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The trades that shook the Giants

The acquisitions of Ottis Anderson, Eli Manning and Andy Robustelli were among those that altered the franchise’s path

2004 NFL Draft
For about an hour, Eli Manning was a San Diego Charger.
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

They changed the course of Giants history.

Ottis Anderson. Eli Manning. Andy Robustelli. Y.A. Tittle.

They are among the biggest names in franchise lore.

And they arrived via trades.

Those trades reshaped the Giants, directly resulting in Super Bowl victories (Anderson, Manning) and an NFL Championship (Robustelli).

Of course, not all trades are created equal.

Some cemented a long-term decline in the Giants’ fortunes (Sam Huff) or simply yielded disastrous results (Craig Morton essentially for Randy White).

Although the verdict remains out on the success of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade — and will for years as the full ramifications play out — Big Blue View breaks down the best and worst trades in franchise history and how they impacted the team.

THE GOOD

Ottis Anderson

The Cardinals thought he was done.

Anderson was a two-time Pro Bowl running back and the St. Louis Cardinals’ all-time leading rusher when they traded him in the middle of the 1986 season. All the Giants yielded in return were two 1987 draft picks — a second-round selection and a seventh-round pick.

The eighth-overall choice in the 1979 draft had rushed for 1,000 yards in five of his first six seasons, breaking 1,300 yards three times and 1,200 yards four times.

The only time in that period he didn’t reach 1,000 came during the strike season of 1982.

But by 1986, Anderson was 29. He missed seven games the previous season with a foot injury. And the 1979 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was about to lose his starting job to Stump Mitchell.

So the Cardinals traded him.

Three months later, Anderson helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXI.

Although he served as a backup to Pro Bowler Joe Morris, Anderson played in eight games on the championship team, serving as a short-yardage back.

But that was only the beginning.

He became the starter on the 1989 Giants playoff team, rushing for 1,023 yards and 14 touchdowns and capturing the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Then in 1990, he won his second ring. He rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XXV to earn MVP honors.

“He should go to Canton,” said then-Giants coach Bill Parcells. “He’s got too many pelts on the wall. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Oh, and Mitchell?

He rushed for 1,000 yards just once — barely — gaining 1,006 in 1985. The best he mustered after that was 800 yards in 1986.

Ron Johnson

Homer Jones was a bona fide star in New York.

He posted three 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Giants from 1966 to 1968, two of which led to Pro Bowl honors.

In 1967, the blazing-fast receiver caught 49 passes for 1,209 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns.

Jones had receptions of 70, 84, 89 and 98 yards with the Giants and averaged well-over 20.0 yards per catch in his career, including 27.3 in 1965.

But in January 1970, the Giants moved Jones to the Browns for a second-year running back named Ron Johnson, veteran defensive lineman Jim Kanicki and linebacker Wayne Meylan.

Jones played one more year, retiring after a 10-reception, 141-yard campaign in 1970.

Johnson, on the other hand, was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 1970, rushing for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler again in 1972, rushing for 1,182 and nine touchdowns.

He also ran for 902 yards in 1973 in only 12 games.

“Ron was a great player for us during a difficult era,” Giants president John Mara said in 2018. “He was smart, tough and was always a class act.”

Dick Lynch

The trade was simply a steal.

After starting 10 games for the rival Washington Redskins, Lynch was traded to the Giants after the 1958 season for a 1960 fourth-round draft choice.

Lynch — an All-Pro and Pro Bowler cornerback in 1963 — played for the Giants from 1959 to 1966 and appeared in four NFL Championship games. He intercepted 37 career passes, including nine in 1961 and nine in 1963, leading the NFL both times.

In 1963, he also led the league with 251 return yards and three returns for touchdowns.

After Lynch retired following the 1966 season, he spent 40 years as the analyst on the team’s radio broadcast.

“Dick was such an important part of our organization for so many years that we really considered him part of the family,” Mara said.

Eli Manning

The standoff changed the very foundations of the Giants and the Chargers.

Eli Manning wanted no part of San Diego.

But it held the No. 1 pick in 2004 and wanted Manning.

The Mississippi quarterback made it clear before the draft that he would not play for the Chargers. His camp told the team he would sit out the season if they selected him and would re-enter the draft in 2005.

Meanwhile, then-Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi coveted Manning.

Then draft day came and Manning became the first overall pick …

… by the Chargers.

And for about an hour, a standoff ensued between Manning, the San Diego front office… and the Giants, who held the fourth pick.

Manning was so unhappy, he threatened to go to law school. (Really.)

The Giants then selected Philip Rivers out of N.C. State, even though their preference after Manning was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Then the wait — and the negotiations — began in earnest.

“It was just something about Eli that he was the one I wanted, but I didn’t really expect to get him at that point because it looked like they weren’t going to trade him,” Accorsi told Giants.com in 2016. “They were asking for Osi Umenyiora, which we were not going to give them.

“So that’s how the whole thing evolved because I just felt that with the quarterback, you have to reach for greatness if you have a chance.”

The draft-day blockbuster that sent Manning to New York moved Rivers, a 2004 third-round pick (which became two-time Pro Bowl K Nate Kaeding at 65th overall), a 2005 first-round pick (three-time Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman at 12th overall) and a 2005 fifth-round pick (144th overall, subsequently traded, which brought in veteran T Roman Oben) to San Diego.

A high price? Undoubtedly.

Worth it? The trade resulted in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI championships and two Super Bowl MVPs for Manning.

Accorsi was right in his evaluation of the four-time Pro Bowler.

“Summary: I think he’s the complete package,” reads an except from his scouting report on Manning when he played at Ole Miss. “He’s not going to be a fast runner, but a little like Joe Montana. He has enough athletic ability to get out of trouble. Remember how Archie ran? In that department, Eli doesn’t have the best genes, although I never timed mom Olivia in the 40. But he has a feel for the pocket. …

“Has courage and poise. In my opinion, most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic… If he comes out early, we should move up to take him. These guys are rare, you know.”

Andy Robustelli

A late-stage pregnancy and a stubborn, rival coach changed Giants history.

The Los Angeles Rams drafted Robustelli in 1951, and with him, won one NFL Championship and reached another title game.

Meanwhile, the Giants had not won an NFL Championship since 1938 or even played in one since 1946.

Then the Rams made a very big mistake.

They traded Robustelli to the Giants in 1956 for a first-round pick (Baylor WR Del Shofner) — all because the defensive end asked to report to Rams’ training camp two weeks late.

His wife was about to give birth to their fourth child, and there was no one in San Diego to watch their other kids, since the family called Connecticut home.

Rams coach Sid Gillman told Robustelli if he did not arrive at the start of camp, he shouldn’t bother coming at all.

But Wellington Mara saw an opportunity. So he traded for Robustelli.

He paired him with Huff on a stout Giants defense, and they blew out the Chicago Bears, 47-7, in the 1956 NFL Championship.

He “turned everything around defensively” for the Giants, said teammate Frank Gifford.

The Giants would play in five more NFL Championship games between 1958 and 1963, although they lost each of them.

Robustelli was a huge reason they reached those title games.

”He was older than the rest of us, more experienced. He was our godfather,” Huff said of Robustelli.

Robustelli retired after the 1964 season.

The Giants would not play in another title game until Super Bowl XXI.

Robustelli won the 1962 Bert Bell Award as the NFL Player of the Year. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro. He played in eight NFL Championship games and on a winning team in 13 of his 14 pro seasons.

Robustelli missed just one game in his career.

Y.A. Tittle

Tittle had no interest in playing for the Giants.

And the quarterback had no interest in playing on the East Coast.

But the San Francisco 49ers decided it was time to move on.

Despite all that, the Giants still pulled off one of the best trades in their history before the 1961 season when they acquired Tittle — even if he was already 34, with 13 seasons of pro football wear and tear on him.

They sent guard Lou Cordileone — a 1960 first-round pick — to the 49ers for Tittle.

“They didn’t even bother to trade a name player for me. Tittle for a guard named Cordileone? Well, that takes me down a peg,” Tittle wrote in his 2009 book, “Nothing Comes Easy: My Life in Football.”

In his first three seasons with the Giants, the quarterback earned three Pro Bowl honors, two All-Pro honors and led the Giants to three NFL Championship games. They were a combined 31-5-1 in Tittle’s starts in those three seasons.

He set an NFL record in 1962 by throwing 33 touchdown passes and tied another by tossing seven in one game.

But maybe his best season came in 1963, when he led the league in passing (104.8 rating), throwing for 3,145 yards and 36 touchdowns — breaking his own league record and setting a Giants record that still stands.

After a difficult 1964 season, he retired.

It was the season photographer Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette captured the iconic image of Tittle kneeling in the end zone with blood trickling from his helmet-less head and down his left cheek after a vicious hit.

”That was the end of my dance. A whole lifetime was over,” he told the Smithsonian in 2007.

Tittle was the NFL Player of the Year in 1961 and 1963, the 1962 NFL UPI MVP and the 1963 NFL AP MVP.

The Hall of Famer was a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.

Cordileone started 25 games in his NFL career.

Lawrence Tynes

The first iconic kick came in the 2007 NFC Championship Game in legendarily freezing conditions (a wind chill of 23-below) at Lambeau Field.

The second came in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, this time at a soggy Candlestick Park.

Both times, Tynes kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl on the road in overtime. And both times the Giants would go on to upset the heavily-favored New England Patriots.

So you could say the trade for Tynes before the 2007 season with the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a late-round conditional draft pick paid dividends.

Tynes hit a 47-yard field goal in Green Bay in January 2008 to send the Giants past the Packers, 23-20.

And in January 2012, he hit a 31-yarder to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17.

But it did not come easy for Tynes.

He missed two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter in Green Bay. The second miss — a 36-yarder — hooked wide left as time expired in regulation.

“Listen, if I miss that 47-yarder, I’m never playing football again,” Tynes told Big Blue View earlier this year. “NFL kickers are what you do after you miss. That’s what your career’s going to be based on.”

And Tynes’ career is based on being clutch. And a champion.

THE BAD

Sam Huff

The end came on April 10, 1964.

It was the day the Giants traded Huff.

They shipped the Hall of Fame middle linebacker and rookie George Seals to the Washington Redskins for defensive tackle Andy Stynchula, running back Dick James and a 1965 fifth-round pick.

The Giants near dynasty — they had played in six NFL Championship games from 1956 to 1963 — ended that day.

And after the next season, Gifford, Robustelli and Tittle would retire.

The franchise did not recover until Parcells, Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms resurrected it decades later.

Huff graced the cover of Time magazine by the age of 24. He was the subject of a television special, “The Violent World of Sam Huff.”

But he finished his career as a Redskin, not a Giant.

Huff didn’t want to be traded and reportedly held a grudge against Giants coach Allie Sherman for the rest of Sherman’s life. Giants fans and the New York media panned the trade.

Huff earned a fifth and final Pro Bowl selection in 1964 for Washington. In 1966, he got the last laugh when the Redskins humiliated the Giants, 72-41.

The two-time All-Pro played five seasons for the Redskins and eventually served as a color analyst on their radio broadcasts until 2012.

THE UGLY

Craig Morton

For a brief time, he was a Dallas Cowboys hero.

Morton was the Cowboys starting quarterback for three seasons, one of which ended with a 16-13 loss in Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts.

But by 1974, Roger Staubach was entrenched as Dallas’ starter. So the Giants traded Norm Snead and brought in Morton for draft picks.

One of those picks was the No. 2 overall selection in 1975.

(It gets worse.)

It ended up being Randy White, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle.

White was a nine-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro... for the archrival Cowboys.

And Morton?

He went 8-25 as a Giants starter before they shipped him off to Denver in 1977.

Of course, he led the Broncos to a 12-2 record that season.