We've asked a couple excellent writers who are fans of each Super Bowl team to talk about where their team stands going into next week's "Big" "Game." Next week will bring us Eric Gillin of Esquire.com on the Patriots, but today, it's Peter Schrager from FoxSports.com opining on his Giants. Enjoy.
If there's one downside to your team making the Super Bowl, it's the fact that overnight, just about every sports personality with a keyboard or a cake of makeup on their face becomes a sudden "expert" on your squad. In newspapers across the country, local news broadcasts from coast to coast, and on the national "scream as loud as you can for no apparent reason" talking head shows splashed all over cable TV—there's a boom of authoritative voices giving their thoughts on a team you—the fan—clearly know far more about. This, of course, excludes Carl from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
To be certain, there will be a lot of "expert" analysis on the Giants over the next two weeks. And trust me—it'll drive Big Blue fans nuts.
For that reason, I roped in three other noted Giants fans from these here Interwebs, and got their thoughts on the four big Giants-related topics you'll likely hear batted around over the next ten days. Block out the talking heads' for a moment and consider the following the fans' true perspective on the 2008 NFC Champion Giants:
1. Has Eli really "arrived"?
Edward Valentine, Editor of the popular Big Blue View:
Well, he's 'arrived' in Arizona at Super Bowl XLII, and that's what Giants' fans care about. I think Eli is not yet a top 5 QB, but he has finally shown that he does possess the leadership and passing skills to get there.
Eric Kennedy, Editor of the incredible Big Blue Interactive:
I'm not going to say that yet because I don't want to jinx him. He's certainly been the most impressive quarterback of the postseason. He has personally out-dueled two Pro Bowl quarterbacks , and he's performed exceptionally well in his last four games despite playing four of the best defenses in the NFL.
Sam Rubenstein, writer for SLAM ONLINE:
According to the media, Eli has arrived at least 3 or 4 different times. Then the fans get all fired up about how great he is, and he promptly falls apart. And then we say "fool me once, fool me twice, fool me three times shame on you, fool me X+1 times, shame on me." Perhaps Giants fans are too stupid to learn, but we feel that this time is different. HE HAS ARRIVED!!!
My thoughts: Sure, he's arrived. And as soon as he throws 3 picks against the Eagles in a random October regular season game next fall, he'll be back to square one—Peyton's nervous, crappy, weird little brother who may or may not be a robot.
2. Is this team better off without Shockey on the field on Sundays?
Valentine: I'm not ready to go that far, but they haven't missed him. As a receiver, Kevin Boss can pretty much do everything Shockey can do. As a blocker, Michael Matthews is excellent. And, of course, they don't miss Shockey's mouth.
Kennedy: No. That's a crazy theory that both "experts" and fans having been stating in recent weeks. Without Shockey, aside from the Green Bay game, Plaxico Burress has been drawing even more attention from opposing defenses (keep in mind that Burress had a total of five catches for 43 yards against the Buccaneers and Cowboys). Kevin Boss has played well, but he is still green as grass and not the blocker Shockey is.
Rubenstein: Jeremy Shockey is a talented athlete, picks up those YACs, and draws coverage away from lesser talents. He can fire up the team with a timely 7 yard reception with a helmet exploding off, and his tattoo makes me proud to be an American. But he's such an asshole with the over the top celebrating that it makes the other team play harder, which you don't want. And Eli tends to force the ball to him when he's out there, probably just to shut him up for a minute. Many of those passes are dropped. Better off without him, sorry Shocker.
My thoughts: Shockey's one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and has that great "F-You" mentality which New Yorkers love. But I'll be honest—I haven't thought of him once during a game since he left the field against Washington. Kevin Boss—the Western Oregon wonder—is playing just fine. When J-Shock's back and healthy next year, we'll welcome him back with open arms. But for now, let's enjoy what we've got.
3. Where do Giants fans stand on Tiki?
Valentine: Split. We recognize his greatness as a player, but we also know that his leaving is one of the things that propelled this team to where it is now. His hatred of Tom Coughlin, and lack of willingness to keep his complaints private, split the locker room and undermined what Coughlin was trying to do.
Kennedy: On my site, most seem to hate him now. It's one of the biggest fall from graces I've ever seen and Tiki has no one to blame but himself. He was one of the most beloved Giants players entering the 2006 season. But even during the middle of that season, most fans recognized what a circus he was helping to create. Tiki could have gone down as his generation's Frank Gifford, but he couldn't keep his mouth shut. The strange thing is that I don't think he really helped his career much by being so vocal. Tiki is still the greatest runner in Giants' history and time may help to heal old wounds, but not for the foreseeable future.
Rubenstein: Tiki Barber is a bitch dog snitch. F him for making us cheer for him for all those years. This is some sweet comeuppance baby! F Tiki. Snitches get stitches, um, insults.
My thoughts: When Tiki told Sports Illustrated his "idol" was Matt Lauer last year, I knew it was time for everyone to pretty much move on. Though I've yet to catch him cooking a casserole on weekday mornings for "The Today Show", he certainly waves a pen quite well in the NBC studio on Sunday nights. It's safe to say everyone—Tiki, Couhglin, the Giants fans, and the Giants players included—were fine with him hanging around 30 Rock with Costas and Colinsworth, and not in the Giants locker room this year.
4. Why is this team so much different than the 2000 version that made the Super Bowl just 8 years ago?
Valentine: I believe that was a 'one and done' type team. It was more of a veteran team that got on a good run. This is a younger team that is built to last. This Giants team is going to be good for several years to come.
Kennedy: It won't be that different if they don't beat the Patriots. Personnel wise, only Strahan and Toomer remain from the 2000 team. Both teams had good balance on offense, but the 2007 team has a more power-oriented running game. Defensively, they are similar as both teams had good defensive lines and some question marks in the back seven on defense. The 2007 team has better special teams.
Rubenstein: In 2000, the Giants really had very few players you could embrace as a fan. Tiki was a nice little 1000 yard scat back. Strahan was a great player who talked a little too much. And Jason Sehorn... remember when he was good? C'mon. Kool Kerry Kollins? Nope. The only non-objectionable personalities on the team were Amani Toomer (class), Keith Hamilton ("The Hammer". Awesome nickname), and Jessie Armstead, who was kind of a beast despite spelling his first name with a non-manly "ie". The Ravens, meanwhile, had Ray Lewis before he went soft with religion, a morbidly obese fat guy from Jersey at nose tackle, and no offense whatsoever. They were what every Giants fan wishes we were. So yes, the 2000 Giants just wasn't a team you could care about. The 2000 Ravens, though, they were truly something special.
My thoughts: There will always be a place in my heart for that 2000 squad. Even hearing about Jim Fassell interviewing for the Redskins job still hurts a little. It's like finding out an ex-girlfriend from years ago is now dating an old enemy of yours from high school. Sure, you won't lose sleep over it, but you'd 100% rather she ended up with someone else. But yes—I still love seeing Ike Hilliard put up numbers for Tampa, and the fact Joe Jurevicius has played in two Super Bowls since that 2000 one is just gravy. Good for each of them. But there's something different about this year's squad. From Eli to Feagles, from Bradshaw to Butler—they're a once-in-a-lifetime group of players, and it's impossible to not feel drawn to them.
That is, of course, until they lose by 35 in the Super Bowl.