off the field.
New York linebacker Lawrence Taylor didn't do himself any favors, either, when his book went heavily into his past battles with cocaine and its powerful derivative, crack.
What might save the Giants on the field is the personality of Parcells, who tends to deal with problems quickly, directly, and positively. He has already told his players what to expect from him (more discipline and more hard work), and also warned them what to expect from the rest of the NFL (more aggressiveness than last season).
``Learning how to deal with pressure, that's what it's all about,'' Bill told reporters. ``Tough times, tough people. The idea is to do what you have to do and the rest will take care of itself.
``We're going to have to be more than just competitive if we hope to repeat,'' he continued. ``I can foresee two or three changes in our starting lineup for this season, maybe more. I'm not saying I want this to happen, and I'm not exactly dissatisfied with the guys who have been starting. But we've got some young people on our roster who are ready to help us and they could wind up as regulars.''
One thing the Giants seem to have in abundance is the ability to play defense, particularly in clutch situations. Part of that is because of their super linebacking crew of Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, and Gary Reasons, all of whom are quick, move well laterally, and are as solid against the run as the pass.
Taylor, a Pro Bowler in each of his six NFL seasons, had a club record 20 quarterback sacks last season. Carson, eight times a Pro Bowler, has developed a sixth sense for playing his position. Banks was the team's leading tackler in 1986. As for Reasons, he seems to get less publicity than the others, but he may be the best pass defender of the group and once made 17 tackles against the New York Jets.
If the team is vulnerable anywhere on defense, it may be in the secondary, where once you get past the starters there are a lot of question marks. A good example of this came Saturday night when the Giants, who had won 14 straight regular-season, playoff, and preseason games, had their streak snapped in a 30-23 exhibition loss to the Jets.
Two Giant regulars sat out that game with injuries while another appeared subpar, and the resulting makeshift secondary was burned on a couple of long touchdown pass plays as the Jets won the Battle of New York for the first time in six years.
Overall, though, it is a tough defense to beat consistently - especially when it is operating on all cylinders.
Offensively, the Giants are geared to the throwing of quarterback Phil Simms (1987 Super Bowl MVP) and the clever running of Joe Morris, who has gained a total of 2,852 yards in his last two years with the club.
Simms, now entering his eighth pro season, is tied with Miami's Dan Marino for most consecutive starts (48) among current NFL quarterbacks. Phil has reached that point in his career where he can read most defensive sets immediately.
Phil also has a special rapport with Mark Bavaro, who had 66 catches last season, a club record for tight ends. The 245-pound Bavaro, who has hands like frying pans, basically looks like something that has been rustled out of a herd.