Top 10 New York Giants Players of All Time

Brian Lokker

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Ranking the top 10 Giants players of all time.© Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This story was first published on Sep 14, 2019. The statistics for current players and coaches have been updated through May 2020.

Who Are the 10 Greatest Giants of All Time?

The Giants have had many great names on their roster since the team first took the field in 1925. Hundreds of football players have spent all or part of their careers with the Giants, and many have been among the best ever to play the game. Twenty-nine of those who played for the Big Blue have been honored with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that these players represent the best of the best.

The Giants themselves have honored some of their top players. They have retired the jersey numbers of 12 great players and in 2010, the Giants unveiled their Ring of Honor, recognizing players, coaches, executives and owners who the team believed had made great contributions to the organization. To date, the Ring of Honor includes 33 players. (None of these honors apply to active players, of course.)

So with all these great names to choose from, how can we decide on the top 10 of all time?

Selection Criteria for This List

Any best of or greatest of ranking is bound to be at least partly subjective. Of course, there is data that can and should be considered to make any ranking at least somewhat scientific. But no algorithm or mathematical formula yet devised can produce a definitive ranked list that everyone will agree with.

This is especially true when the list attempts to rank football players (or players in any sport, really) who play different positions. Another complication arises when the universe of players includes players from different eras. It's difficult to "scientifically" compare a modern NFL running bank with a lineman from the pre-modern era.

So with those caveats, here are the factorsin no particular orderthat I considered in ranking the 10 best New York Giants players of all time:

  • Length of Giants Career: The Giants have had many great players who spent their entire NFL careers with the team, so those with longer Giants careers and primary identification with the Giants are given preference over those who only played for the Giants for part of their careers and may have been equally or more successful with another team. For example, a number of Giants players in the Hall of Fame are actually more closely identified with another team. Some of these (Fran Tarkenton or Y.A. Tittle, for example) are close cases; others (e.g. Larry Csonka) are not.
  • Membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: This is almost a prerequisite for eligible players, but for active and recently retired players, I have also assessed the probability of their eventual induction into the Hall of Fame.
  • NFL and Media Recognition: Awards (MVP, etc.), selection to the Pro Bowl, and selection as a First-Team All-Pro (with the Giants only).
  • Individual Achievements: Leading the league in an important category (while with the Giants) or being among career leaders at retirement.
  • Team Success: Team won-lost records and playoff appearances, especially NFL Championships and Super Bowl Championships (with the Giants only).
  • Recognition by the Giants: For example, either induction into the Giants Ring of Honor or having one's jersey number retired (although the latter is not as much of a factor as I would have anticipated, since many of these players were overshadowed by others who played later or were edged out based on other factors listed here).
  • Intangibles: I have seen a lot of the Giants play since the mid-1970s, so part of my evaluation is based on my own impressions of those players over time, supplemented by opinions of sportswriters and other experts over the years.

So this is a somewhat subjective list and there is definitely room for debate, especially because New York has had so many excellent players over such a long team history.

I've listed a few honorable mentions at the end of the rankingoutstanding players who nearly made the cut for my top 10.

10. Harry Carson

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 19761988 (his entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Named to NFL All-Rookie Team 1976
  • Member of four playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XXI Championship
  • Selected for nine Pro Bowls
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 2006
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Harry Carson joined the Giants in 1976 as a fourth-round draft choice after playing college football at South Carolina State University. He quickly established himself with the Giants and earned the starting middle linebacker job midway through the season. He was named to the 1976 NFL All-Rookie Team.

Carson was a powerful defensive force for the Giants and an integral part of two of the team's most dominant defensive units. From 1981 to 1983, he was the right inside linebacker in the Crunch Bunch linebacker squad with Lawrence Taylor, Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley. Beginning in 1986, the fearsome front seven of the Giants' defense became known as the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, again with Carson at the right inside linebacker position.

In his 13-year career with the Giants, Carson intercepted 11 passes and recovered 14 fumbles. He led the team in tackles in six seasons. In 1986, when he helped lead the Giants to their first Super Bowl win, he had 118 tackles in the regular season and another 23 in the playoffs, including seven in Super Bowl XXI.

Carson was a respected team leader on and off the field and was a 10-time Giants captain. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and into the inaugural class of the Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

9. Sam Huff

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 19561963 (the first eight years of his 13-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for four Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Two-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1982
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants selected Sam Huff in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft. Huff had grown up poor in West Virginia coal country, but he excelled at West Virginia University and was named an All-American in football as well as an Academic All-American.

Huff was a lineman in college, but the Giants had difficulty fitting him into their defensive line. He decided to leave the team, but assistant coach Vince Lombardi persuaded him to stay. Defensive coordinator Tom Landry adopted a new 43 defense and switched Huff to linebacker. When starting middle linebacker Ray Beck was injured in the second game of the season, Huff took over. Although the Giants lost that game, they went on to win the next five in a row and ultimately won the NFL Championship.

Huff became known for his hard hitting and tackling ability along with his great speed. In his eight-year Giants career, he had 18 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles. The Giants made the playoffs in six of Huff's eight seasons. Huff was upset when coach Allie Sherman traded him to the Redskins before the 1964 season, but Huff continued to have success with Washington for several years . . . although 1964 marked the beginning of a 17-year playoff drought for the Giants.

Huff displayed strong leadership skills and football knowledge as well as athletic prowess. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, and he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team in recognition of his success during his years with the Giants. In 2010, the Giants honored Huff with induction into the team's Ring of Honor.

8. Frank Gifford

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Halfback/flanker 19521960, 19621964 (his entire 12-year NFL career)

  • Recorded 9,862 total combined yards, including 3,609 yards rushing and 367 receptions for 5,434 yards; scored 78 touchdowns and 484 total points
  • Member of five playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for eight Pro Bowls
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro
  • NFL Player of the Year 1956
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1977
  • No. 16 jersey retired by Giants in 2000
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

After Frank Gifford starred as an All-American at the University of Southern California, the Giants selected him in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft. It wasn't long before Gifford became a star in New York, on and off the field.

Gifford was an exceptionally versatile player with a wide range of skills (ultimately being selected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions). He began his Giants career in 1952 as a defensive back but was a two-way player the next season. Beginning in 1954, Gifford primarily played running back under offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi, although he also saw some action on special teams in the next several years. Gifford gave credit to Lombardi for everything that he accomplished in football.

Statistically, Gifford's best year was 1956, when he led the league with 1,422 total yards from scrimmage. He also kicked one field goal and eight extra points. He won the NFL MVP Award and led the Giants to the NFL Championship.

Gifford was forced to retire after the 1960 season due to a severe head injury. He missed the entire 1961 season but came back in 1962 and played for three more years at a new position, flanker (essentially equivalent to wide receiver). He used his great pass-catching skills to excel in this new position and was chosen for his eighth Pro Bowl in 1963.

After his retirement, Gifford launched a new career as a sports broadcaster, most notably appearing on the ABC network's Monday Night Football for 27 years. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. The Giants retired his No. 16 jersey in 2000 and inducted him into the Ring of Honor in 2010.

7. Emlen Tunnell

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive back/safety 19481958 (the first 11 years of his 14-year NFL career)
  • Member of three playoff teams with the Giants
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for eight Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1967
  • Selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Emlen Tunnell signed with the Giants as a free agent in 1948 after serving heroically in the Coast Guard during World War II and playing football at the University of Iowa. He was the first African American to sign with and play for the Giants.

Tunnell was a superb defensive player. He was a key piece in the Giants' early-1950s umbrella defense, a 4-1-6 alignment that often neutralized an opponent's passing game. With the Giants, he intercepted 74 passes for 1,240 yards and four touchdowns. Tunnell was also an outstanding kick returner who tallied 2,206 yards on punt returns and 1,215 yards on kick returns for the Giants. In 1952, he actually gained more yards on interceptions and kick returns than the league's leading rusher. As a result of such feats, he was nicknamed the Giants' offense on defense.

Tunnell and the Giants' defense came up huge in the 1956 NFL Championship game when they held the Bears to seven points, winning their first championship in 18 years.

In 1959, after Vince Lombardi left the Giants to become the head coach and general manager of the Packers, the Packers purchased Tunnell's contract from the Giants. Tunnell played for Green Bay for three years. After he retired, he worked as a scout and assistant coach for the Giants from 1962 until his untimely death in 1975. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and into the Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

6. Andy Robustelli

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive end 19561964 (nine years of his 14-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for five Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Won Bert Bell Award for NFL's Player of the Year 1962
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Andy Robustelli came to the Giants before the 1956 season in a trade with the Rams in exchange for the Giants' 1957 first-round draft pick. In his five years with Los Angeles, he earned a reputation as a stellar defensive player, played in two Pro Bowls and was voted a First-Team All-Pro twice.

In 1956, Robustelli's trade had a significant impact on both teams. The Rams went from having the best to the worst record in the Western Conference, and the Giants won the NFL Championship in their first playoff appearance since 1950. Along with rookie Sam Huff, Robustelli received much of the credit for the Giants' defensive turnaround. The Giants went on to post winning records in each of Robustelli's first eight seasons. He was selected to play in five Pro Bowls in his first six years as a Giant and was voted a First-Team All-Pro in four of those seasons.

Robustelli was fast and strong. He was a great pass rusher who probably would have been credited with numerous sacks if sacks had been recorded in that era. He had a great work ethic and did not miss one game during his entire Giants career.

In his last three seasons as a player with the Giants, Robustelli also served as the defensive coordinator. He retired after the 1964 season but returned to the Giants as their general manager for five years in the team's lean years of the 1970s. Robustelli was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and into the Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

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Michael Strahan won a Super Bowl, played in seven Pro Bowls and won a Defensive Player of the Year award (2001).© Jack Gruber, USA TODAY, USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

5. Michael Strahan

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive end 19932007 (his entire 15-year NFL career)
  • Member of seven playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XLII Championship
  • Selected for seven Pro Bowls
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Won two NFL sack titles, including the single-season record of 22.5 sacks in 2001
  • 2001 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 2014
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s Team

Impact With the Team

The Giants selected Michael Strahan out of Texas Southern University in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft. For much of his rookie season, a foot injury kept him out of action. He became a starter in his second season, but his performance was unremarkable in his first few seasons.

His breakout season came in 1997, when he recorded 14 sacks. He was selected for his first Pro Bowl and named a First-Team All-Pro. He was voted to six more Pro Bowls and selected as a First-Team All-Pro in three more seasons during his career.

From 1997 on, Strahan continued his dominance as a pass rusher with both speed and power. He recorded double-digit sack totals in six seasons and twice led the league in sacks. In 2001, he set the official record with 22.5 sacks and also led the league in tackles for a loss. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for 2001.

Strahan played on two Super Bowl teams. In Super Bowl XXXV, he had 1.5 sacks and five solo tackles in the Giants' loss to the Ravens. In Super Bowl XLII, he sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for a loss of six yards and also had two solo tackles to help the Giants upset previously undefeated New England. Strahan retired after the game, ending his great career on an appropriately high note. At retirement, he was the Giants career leader with 141.5 official sacks (fifth in NFL history at the time).

Strahan went on to have a very successful post-football career in television as a talk show and game show host. Meanwhile, his accomplishments on the field were recognized by his induction into the Giants' Ring of Honor in 2010 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Strahan was also named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s Team.

4. Rosey Brown

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Offensive tackle 19531965 (his entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Voted NFL Lineman of the Year 1956
  • Selected for nine Pro Bowls
  • Six-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1975
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants drafted Roosevelt "Rosey" Brown in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL Draft as the 322nd player overall. At just 20 years old, Brown quickly proved himself to be a steal. He won a starting job and kept it for 13 seasons, spending his entire career with the Giants.

Brown was unusually fast and agile for a lineman. He relied primarily on speed and technique rather than pure strength or bulk. He excelled both in protecting the pass and in leading sweeps for the Giants' famed ground game. When Brown died in 2004, halfback Frank Gifford said he wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if it hadn't been for Brown.

Brown's tenure with the Giants coincided with the team's dynasty years of the late 1950s and early 60s. In the eight years from 1956 to 1963, the Giants compiled a 73-25-4 record and won their division six times, winning the NFL Championship in 1956. That year Brown was named the NFL's Offensive Lineman of the Year.

After a medical condition forced his retirement as a player, Brown joined the Giants' coaching staff in 1966, helping coach the offensive line before becoming a scout in 1971. His overall career with the Giants extended for over 50 years.

Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975 and included in the inaugural 2010 class of the Giants Ring of Honor.

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Dec 15, 2019: Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass during the first quarter as New York Giants tight end Kaden Smith (82) defends at MetLife Stadium.© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

3. Eli Manning

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Quarterback 20042019 (his entire 16-year NFL career)
  • 57,023 yards passing and 366 touchdown passes
  • Selected for four Pro Bowls
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI Championships
  • Two Super Bowl MVP Awards
  • Co-winner NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award 2016

Impact With the Team

Eli Manning was the Giants' starting quarterback for most of his 16-year career. Between 2004 and 2019, Manning started 234 games for Big Blue, including a streak of 210 consecutive starts. Despite his recent retirement, it's not too soon to say that Manning belongs among the all-time great Giants.

After an outstanding college football career at the University of Mississippi, Manning was drafted No. 1 overall by the Chargers. However, since Manning made it clear behind the scenes that he would not play for San Diego, the Chargers agreed to a deal with the Giants in which they would trade Manning in return for the Giants' fourth overall pick (quarterback Philip Rivers) and several other draft picks. As a result, Manning started his career with the Giants, where he remained until his retirement in early 2020. In his retirement announcement, he said he was committed to ending his career as a Giant.

Manning started the last seven games of the 2004 season. Overall, he was not particularly successful, but he improved from game to game and was named the starter for 2005. He responded by leading the Giants to an 11-5 record and the NFC East title that year, the first of four consecutive playoff appearances for the Giants. Under Manning's leadership, the Giants scored 422 points in the 2005 regular season, the most they had scored in a season since 1963.

Manning's two most memorable performances came in the Giants' Super Bowl victories against the Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Manning was named Super Bowl MVP for both games.

In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants beat previously undefeated and heavily favored New England 17-14. After Manning put the Giants ahead 10-7 with a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Patriots came back to take a late 14-10 lead. With only 2:39 on the clock, Manning engineered an 83-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead and win the game.

Manning led the Giants to another come-from-behind fourth-quarter win against New England in Super Bowl XLVI. With the Patriots leading 17-15 and less than four minutes remaining, Manning drove the Giants down the field for the winning touchdown with 1:04 left on the clock.

Manning's Giants career had its ups and downs. The team had an overall .500 record in regular-season games that he started. But Manning passed for 57,023 yards, set numerous Giants records and proved his leadership time and again. The two come-from-behind Super Bowl wins and MVP awards speak for themselves. It's too early to speculate on what post-career honors will come Manning's way, but I think his place in this list is secure.

2. Mel Hein

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Center 19311945 (his entire 15-year NFL career)
  • Member of eight playoff teams
  • Won 1934 and 1938 NFL Championships
  • Won 1938 Joe F. Carr Trophy (MVP)
  • Selected to four Pro Bowls
  • Voted First-Team All-NFL in eight consecutive seasons
  • No. 7 jersey retired by Giants 1963
  • Charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1930s Team
  • Inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Mel Hein was an All-American center at Washington State University who led the 1930 Cougars to an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Hoping to play professionally, Hein contacted several teams to offer his services. The Giants were the high bidder with an offer of $150 per game.

The Giants got their money's worth and more. In addition to being an expert snapper, Hein proved to be an aggressive blocker and tackler who also displayed speed and agility. Sometimes referred to as Old Indestructible, Hein was one of the toughest and most durable players in the NFL. Playing on the defensive line as well as at center, he was a 60-minute "ironman" who played in 170 games in his 15-year career. Without facemasks, football was a tough game, and center was an especially brutal position. But Hein's injuries required a timeout only once, when he had his broken nose set before returning a few minutes later.

The Giants had 11 winning records in Hein's 15 seasons, due in no small part to Hein's contributions. They reached the NFL championship game seven times and won it twice.

Center has never been a glamorous position, and a center accumulated very few stats in the record books. But Hein's skill and toughness were recognized by his contemporaries and the league. In addition to four Pro Bowls and eight First-Team All-Pro selections, Hein won the first NFL MVP award in 1938 over some very good competition at more glamorous positions. Giants team owner Wellington Mara once called Hein the greatest player of the Giants' first 50 years.

After his retirement from the Giants, Hein coached in the college and professional ranks for many years. He also served as the supervisor of officials for the American Football League from 1966 to 1969 and for the American Football Conference from 1970 to his retirement in 1974.

Hein was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of 11 players in the inaugural 1963 class. The Giants retired his No. 7 jersey the same year. Hein was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1930s Team, and the Giants honored him again in 2010 with induction into the Giants Ring of Honor.

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Lawrence Taylor is a two-time Super Bowl champion, a eight-time First Team All-Pro selection, the NFL MVP (1986) and a 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1981, 1982, 1986).© Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

1. Lawrence Taylor

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 19811993 (his entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Recorded 132.5 career sacks and nine interceptions
  • Member of seven playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV Championships
  • Selected for 10 Pro Bowls
  • Eight-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • Voted NFL MVP 1986
  • Giants jersey No. 56 retired 1994
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1999
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants drafted Lawrence Taylor, widely known as "L.T.," out of the University of North Carolina with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. It is no understatement to say that Taylor invigorated and dramatically improved the Giants.

Taylor's impact was immediate. The Giants' defense already featured linebackers Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelley, and future Hall of Famer Harry Carson. With Taylor added in the right outside linebacker slot, the linebacking unit took on a new identity, becoming known as the Crunch Bunch. The Giants' defense began to remind older fans of the dominating defenses of the great Giants teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In 1981, Taylor's rookie season, the Giants' defense improved to third in the league in the number of yards allowed from 24th in 1980. The Giants reached the playoffs for the first time after a 17-year drought. Taylor won the awards for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected to his first of 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro for the first of six consecutive seasons.

Taylor had almost unparalleled athletic ability with great strength and blazing speed. With his unrelenting, powerful attacks, he was a superb pass rusher who repeatedly disrupted offenses. It is widely acknowledged that he changed the way the position of outside linebacker was played and forced opponents to redesign their offenses.

Taylor posted double-digit sack totals in seven consecutive seasons and accumulated a total of 132.5 official sacks in his 13-year career. He was primarily a pass rusher, yet he also recorded nine interceptions in his career, including an interception in 1982 that he returned 97 yards for a touchdown. But his statistics don't really tell the whole story. He was remarkably determined. In a 1988 game against the Saints, wearing a shoulder harness to offset a torn pectoral muscle, he still recorded seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Giants won 13-12. You had to see Taylor in action to fully appreciate how dominant he was.

Taylor's defense helped lead the Giants to wins over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI and the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, capping seasons in which the Giants went 17-2 and 16-3, respectively, including playoff games. In the 1986 season leading up to the teams first Super Bowl win, Taylor recorded a league-best 20.5 sacks. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NFL MVP Award, and the Bert Bell Award for Player of the Year.

Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. The Giants honored him by retiring his famous No. 56 jersey in 1994, less than a year after his retirement. The team also inducted him into its Ring of Honor in the 2010 inaugural class.

Who Was the Best Giants Player of All Time?

No one can seriously argue against Lawrence Taylor's selection as the greatest New York Giants player of all time. In fact, he is almost surely among the top 10 NFL players of all time. Unfortunately, although there is no question that Taylor was an exceptionally talented football player, his off-the-field issues were and are deeply troubling. Taylor's long history of legal issues includes substance abuse, multiple arrests and being declared a registered sex offender. It is strictly for his on-field performance that he earns the No. 1 spot on this list. For Giants fans who saw him play, Taylor was a special player who added excitement to every game.

Honorable Mentions

The Giants have had so many exceptional players throughout their history that it is difficult to single out 10 players as the best ever, let alone rank them. Here are some additional players who deserve consideration in any list of New York's greatest players, listed alphabetically but not ranked. Do you think any of these players belong in the top 10? Are there others who should be listed here?

Tiki Barber

  • Running back 19972006 (his entire 10-year NFL career)
  • Great cutback runner with outstanding field vision
  • Holds numerous Giants franchise records, including most career rushing yards (10,449), most 100-yard games (38) and most 1,000-yard seasons (6)
  • Member of five playoff teams
  • Selected for three Pro Bowls
  • First-Team All-Pro 2005
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Charlie Conerly

  • Quarterback 19481961 (his entire 14-year NFL career)
  • Brilliant field general who amassed 19,488 passing yards and threw 173 touchdown passes in his career
  • Led the Giants to the 1956 NFL Championship
  • NFL Rookie of the Year 1948
  • Selected for two Pro Bowls
  • Giants jersey No. 42 retired shortly after his retirement
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Conerly probably deserves induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gifford and others lobbied for him without success.

Ray Flaherty

  • End 19281935 (six-plus years of his eight-year NFL career)
  • Great offensive lineman
  • Led NFL in receiving yardage 1932
  • Member of 1934 NFL Championship team
  • Three-time First-Team All-Pro*
  • First Giant to have his jersey (No. 1) retired, 1935
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1976 (primarily as a coach)

*In 1928, one of the years in which Flaherty was named an All-Pro, he played only one game with the Giants, after playing most of the season with the Yankees.

Tuffy Leemans

  • Fullback/tailback 19361943 (his entire eight-year NFL career)
  • Workhorse running back
  • Led NFL in rushing in rookie year
  • Rushed for 3,132 career yards
  • Selected for two Pro Bowls
  • Two-time All-NFL selection
  • Member of 1938 NFL Championship team
  • Giants jersey No. 4 retired 1940
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1978
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Phil Simms

  • Quarterback 19791993 (his entire 15-year NFL career, but missed the 1982 season with a knee injury)
  • Resilient big-game quarterback with 33,462 career passing yards and 199 touchdown passes
  • Member of seven playoff teams
  • Led the Giants to their first Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXI, in which he set several Super Bowl records and was named Super Bowl MVP
  • Led Giants to an 11-3 record through 14 games in 1990, but suffered a season-ending injury and was unable to participate in the Giants' Super Bowl XXV win
  • Giants jersey No. 11 retired 1995
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Ken Strong

  • Fullback/kicker 19331935, 1939, 19441947 (eight years of his 12-year NFL career)
  • Outstanding ball carrier
  • Scored 17 points in 1934 NFL Championship win
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Giants jersey No. 50 retired 1947
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1967
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Y.A. Tittle

  • Quarterback 19611964 (the last four years of his 17-year pro career)
  • Led the Giants to three consecutive division titles 19611963
  • Selected for three Pro Bowls with the Giants
  • Won four major MVP awards in three seasons while with the Giants
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971
  • Giants jersey No. 14 retired 1965
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Tittle almost certainly would have made my top 10 list if he had played longer for the Giants.

Final Thoughts on the All-Time Best Giants Players

My list of top 10 Giants players includes nine players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which should not be too surprising. Manning, who's not yet eligible, is the only exception, and I'm confident that he is a future Hall of Famer.

There are only three players on this list whose numbers have been retired by the Giants: Hein, Gifford, and Taylor. But six of the seven players among the honorable mentions have had their jersey numbers retired, which may be an argument for including at least one or two of them in a top 10 list.

Almost all the years in the Giants' long history are represented, from 1931 (Hein's first year) through 2019. There is one large gap, though: No players on the list (or among the honorable mentions, for that matter) were active with the Giants in the decade between 1965 (Brown's last season) and 1976 (Carson's first). It is probably no coincidence that this decade marked the middle of the longest playoff dry spell in Giants history, when they failed to make the postseason for 17 years in a row.

Great players often do correlate with team success. This top 10 list includes players from all four of the Giants' Super Bowl championships and three of their four pre-Super Bowl NFL championships.

You may notice that half of the players on this list played on the 1956 NFL Championship team. That era was a high point in which the Giants had a lot of success, year after year. Giants fans have been blessed with many great teams and outstanding players over the years, but that team has to go down as one of the best NFL teams of all time.

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