Let's do something a little different today. We have done a 53-man roster projection. Let's look at the Tom Coughlin era as head coach of the New York Giants and try to build the best 53-man roster we can from all of the players who have been Giants during those 11 seasons.
This incidentally, is something that was done recently on the Giants sub-reddit. I thought it would be fun to take a stab at it, so here is my Coughlin-era 53-man roster.
Quarterback (2) -- Eli Manning, Kurt Warner
Really no doubt. The only two quarterbacks to start games during the Coughlin era.
Running Back (3) -- Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw
Lord knows it's easy to hate on Barber, and yours truly has done more than my fair share. And will probably continue when the occasion warrants. In this circumstance, though, it's hard not to acknowledge that he is the best running back of the Coughlin era. As for Jacobs and Bradshaw, the Giants are still trying to replace their talent, toughness and leadership.
Fullback (1) -- Madison Hedgecock
Apologies to Henry Hynoski, a very good fullback, but Hedgecock's best has thus far been better than Hynoski's best. Hedgecock was Giants fullback for three seasons and part of a fourth before a shoulder injury ended his career four games into the 2010 season. He had run-blocking grades of +11.0 in 2007, +3.6 in 2008, +4.2 in 2009. Hedgecock caught 20 passes in 51 games with the Giants.
Hynoski had a +6.3 run-blocking score in 2012 and a +6.2 score last season. He has 24 catches in 46 games, but only one reception since 2012.
Tight End (3) -- Jeremy Shockey, Martellus Bennett, Kevin Boss
A little bit like Barber, it's easy to trash Shockey for his over-the-top histrionics, his public criticism of Coughlin and for the way way his time in New York ended. Along with Mark Bavaro, though, Shockey was one of the two best tight ends to ever put on a Giants uniform. Bennett makes the list despite playing only one year for the Giants because of his ability as both a receiver and a blocker. The Giants have yet to replace his all-around abilities. I chose Boss over current tight end Larry Donnell simply because of longevity. Boss started 43 games for the Giants in his four seasons, catching 119 passes. I couldn't put Donnell on the list despite his 63-catch season because he hasn't shown the all-around ability of Bennett and hasn't had the longevity of Boss.
Wide Receiver (6) -- Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Amani Toomer, Hakeem Nicks
A pretty impressive group. Beckham and Burress would start on the outside, with Cruz in the slot. Toomer backs up Beckham, Nicks backs up Burress and Smith backs up Cruz. That's a devastatingly-good receiving unit.
Offensive Line (9)
Starters -- Will Beatty (LT), Rich Suebert (LG), Shaun O'Hara (C), Chris Snee (RG), Kareem McKenzie (RT)
Reserves -- David Diehl, Justin Pugh, Kevin Boothe, Luke Petitgout
The toughest thing for me to do here was leave Diehl out of the starting lineup. Diehl did a good job for the Giants in four spots during his career. From where I sit, though, Beatty is a better left tackle than Diehl, Suebert and Snee are more accomplished guards, and McKenzie was a superior right tackle. Diehl, Pugh, Boothe and Petitgout is a pretty good group of reserves. Boothe, incidentally, would be the backup center.
Defensive Tackle (5) -- Johnathan Hankins, Fred Robbins, Linval Joseph, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty
Hankins, Robbins, Joseph and Cofield were easy choices. I was only going to keep four defensive tackles, but the more I thought about it I simply could not deny Canty a spot.
Defensive End (5) -- Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka
The first four are no-brainers. Despite the way his last couple of seasons went, Kiwanuka also deserves a spot. Besides, as you will see the fact that during the middle portion of his career Kiwanuka could play some outside linebacker will help us steal a roster spot later on for some special teams help.
Middle Linebacker (2) -- Antonio Pierce, Chase Blackburn
Outside Linebacker (3) -- Michael Boley, Carlos Emmons, Danny Clark
I have to be honest. I was never a big fan of Boley. I always thought he was a 'chase' linebacker who didn't make many impact plays, or even plays at the line of scrimmage. I thought a lot of his tackles came after pass receptions or chasing down guys after they broke through the line on running plays. He did, however, start for the Giants for four seasons, from 2009-2012.
Emmons is a guy I had practically forgotten about until I started looking at this. He was decent veteran who started 35 games for the Giants in three seasons. Danny Clark started 26 games for the Giants in 2008 and 2009. Nothing special, but he started.
Most teams would keep six or more linebackers. The Coughlin-era Giants, however, don't have six worth keeping. Thus, I'm cheating a little bit here. I have Kiwanuka on the roster, and he could be used there in some running situations. As you will see farther down, I have Deon Grant on the roster. Grant made a living with the Giants as the "box" guy in three-safety sets. Those two pseudo-linebackers give me some roster flexibility. Plus, Blackburn could play inside or outside.
The notable omission from the roster is Jon Beason. I could give Beason a spot, but in my mind it's hard to justify off of what was basically a half-season in 2013. Last year was a total washout for Beason, with those four games hurting rather than helping his case for a spot on this season.
Cornerback (5) -- Prince Amukamara, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aaron Ross
Rodgers-Cromartie is the most talented. Amukamara and Webster have the longevity that probably give them the starting nods here. Thomas and Ross also have to be on the list.
Safety (4) -- Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, Gibril Wilson
I am only keeping four, partly because either Thomas or Ross could go back to safety in an emergency. Also because I really couldn't bring myself to put either James Butler or Stevie Brown on this team. Typing Phillips name still makes me sad because his career should have amounted to so much more than it did, short-circuited by an arthritic knee. He is still trying to get back into the league, this time with the New Orleans Saints. Grant extended his career for two seasons in New York excelling in the "box" safety role.
Special Teams (5)
Punter -- Jeff Feagles
I think even Steve Weatherford would acknowledge that Feagles is an easy choice here. Punted for the Giants for seven seasons, and when he was healthy no one was better at consistenly placing the ball exactly where he wanted it to go.
Placekicker -- Lawrence Tynes
Tynes gets the nod purely because he kicked the Giants into a pair of Super Bowls. If we are judging pure, raw ability I believe Josh Brown is a far superior kicker. Brown has 34 career made field goals of longer than 50 yards in a 12-year career, while Tynes made just 11 in nine seasons. Brown is also better on kickoffs.
Long snapper -- Zak DeOssie
Special Teams -- David Tyree
I was able to squeeze out a couple of roster spots for special teams guys thanks to the versatility of the reserve offensive linemen, and the ability of Kiwanuka and Grant to function as linebackers. One of those has to be used on Tyree, still the gold standard for special teams players during the Coughlin era.
Kick returner -- David Wilson
Wilson was a game-changing kickoff returner for the Giants in 2012, the only healthy season of his career. He averaged 26.9 yarrds per return and led the league with 1,533 kickoff return yards. Keeping Wilson also gives the Giants a fourth, emergency running back.
I tried not to simply fill positions here, but to create a real team that had some flexible pieces and some special teams guys. How did I do? What changes would you make?