Good Morning! Many of you may remember Sid Rosenberg from his days on WFAN. Sid was the sportscaster for the "Imus in the Morning" show, as well as the host of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants Pregame Show. Sid is now living here in South Florida, and hosts the morning show on 790 AM The Ticket, which can be heard live on Sid Rosenberg.com. Sid has graciously agreed to sit down with me and discuss his thoughts on the Giants upcoming season.
Sid, thanks so much for taking the time to give us your thoughts on the 2008 New York Giants. Let's get to it:
Big Blue View: Many people around the league seem to think the Giants last year were a fluke, an average team that got hot at the right time and rode the wave to a Championship. Do you agree with that, or is this a Giants team that can contend for a title for the next few years?
Sid: I remember answering the same question on WFAN right after the Giants were demolished by the Ravens in Super Bowl 35. My answer back then was I thought it was a fluke. Kerry Collins and the defense caught fire at the right time but I never felt good about the future prospects. I distinctly remember filling in for Joe Beningo (Overnight shift) in early 2001 and predicting the Giants to finish at 7-9. I was lambasted by the callers the rest of the night. Callers that questioned my allegiance to the Big Blue because I didn't pick them to go right back to the Big Dance. As luck would have it I was right in 2001 and the Giants suffered through a lackluster season. With all that said, I have completely different expectations for the 2008 New York Football Giants. Repeating is awfully tough in the NFL but I do think the Giants will have some say in who is celebrating in Tampa come February.
One thing that has impressed me about this version of the Giants is the tremendous depth they enjoy at most positions. That should lessen the sting of losing players like Michael Strahan (retired) and Jeremy Shockey (Saints). It is impossible to replace #92 but the combination of Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck did amass 23 sacks last year. Add to that a returning Matthias Kiwanuka and some good veterans on the inside and the Giants should be okay there. And while #80's exuberance will be missed at times the Giants did win a Super Bowl without him. Kevin Boss is no Jeremy Shockey but there is little argument that Eli Manning had a chance to mature without battling his own players inside the huddle. I think Giant fans had the same concerns after Tiki Barber (2,127 total yards in 2006) hung ‘em up before last season and yet the Giants were very successful with their version of "running back by committee."
I think it's fair to say that outside of tight end and defensive back this is a very deep football team. Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns could all be back at running back. There is a glutton of good wide receivers with Plaxico Burress (moments away from agreeing on a new deal), Amani Toomer, Steve Smith (really like this guy), Mario Manningham (Michigan rookie) and David Tyree. And most importantly quarterback Eli Manning has exorcised the demons and is now ready to take his place as one of football's best quarterbacks. The defense should still be very solid under Spagnola and there is a confidence permeating Albany that the Giants haven't had in years.
The Giants could also relish the fact that nobody in the media thinks they will represent the NFC again this time around. Overwhelmingly the Dallas Cowboys are the favorite there and most think the Patriots, Colts and Chargers are the best teams in the NFL anyway. That may put that extra chip on Big Blue's shoulders to motivate them this upcoming season. I'm not ready to pick the Giants to go back to the Super Bowl but I do think they have as good a shot as anybody inside their conference.
BBV: Who is the real Eli Manning? Is he the quarterback who struggled most of 2007 or is he the quarterback who played almost mistake-free starting with the regular season finale against New England? Has Eli "turned" the corner?
Sid: There was a day during the 2004 season when Mike Francesa and I were going back and forth about Tom Coughlin's plans with the quarterback position inside the WFAN newsroom. Kurt Warner was the starting quarterback and the Giants were in the playoff hunt. Bad after bad losses to Chicago and Arizona I had seen enough of the veteran. I was convinced the Giants were not going to make the playoffs and I wanted to see Manning. Mike and many other New York media members thought I was crazy. Tom Coughlin didn't. He made the move to his young quarterback and the Giants were miserable the rest of the way. Fast forward 3 years to the 2007 season and I still had a multitude of questions about this Manning prodigy. My biggest concern was #10 was still making some of the same mistakes in 2007 he was making in 2005. His numbers over 3 years looked okay. He's averaging about 3,300 yards a season, 71 touchdowns and only 55 picks, and two playoff appearances in two years as a starter. But he didn't play well in post season losses to Carolina and Philadelphia and he still looked like a skittish little kid on too many downs.
Then something happened one Sunday night at the end of the 2007 regular season. That was the night the Patriots were trying to become only the 4th team in NFL history to finish a regular season unbeaten. That was the night the playoff bound Giants were supposed to rest their starters. Instead the Giants came to play and Eli stood toe to toe with league's best quarterback Tom Brady. That was the night that started a miraculous 4 game run that included playoff road wins in Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay and an awe inspiring Super Bowl win. Eli Manning played a stretch of practically mistake free football and really took control of his team. His effort on a biting cold night in Green Bay was one for the ages. Not many can say they outplayed Brett Favre in a big game at Lambeau. Eli can.
I for one have been as tough on Eli as anybody in the media. When asked early last year which #10 in New York I would rather have I leaned towards the one in green and white. I am man enough to admit I was wrong. Eli is still only going into his 4th year as a starter and he's already won a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP. It took me 3+ years but you bet I'm a believer!
BBV: Of course the biggest off-season story for the Giants was the Jeremy Shockey situation. Do you buy into the theory that he was a distraction to Eli Manning in running the offense, and that the Giants will be better off without him?
Sid: Let me start here by saying that Jeremy and I have a very nice relationship. Most of the media in New York can NOT say the same. After Jeremy's classic battle with Mike and the Mad Dog, I was the one WFAN management sent out to repair and salvage the relationship. I was able to do that for a short time before Jeremy got hurt in training camp. I know that the Giants are NOT better without Jeremy the football player. I still contend that Shockey is one of the best tight ends in football. Kevin Boss is not ready for those type of accolades. But with that said I also know that #80 was a distraction and a disruptive force at times and the Giants and Jeremy are both better off moving on.
No Giant player in the last 20 years got me more excited and pumped up than Jeremy Shockey. What was more invigorating than Shockey beating his chest after two or three opposing defensive backs nearly decapitated him? Nothing! And it will not be easy to replace 371 catches for nearly 4,300 yards and 27 touchdowns either. Jeremy played hurt and always put the Giants before his body. He wasn't Mark Bavaro, but he's probably next on the list of all time Giant greats at tight end. But it got uglier and uglier on an annual basis and it was time for a change.
Even before Shockey had his problems with management he was pretty vocal about his displeasure on how Coach Coughlin was using him. He never liked the fact that Coughlin had him blocking so often and not out there catching passes on every down. And the word on the street is he was pretty tough on Eli when the quarterback didn't get him the football. Combine that with all the stuff that happened in, around and after the Super Bowl and you've got the makings of a very unhappy camper.
I will always be a Shockey fan. I believe that, if healthy, Shockey could have a monster year playing with Drew Brees in Sean Payton's offense in New Orleans. I don't think any team ever is better personnel wise without a force like Shockey on the depth chart. But I also believe this marriage was over and it did allow the quarterback to mature. Good luck Shock!
BBV: Being in South Florida, you follow the Hurricanes closely. What can Giant fans look forward to with Kenny Phillips?
Sid: Pain! In the long line of big time defensive backs to come out of the U over the last decade or so Kenny looks like he could be one of the best. He is a fierce hitter and he's got a good nose for the football. I know for a fact he's had to be reminded that this is only training camp and the guys right now on the other side of the ball are his teammates! Coughlin likes that. I like that!
The Giants definitely need someone to step up and replace Gibril Wilson (Oakland Raiders) at free safety and it looks like Kenny Phillips is grabbing the opportunity by the horns. He recently signed a 5 year deal and I firmly believe he will make Giant fans happy for many years to come. This is not Shaun Williams fans!
BBV: What is your prediction for the Giants in 2008?
Sid: I still maintain that the Giants play in the toughest division inside the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys come off a 13-win season and they are a very good football team. Wade Phillips still has to win a playoff game as a head coach but maybe T.O. will see to that this year. The Redskins are an interesting story with Jim Zorn taking over for Joe Gibbs and the arrival of the great Jason Taylor. I am still not sold on their starting quarterback Jason Campbell. And the Eagles should be better although they still sport one of the worst receiving corps in football. The Giants should be good enough to win at least 10 during the regular season. After that I suspect an NFC Championship matchup against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Not sure the Giants will beat them again this year.
BBV: Finally Sid, a selfish question from me. I am a huge Howard Stern fan and I see you will be making an appearance on his show (Tuesday, August 12th at 6:30 a.m.) and hosting Wack Pack Bowling (Premiering Tuesday night the 12th) on Howard TV. How did you get involved in this?
Sid: I too Jimmy am a huge Howard fan. I know that sounds crazy from a guy that worked so closely with Imus for nearly 6 years but there's nobody like Stern. I have been lucky to befriend Gary Dell'Abate and Artie Lange over the last 10 years and that's been my door in. I did have the fortunate opportunity to appear live in Howard's studio in November of 2006 and that went exceptionally well. With most of Howard's regulars in Afghanistan this summer during the time of the Wack Pack taping the crew made the decision to give me this shot. It was great fun taping the shows and it promises to be hilarious television. Beetlejuice, Jeff the Drunk and Elephant Boy were all at the top of their game! Don't forget to tune in on the 12th and get your Howard TV today!
Thanks again Sid for taking the time to sit down with us, we really appreciate it. Just so everyone knows, Sid took the time to do this interview with me while on a family vacation, that puts him pretty near the top of my "really cool people" list. You can hear Sid every morning on:
Being a NY guy, Sid does talk a lot of NY sports, much to the chagrin of some of his audience. I encourage everyone to give him a listen. Plus, his Web site has a lot of info on all NY teams, as well as some beautiful eye candy.
Tomorrow morning sometime after 7 AM, I will be on Sid's show, so try and listen in. I know it's early but I have to call before the work day starts.
You can also check out Sid's MySpace page here: Sid on MySpace