Eli Manning, Lawrence Taylor and other Giants greats swap stories at 'A Night with Legends' event celebrating 100th season

Peter Sblendorio, New York Daily News on

Published in Football

NEW YORK — Back together with former Giants offensive linemen Chris Snee and Shaun O’Hara, Eli Manning had a simple question:

“What were y’all doing?”

Manning was referring to the miracle play in Super Bowl XLII in which he escaped the grasps of two Patriots pass rushers, unleashed a downfield desperation heave and watched David Tyree somehow secure the ball against his helmet.

The instant-classic catch remains the ultimate highlight in the Giants’ 17-14 upset of Tom Brady and his previously undefeated Patriots. More than 16 years later, Manning can’t help but point out the blatant lack of blocking on that play.

“It worked up just like coach [Tom] Coughlin drew it up,” Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion, joked Thursday night at a celebration of the Giants’ upcoming 100th season.

“He said, ‘Nobody block anybody. Eli, be the great athlete that you are, run around, break a couple tackles, and then throw it to Tyree’s helmet in the middle of the field, surrounded by three or four defensive players.’ And it worked.”

The comical retelling was one many memories shared at “Giants 100: A Night with Legends,” a nearly three-hour event filled with laughs, insight and appreciation from the more than 20 franchise staples who took the stage at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Tyree, Coughlin, Bill Parcells, John Mara, Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Brian Daboll, Joe Schoen, Victor Cruz, Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer were among the others who attended the decade-by-decade look back at an organization with eight league championships and four Super Bowls since its inception in 1925.

The comeback win over the 18-0 Patriots was a frequent talking point.

“It’s funny, a lot of Giants run up [to me]: ‘I knew you were gonna win that Super Bowl!’ Stop lying,” Strahan said Thursday. “I mean, I didn’t even believe my parents when they said, ‘You’re gonna win!’ I think we believed it. We were so confident, and we had hit our stride.”

At one point Thursday, Strahan and Manning shared the stage with Parcells, Coughlin, Taylor, Simms and Carson. All seven won at least one Super Bowl with the Giants, while Strahan, Manning, Taylor, Simms and Carson each spent their entire playing careers with the team.

Taylor, considered by many to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history, seemed downright delighted to be reunited with his former teammates, often chiming in with jokes or listening from the literal edge of his chair.

He thanked God for giving him his natural football talent and Parcells for getting the most out of it.


“When I signed with the Giants, I considered myself a good player. I remember, during the practices and things like that, Bill Parcells came to me,” Taylor said Thursday.

“He wanted to meet with all the big names on the team, and he asked me to come to the meeting. I said, ‘The hell, I’m going to a meeting? I’m a rookie.’ He said, ‘Because you’ve shown another side of football.’ Because he said that, I tried to show another side of football. I’m gonna hustle, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, and I tried to make a difference.”

The hard-hitting, hard-partying Taylor led a ferocious pass rush known as the “Crunch Bunch.”

He and Carson were defensive stars on the 1986 Giants team that won Super Bowl XXI — game in which Simms won MVP after completing 22-of-25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns against the Broncos.

“All I know is Lawrence would leave the locker room in some leather outfit after practice,” Simms said Thursday. I’d just go, ‘Damn, that’s ugly.’ He would leave, and the next morning … the door would fly open at one minute till 9. Lawrence would stand there … and I would look at him and go, ‘Rough night?’ And he would say, ‘You just can’t believe it.’ ”

Taylor and Simms won another Super Bowl after the 1990 season, though the latter missed that victory over the Bills due to a broken foot.

Taylor retired with 132.5 sacks, which ranked first in Giants history until Strahan passed him and finished with 141.5.

On Thursday, that duo debated who was the true sack king, considering the stat did not exist during Taylor’s rookie season in 1981. Taylor also pointed out that he missed games when he was suspended, to which Strahan replied, “I didn’t tell you to get suspended.”

Strahan made his NFL debut in 1993, which was Taylor’s final season. Strahan then overlapped later in his career with Tuck, who totaled four sacks in the Giants’ Super Bowl victories against New England after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

Tuck on Thursday joked that he and fellow pass rusher Osi Umenyiora often tried to push Strahan into retirement to free up his defensive end spot. Ultimately, though, Tuck had nothing but love for his former mentor.

“He allowed me to just watch him. I don’t think a lot of these younger players do enough of that,” Tuck said.

“He talked about what LT meant to him, what Carl Banks meant to him, and that’s just been passed down in what it means to be a Giant. As I sit on this stage and I’m seeing all the Giants, that’s what it’s always been about.”

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