Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ode to the G-Men

As everyone in the U.S. knows, the Patriots pursuit of perfection came to a largely unexpected end in Super Bowl XLII thanks to the men of the Meadowlands. I myself am not a big Giants fan even though my wife’s family in Jersey bleeds blue and my brother-in-law lives and dies with every snap. I, like many Northwest natives, cheer on the ‘Hawks but this was not their year. No, this was the Giants' year.

Let me state again that the Giants may not be one of my favorite teams (we'll say 11th on my list) but New England is certainly my least favorite. Yes, I am a “hater”. I cheered as a “spoiler”. And when it came to my faith in the Giants upsetting America's post 9/11 team I quite frankly, was one of those skeptics. I thought Eli Manning needed to man up, that he was just a soft little boy always on the verge of crying. I thought Tom Coughlin was a two dimensional coach lacking any semblance of creativity, predictably calling plays that a five year old would see coming. Finally, it seemed to me that the Giants' D lacked chemistry, that their most heralded player was over the hill, and that the up and coming youngsters were a bit overrated.
That all said, I most definitely was rooting for them to upset the Cheaters, I was high fiving my buddies every clutch play in the 4th quarter, and I breathed a hefty sigh of relief when that final Hail Mary fell harmlessly to the turf. So thank you Giants for slaying the Giant, for snubbing the "Greatest Team Ever" hype, for humiliating the cocky emotionless machine that was the Patriots.


As a show of appreciation, let me make amends to my former criticisms of the G-men:
1. Eli Manning - Ever since Eli came into the league I have thought the kid was a head case stuck in his brothers shadow, prone to crack under pressure, and spoiled by his heralded football family. He seemed to force throws, not protect the ball, and to get easily frustrated. But, I was never a Payton fan either. That is, until he proved my assessment wrong by beating the Patriots and then dominating da Bears. So it is now with Eli. How could I not be impressed when the game was on the line and the pocket was collapsing that he scrambled out of it, slipping out of a sack, keeping his head, and then gunning it down field in a play that will go down in Super Bowl history? He managed the game, played mistake free football, and led the game winning drive. Though I doubt I will be buying an Eli jersey I still must give him credit now that his credit is due. Welcome to the light little brother. You indeed shined.
2. Tom Coughlin - Coach Coughlin didn’t seem like a guy to force things or to make rookie mistakes. Nope, his problem was twofold and they both came from his old school mentality. First problem for him was personality. He seemed crotchety, like some bitter old man past his prime clinging to the tattered remains of his career. The fans hated him but it certainly was not a simple case of personality issues. Nope. The big problem was his predictable approach to play calling. The guy refused to ever use trickery and play action he avoided like a plague. If it was an obvious rushing down, rush he would, allowing defenses the opportunity to T-up on the ball carrier. How many two-yard, up the middle runs do the Giants have in their arsenal anyways? Grind it out football certainly has its place but a touch of the unexpected is needed in today’s NFL where players are smarter and faster and where coaches are always looking for that something new. This year’s Super Bowl however, when my buddy said “See, this is where they should do a play action pass. The Pats won’t be expecting it but watch, Coughlin is going to call an up the gut running play and the Giants will have to settle for a field goal” coach did the exact opposite of what we were expecting. The G-men scored their first TD and I felt that first glimmer of hope. For that matter, I felt the first glimmer of respect for the coach I had mocked. Well, done Coach. I bet even with video tape Bilicheck was not expecting 17-14.
3. Giants D - My final show of respect is to that manly Giant D who represented the hard nosed football of the days of yore. They embodied that rough gridiron mentality of the NFC East in its heyday and shut down that high powered NE offence. According to the D coach they blitzed 30% of the time leaving the front four to deal with the rest and just ask pretty boy Brady; deal they did. This was not the first time Mr. GQ had been hit in the mouth. It was just the first time he got stuck all four quarters. Up the middle, around the corner, and down his throat the G-Men came. When Strahan hunted him down from the back side I realized that they really did have a chance of making the Pats a one-loss team. In those closing seconds when the Brady Bunch could have quickly gunned it to be within field goal range Tom found himself on his back, mashed into the turf. Throughout the game it did not matter whether or not Moss was open deep. TB never had the time to throw it. As Ron Jaworski said, “Hit a great quarterback enough times he becomes average”. So let me tip my hat to the D-line of the Giants. I’m sure LT is proud of you guys. And thanks for pummeling Tom Brady’s no longer perfect chin.

In case any of you are wondering I will not be jumping on the champs’ band wagon. I will not buy any merchandise nor will I talk about them repeating. I will not call the coach a genius nor will I call the quarterback a superstar. But I will give credit where credit is due: Eli manned up, Coach Coughlin got creative, and the D-line played possessed. The Giants made bold predictions and backed up their talk. They didn’t light up the world but did turn it on in the clutch when it mattered most. They beat the New England Cheaters denying them a place in history and the label of “Best Team Ever”. So, from the bottom of my heart, as man who hates the Pats and media hype but loves great football let me say “Thank you”.
Congratulations to the New York Football Giants, 2008 Super Bowl Champions

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