The Future is BRIGHT! (but I wouldn’t wager any money on it)

Eli ManningWe did it! We won the Super Bowl! Hurray!

Anybody that watched the game with me saw how I reacted when the clock reached zero. I just sat there. I was in disbelief. The 2007 Giants had won the Super Bowl. Really? REALLY? An honest analysis would probably tell you that they weren’t really better, if at all, than the Cowboys, Packers, or Patriots (and probably the Chargers, Seahawks, Steelers, Jaguars and Colts, too). They were the hottest team in football, and their confidence was sky high. They entered the Super Bowl going through the top 2 teams in the NFC and came out on top. The odds were stacked against them (can someone, anyone, say 18-0?), and nobody was happier about that than our own Big Blue. They loved the underdog status and it made them hungrier to prove that everyone was wrong about them.

They started off the season with an Eli Manning whose draft status had begun to seriously be questioned (feeling vindicated Mr. Accorsi?) after three-plus seasons of inconsistency. They were coming off of a seemingly crippling retirement of their future Hall of Fame running back, Tiki Barber, and questions were abound as to whether Brandon Jacobs, with his full-steam-ahead style of running, could handle the brutality of a full season. The question of whether Amani Toomer had lost a step, or whether Plaxico Burress would pull a second half disappearing act, bothered the fans. Would Sinorice Moss take the field at all in 2007? Could Jeremy Shockey actually play all 16 games and be more than a glorified, big-mouthed, blocking tight end? Would the loss of Luke Petitgout kill the line? Did Michael Strahan lose a step after sitting out training camp, mulling retirement? Could Mathius Kiwanuka make a fluid transition to the linebacker position? Was Kawika Mitchell the answer from Kansas City? Would the much maligned defensive backs (Sam Madison, Corey Webster, R.W. McQuarters, James Butler,Gibril Wilson, Kevin Dockery, etc.) play up to par, or would we end up with mediocre quarterbacks carving up our defensive backfield? Would the team even listen to Coughlin after all the abuse? Was Kevin Gilbride the answer at Offensive Coordinator after his track record with the Giants? Would incoming Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo change the mindset of the defense and take them to the next level? Could Jerry Reese step in seamlessly and take of the reins of General Manager from Ernie Accorsi who had been at the helm for nine years?

Those sixteen (16!) questions were on all of our minds as the season started. Most people thought the Giants would end up somewhere between 6-10 and 8-8, probably missing the playoffs. I probably would have placed my prediction somewhere in that range. They ended up 10-6, much better than most prognosticators figured.

The wild card (and reason for this piece of writing) is the draft this past year, Jerry Reese’s first. This list goes as follows (by round) :

1. Aaron Ross
2. Steve Smith
3. Jay Alford
4. Zak DeOssie
5. Kevin Boss
6. Adam Koets
7. Michael Johnson
7. Ahmad Bradshaw

After the draft, the GM was generally criticized for his selections and some worried whether his rookie draft would be a sign to come. How wrong they were. Just from the playoffs alone at least five of those names should ring a very large (and hopefully unbroken) bell. Steve Smith’s clutch catches saved us more than one game (including the Super Bowl). Jay Alford’s late sack on Tom Brady on second down was tremendous and may have saved the game (Super Bowl also). Kevin Boss’s 45 yard reception in the fourth quarter kept the first touchdown drive going (Super Bowl again. Starting to see a trend here?) Without Ahmad Bradshaw’s speed-rushing to counter Brandon Jacobs’ bull-rushing charge, the Giants don’t make the Conference game, let alone the Super Bowl (Psst. Super Bowl. Again.) Cornerback Aaron Ross and Safety Michael Johnson’s solid play both during the season and in the playoffs helped contain the opposition’s receivers, mostly shutting down some of the best receivers in the league. Zak DeOssie had a number of key special-teams tackles and his general nose for the ball, as well as being a long-snapper on punts. I would call this a Super draft (pun intended).

All this brings me to my point. Let us do a breakdown by age of this team.

Eli Manning 27
Brandon Jacobs 25
Ahmad Bradshaw 21
Derrick Ward 27
Madison Hedgecock 26
Shaun O’Hara 30
Kareem McKenzie 28
Chris Snee 26
David Diehl 27
Rich Seubert28
Jeremy Shockey 27
Kevin Boss 24
Plaxico Burress 30
Steve Smith 22
Sinorice Moss 24
Justin Tuck 24
Osi Umenyiora 26
Jay Alford 24
Barry Cofield 23
Mathius Kiwanuka 24
Zak DeOssie 23
Kawika Mitchell 28
Antonio Pierce 29
Gerris Wilkinson 24
Aaron Ross 25
Corey Webster 25
James Butler 25
Michael Johnson 23
Gibril Wilson 26
Lawrence Tynes 29

You can currently field an entire team of starters in the NFL without naming a single player above 30. You throw in nice veterans like Toomer and Strahan and you have a team that could really be set for many years to come. The New York Giants are stocked and stacked for years to come. Bring on 2008!

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