To make history, it’s essential to understand it.
That’s one of the many things new Giants head coach Joe Judge has been trying to accomplish with a franchise whose history since its last Super Bowl season in 2011 has been, well, forgettable.
It’s been so bad, in fact, that the Giants roster has had a significant turnover. Gone are long-timers Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie, who were the last players standing from the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl championship teams.
These days, the longest-tenured player on the team is the man known in the locker room as “Young Shep”—receiver Sterling Shepard. Shepard was a second-round draft pick by the Giants in 2016 and is a player who, other than for defensive lineman Leonard Williams who beat Shepard to the pro sports scene by a year to make him the longest active member of the Giants or Jets, is now the gray beard of the franchise.
“Yeah, I might have to shake the ‘Young Shep’ thing,” Shepard said of his nickname.
All kidding aside, Shepard, Judge and the rest of the Giants have been receiving history lessons about the franchise’s rich traditions which in the post-AFL-NFL merger era, have included the good (the 2006-11 seasons), the great (the 1980s) and the ugly (the 1970s and six of the last seven years).
“Yeah, when we were going through the OTA period, on the Zoom calls, the coaches would have some trivia questions for us,” Shepard revealed. “We did this Kahoot! challenge to kind of get guys going in understanding the history of the organization.”
Third-year running back Saquon Barkley has also been enjoying the opportunity to learn about the team’s history.
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“I do think we are doing a great job of, especially when we are in Zoom meetings, understanding the history, understanding the guys before us. There is a tradition here,” he said during his video conference call with reporters.
“You have to understand your history and what we’re known for,” he added. “The Giants are known for being tough, physical and doing the little things right. That’s something that Coach Judge and all the coaches have made a focal point for us in the short time that we have been here.”
Understanding history is a great way to avoid repeating mistakes that doomed the franchise and replicate the successes. Another major advantage for the players is in learning the history of the Giants is understanding what additional resources they might have available to them who played their position.
For example, the Giants broadcast counts among its members some recent Giants legends who have their names etched in the team’s record books. These include receivers Amani Toomer and Victor Cruz and linebacker Carl Banks. Part of that group has some Super Bowl champions like offensive linemen David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara, and safety Antrel Rolle.
Former defensive end Osi Umenyiora recently told Giants Country that as a young player who spent most of his time in the Giants organization, he found it invaluable to pick the brains of the men who had worn the uniform before him.
He credited Banks as one of the legacy players who impacted him in terms of sharing tips and techniques that Umenyiora worked into his game.
All this is why Judge and his staff are equally committed to teaching the “who, what, where, when and whys” of the franchise’s history.
“I think it's very important to know the history,” Shepard said. “I mean, you have to know where the guys, before you have done it and how they played football, so you continue to play that way.
“That's what this organization was built on and that's what it's used to. So, I think it's important and the coaches do as well; that's the reason why they have those Kahoot! challenges and trivia questions.”