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Daniel Jones went from a fringe first-rounder to the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft courtesy of a New York Giants regime who fell in love with what he can evolve into at the quarterback position at the NFL level. However, the Giants’ decision to select Jones at No. 6 overall received a much different reaction from the fanbase and media than what was likely experienced inside the organization.

One thing we know for sure is that Jones’ stock was on the rise in the days prior to the draft. As we’ve learned since the conclusion of the draft, Jones’ draft stock was much higher in NFL circles — specifically in the Giants circle — than on the mock draft boards created by the media.

Just hours before the draft got underway, NFL Network lead draft analyst and former NFL scout (for multiple teams) Daniel Jeremiah predicted the Giants would draft Jones. Long-tenure NFL national reporter Peter King joined him in this prediction in his final mock draft.

According to Jeremiah, Jones is the best fit for the style of football Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has implemented. Gettleman wants a physical football team with a run-first mentality that takes advantage of big plays in the passing game via the play-action passing game.

“I just know when you watch Jones play and the things he does, I think he can play an efficient game, a team that’s going to build around his defense going forward,” Jeremiah said on a pre-draft conference call. “I think you’ll see that with the Giants. We’ve seen it reflected in the Odell Beckham trade. I think the more conservative, efficient approach offensively, that to me fits with Daniel Jones’ style, and everybody kind of made the Cutcliffe thing. I don’t know if that has much impact when it’s all said and done with that connection.

“I just think stylistically how they want to play, having a long track record of having played there at Duke versus maybe Haskins with the one year, I just think that kind of falls in line more with the Giants.

“I have it — the order that I have them rated, I have it Murray, Haskins, Lock, Jones, but when you’re putting these things together, you kind of go off fit, and I can see the fit there with Daniel Jones. So that’s kind of a long way to get to why I had them taking Daniel Jones at 6.”

The Giants eventually made the decision to select Jones and today we’re going to take a deep dive into everything that has transpired since they made that decision. We will recap the national reaction, the immediate analysis, Jones’ showing during the rookie minicamp, his progress during OTAs (specifically in the mandatory minicamp), and where he stands now heading into Giants training camp.

On that note, let’s dive right in:


Bobby Skinner
Daniel Jones v. Army

In passes that had 20+ yards in the air from the line of scrimmage:
3/5 120 yards 1 TD
29% of attempts

30+ air yards:
2/2 95 yards
12% of attempts

5:00 AM – Jun 16, 2019
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OK — we’ll admit it — this one came just days before the Giants selected him. Nonetheless, when the Godfather of modern NFL scouting speaks, we tend to listen.

randt, long-time NFL talent evaluator and former executive, believes that he is watching a nearly-identical quarterback to a college-version of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when he throws on Jones’ game film.

“I. Love. Dan Jones,” Brandt said, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. “I have to say this carefully: When you watch him and you go back (20) years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy. He’s athletic. He doesn’t have a rocket for an arm, but neither did Peyton. Very smart.”

According to Brandt, Jones’ high character has been proven by the decisions he has made in his college career. While some detractors will point to Jones’ low completion rate at the collegiate level, Brandt credits that to a poor supporting cast at Duke.
Ultimately, Brandt is more connected to NFL general managers, team executives, and coaches than just about any other analyst who reports on the draft. Brandt believes Jones really started moving up draft boards when he caught the attention of several teams during a workout earlier during the pre-draft process.

“He had an opportunity to have a full scholarship to Princeton,” Brandt said of Jones. “He said, ‘No, I’m better (at football) than that. I want to walk-on at Duke.’ He completed 60 percent of his passes but they didn’t have any great receivers there to catch the ball.

“He had an unbelievable workout a month ago. A lot of people have turned to like him.”

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Former Giants Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins tells ESPN’s Josina Anderson he will sign with the Washington Redskins.

The deal is for six years, $84 million, including $45 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

Collins’ new contract with the Redskins will reportedly pay him an annual average value of $14 million per year, which would be the most for any safety and tied for the fifth-most for any defensive back.

Highest APY Among Current DB Contracts
Josh Norman $15M
Trumaine Johnson $14.5M
Xavier Rhodes $14.02M
Patrick Peterson $14.01M
Landon Collins $14M<< Kyler Fuller $14M >>Source confirmed to ESPN
Collins’ new teammate, cornerback Josh Norman, poked fun at Giants general manager Dave Gettleman after news broke about Collins’ deal. Norman signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Redskins in 2016 when Gettleman, then the Carolina Panthers GM, decided to remove the franchise tag from him.

The Redskins are the only NFL team at the moment with multiple DBs with at least $40 million guaranteed in their current deals.

Collins, who turned 25 in January, was a playmaker for the New York Giants’ defense in 2018, leading the team with 96 tackles — the first time in his career that he didn’t top 100 — despite missing the final four games of the season with a torn labrum. The Pro Bowl starter also had five tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, four passes defended and a forced fumble.

He underwent surgery late last year and is expected to be cleared for football drills this offseason.


Landon Collins provides Redskins what they’ve long needed
Washington hopes the young safety finally ends its search for a physical presence in the secondary who can be a strong voice in the locker room.

The Giants defense stumbled late in the season without Collins in the lineup. They finished 24th in the NFL in defense (371.4 yards per game) and allowed the most points in the NFC East (25.8 per game).

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher used Collins primarily near the line of scrimmage this past season. Collins did not, however, record a sack or have an interception.

Collins, who is a natural strong safety, had been hopeful for a significant payday, looking to receive top safety money. Kansas City’s Eric Berry, who plays the more coveted free safety position, is the NFL’s highest-paid safety at $13 million per season, but he signed his deal two years ago and the salary cap has since gone up.

The first pick of the second round by the Giants out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL draft, Collins led the team in tackles each of his first four pro seasons.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection was named first-team All Pro in 2016, when he finished with a career-best 125 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 interceptions and a touchdown.

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan contributed to this report.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Dressed in gray jacket and tie and carrying a small black travel bag in his left hand, Tom Coughlin was on the march out of MetLife Stadium, his house, while New York Giants fans called out to him as if he were still one of their own.

Nice going, Tom. … Welcome back, Coach. … Good luck this season, Tom. … We’ll always miss you, Coach.


Jaguars win, but offense sputters with no edge playmaker
Even before Leonard Fournette left the game with a right hamstring injury the Giants didn’t seem concerned about the receiving game.
No. 2 pick Barkley has long TD in Giants debut
Saquon Barkley broke off a 68-yard run for a touchdown in his debut with the Giants.

Coughlin nodded and thanked them all as he headed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ bus, the winners’ bus, passing a wall on the left carrying the images of the Giants’ Super Bowl trophies.

“Two of those are yours,” a reporter told him.

“Yeah,” Coughlin said, “and thank God they are.”

The 12-year coach of the Giants and current executive vice president of football operations of a serious Super Bowl contender paused for a second, turned his head and said, “I was a part of it anyway.”

“You were much more than that,” Coughlin was told.

On his way to the bus, his step bouncy and his face aglow, Coughlin looked like a guy who had just beaten a franchise that had effectively fired him after the 2015 season in favor over the overmatched Ben McAdoo. He sat in a suite Sunday during Jacksonville’s 20-15 season-opening victory over the Giants in coach Pat Shurmur’s debut, and watched as his defense survived Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown run in his own debut. Coughlin watched as his defense kept Odell Beckham Jr. out of the end zone and held his former two-time Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, to 224 passing yards on 37 attempts.
Tom Coughlin, now the executive VP of football operations for the Jaguars, hopes to build a sustainable winning franchise. Logan Bowles/Getty Images
Coughlin wasn’t sitting in the middle of the press box like he did at Gillette Stadium in January, when he muttered and shook his head and banged his fist on a table as the Patriots came from behind to beat Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game. He did his reacting to this emotional game in relative solitude, after Giants co-owner John Mara visited his suite before kickoff.

In the lead-up to this opener, Coughlin had declined interview requests for a reason. Actually, for two reasons:

He really means it when he says he wants Doug Marrone to be the voice of the franchise.

He will always feel the sting of losing a job he desperately wanted to retire from.

“I put all that aside,” Coughlin told ESPN.com as he left the Jacksonville locker room and made the long, victorious walk to the bus. “It’s just a game. Trying to win a game.”

But then Coughlin opened a small window on his competitive soul by bringing up the placement of his Giants homecoming in Week 1. According to NFL operations, “It takes hundreds of computers in a secure room to produce thousands of possible schedules — a process that sets the stage for the schedule-makers to begin the arduous task of picking the best possible one.”

Jags’ Jack walks pick to houseJaguars linebacker Myles Jack intercepts a deflected pass from Eli Manning back for a touchdown.
Coughlin had a little fun with that claim. “I love how they say the computer [affects scheduling],” he said. “They didn’t need a computer for this one. This was earmarked.”

Make no mistake: It was earmarked on the Coughlin family calendar, too. People who know the coach say he was angrier about losing his job than he ever let on publicly, even if his demeanor before this game mirrored his would-be demeanor in Week 12 against Buffalo.

“We came over on the same bus today, and he didn’t talk to me about it,” said Jaguars offensive-line coach Pat Flaherty, a member of Coughlin’s championship staffs in New York in the 2007 and 2011 seasons. “As crazy as it is, Tom acted the same way he does every other week. Even [Saturday] night, he sits in the meetings, and he’s involved just like he always is, and yet I didn’t notice anything different about him.

“But I’m sure he felt it inside. As you know, Tom is good at masking things.”
Myles Jack’s interception return for a touchdown helped clinch the Jaguars’ win over the Giants. Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Flaherty knows Coughlin better than most in the football business, so he was asked if he felt his boss got a raw deal from the Giants after he followed a second Super Bowl victory over New England, in the 2011 season, with three consecutive losing years.

Flaherty paused. “A raw deal?” he said. “You know, it’s interesting. Twelve years is a long time in this business, and I was with him those 12 years. It seemed like every time they wanted to run him out, we won the Super Bowl. I guess we just ran out of steam. We didn’t win that third Super Bowl.

“But I don’t think you should have to win the Super Bowl every four years to stay with your program, if that answers your question.”

It did. Coughlin won a title with Manning while based in the old Giants Stadium, and then he won another with Eli while based in MetLife — memorable victories that, paired with his success as a coach and executive over two stays in Jacksonville, will likely land him someday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So this season opener meant the world to Coughlin. A rewind on his Ring of Honor induction speech at halftime of a 2016 game at MetLife would explain why.

“All right, I know the players are back on the field,” Coughlin barked into his microphone, “but I’m not going to get cheated.” He talked about his father, John, and his mother, Betty, and his hope that “they are proud to see our family name high above the playing field next to all the Giants greats.”
Tom Coughlin went 102-90 in 12 seasons as Giants coach. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Coughlin talked about sharing this night with his children and grandchildren, and about his wish that they will someday share memories of this induction with their children and grandchildren. He talked about joining his son-in-law, Chris Snee, in the Ring of Honor, before thanking millions of fans who support “the greatest franchise in all of professional sports, the New York Giants.” Coughlin then thanked the crowd, tucked his speech into his jacket pocket, and exited the stage to a thunderous roar.

Sunday afternoon, Coughlin was cheered only by small pockets of fans who saw him in the bowels of the stadium. He tried to explain that he was only hoping to get to 1-0 against the Giants, nothing more, nothing less. He reminded a reporter that he’d already made a return to this building as a Jaguars executive in last season’s overtime loss to the Jets.

“So I don’t really put a lot of stock in that,” Coughlin said. “There were parts of this game today that were good, and there were parts that were bad. So I’m one of those that kind of reflects more on what we have to do to get this better.”

And then Coughlin caught himself, again. “I’ve never been in that visitors’ locker room before, that I know of,” he said with a laugh.

And then he disappeared through a loading-dock area and out of his old home. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are on deck next week, so the Jacksonville executive would surely be thinking about Week 2 on the plane ride home.

But even in the ultimate week-to-week sport, something should be understood about the Giants’ two-time champ: It will be a long time before Thomas Richard Coughlin forgets anything about what went down in New Jersey in Week 1.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On a day when rookie running back Saquon Barkley returned as a full participant to practice, the New York Giants watched as outside linebacker Olivier Vernon was carted off the field with an ankle injury.

Vernon was hurt when he went inside a block and had his foot tangle with an offensive lineman. He left the field with his cleat off and sitting in the passenger seat of the cart. Vernon did not appear to be in serious pain and said he didn’t think it was anything serious as he came off the field. X-rays came back negative, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

It was still a sight the Giants didn’t want to see.

“Yeah, you don’t want anybody getting hurt,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You want guys to be able to practice and stay healthy.”

Those that are injured have two weeks to get healthy for the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Barkley appears on pace to play and tight end Evan Engram made progress Sunday as he recovers from a concussion.

Engram was at practice and did some light running on the side field with a trainer. He also played catch just two days after he walked off woozy following being sandwiched by a pair of New York Jets defenders.

“Yeah, very encouraging,” Shurmur said of his second-year tight end. “As we know, he’s in the [concussion] protocol, so I don’t have much to add. He’s working his way through.”

Vernon may be the biggest concern because the Giants can’t afford to be without their top pass rusher. Vernon and recently signed Connor Barwin (who has been sidelined for several weeks with knee soreness) are the only two players on the roster who have ever topped 3.0 sacks in an NFL season.

Vernon had 6.5 sacks in an injury-filled season last year, but he has looked dominant this summer. He has flashed regularly during training camp and throughout the preseason.

Barkley hasn’t played much in the preseason (six snaps) and had only been a limited participant in practice late last week since tweaking his hamstring on Aug. 13. The injury kept him out of preseason games against both the Detroit Lions and Jets.

Sunday was a step in the right direction. Barkley took part in team drills and looked explosive with his cuts and spins. The rookie running back is confident that barring a setback he should be ready for the opener on Sept. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Barkley was the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. He said the hamstring felt “really good” after returning to practice in a limited capacity last week.

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For a team that would go on to accomplish so much, the 2007 Giants began the year mired in uncertainty. Coach Tom Coughlin had almost been dismissed after the previous season and was thought to be on shaky ground. Tiki Barber, the franchise’s career rushing leader, had retired after running for 1,662 yards in 2006. Future Hall of Fame defensive end and team leader Michael Strahan contemplated retirement and never reported to training camp. The Giants had a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo. Eli Manning’s record as the starting quarterback was 20-19 – plus 0-2 in the postseason. Dallas and Philadelphia were the favorites to win the NFC East, with the Giants considered fringe contenders.
> Super Bowl XLII Oral History
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> Eli Manning breaks down Super Bowl LII
> Pat Shurmur’s first days with Giants
> Eli known as Brady stopper in Super Bowl
“We had a team that had been together for a few years since Coughlin came in as the head coach,” Manning said. “I was going into my fourth year. Even though we made the playoffs the two years prior, we hadn’t won a game in the playoffs and we weren’t a dominant team. I think there was a lot of pressure on everyone to step up.”

It took a while for them to get going, but step up they did. That team was one of the most successful and memorable in the 93-year history of the franchise, one that delivered its seventh championship and was honored on its 10th anniversary during the 2017 season.

Although the Giants had many vital contributors, none was more important than Manning, the always cool and calm quarterback. His regular-season statistics weren’t particularly impressive. Manning completed 297 of 529 passes (56.1%) for 3,336 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions – including three that were returned for touchdowns in a loss to Minnesota. His passer rating of 73.9 ranked 25th in the NFL.

But Manning was outstanding in the clutch, a trait that has persisted throughout his storied career. When the Giants needed a big play or a pinpoint pass, he almost always delivered.

That was particularly true in the four-game postseason, when Manning completed 72 of 119 passes (60.5%) for 854 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception – and that on a tipped pass. After a 10-6 regular season, he led the Giants to playoff triumphs at Tampa Bay, at Dallas and at Green Bay (the latter two teams had handily defeated the Giants early in the season) before an epic 17-14 victory in Super Bowl XLII against a New England Patriots team that entered the game 18-0, including a victory over the Giants in the regular-season finale.

The Giants were locked into the NFC’s No. 5 seed before that game, so many members of the media and a large segment of the football public expected them to rest some of their regular players against the Patriots. But Coughlin and the players had other ideas.

“You’re just waiting on your orders and Tom said, ‘Hey, we’re going to play, and we’re going to play to win,’” Manning said. “I was excited offensively just because in Buffalo (the previous week) we didn’t play great offensively in tough conditions, and against Washington before that we didn’t play well, so I just kind of wanted to get into a rhythm, see if we could get a little confidence going offensively. And sure enough, we were aggressive early on, hit Plaxico (Burress) on a big post route and jumped on the board and scored some points. I thought it was good offensively for us in our confidence to say, ‘We can score, we can do our part here.’”

The Giants held a 12-point lead in the third quarter before New England rallied for a 38-35 triumph. But to the Giants, it wasn’t so much a defeat as it was proof that they could beat the seemingly invincible Patriots if they got another chance.

“It didn’t quite work out, but I think it was good for the whole team,” Manning said. “That was the best team and we went wire-to-wire with them through the fourth quarter. We knew we could hang with anybody, we can beat anybody, we just got to go out there and do it, we just gotta play our type of football.”

When the playoffs began, the Giants were as lightly-regarded as they had been at the start of the regular season. The NFC favorites were the Cowboys and Packers, who had each finished 13-3. The Giants weren’t even expected to beat a Tampa Bay team that had won the NFC South title with a 9-7 record.

But the Giants defeated the Buccaneers with relative ease, 24-14. Manning threw touchdown passes of five yards to Brandon Jacobs and four yards to Amani Toomer, and Jacobs also scored on an eight-yard run. Manning completed 20 of 27 passes for 185 yards, and Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran the ball 30 times for 100 yards.

“Tampa’s offense, they weren’t going to score a lot of points,” Manning said. “I knew offensively we could be patient and just run the ball, pound the ball, get completions, and hit a couple plays when we had opportunities. I felt good about our chances. Tampa’s defense played outstanding. Offensively, we just kind of did our part, ran the ball, had some nice drives, and scored enough points to win the game.”

Then it was on to top-seeded Dallas, which had twice defeated the Giants in the regular season by a combined score 76-55. By then, it was to the Giants’ advantage to play another road game. In the second half of the regular season, they had improbably gone 0-4 at home and 4-0 as visitors. Their victory in Tampa was their eighth straight on the road after an opening night loss to the Cowboys.

“Dallas was playing great,” Manning said. “We had played them pretty good. They were good, but we kind of had that confidence.”
On the game’s first possession, Toomer caught a pass that normally gained about 12 yards and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown. With 53 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Dallas took a 14-7 lead on Marion Barber’s one-yard touchdown run. But that was more than enough time for Manning, who expertly led the Giants 71 yards in seven plays, the last a four-yard touchdown pass to Toomer with only seven seconds remaining.

“Sometimes you gotta make some plays and I hit him on a little completion, he turns it into a touchdown,” Manning said of Toomer. “We had a drive right before halftime, get Amani for another touchdown, so we tied the game going into halftime, which was good. In the second half, the defense started going after Tony (Romo).”

Jacobs’ one-yard touchdown run on the third play of the fourth quarter gave the Giants a 21-17 lead. In the frenzied final moments, Dallas drove to the Giants’ 23-yard line, but Romo’s pass into the end zone for Terry Glenn was intercepted by R.W. McQuarters.

“I wasn’t nervous, I knew they needed a touchdown,” Manning said. “But they had some good players – T.O (Terrell Owens), and Tony throwing touchdowns, and a good offensive line. They had won some close games, and had the ability to do that. You felt good, but yeah, you’re pacing on the sideline a little bit.”

The Giants had advanced to the NFC Championship Game against the Packers, who had crushed them, 35-13, in Week 2. The game was played on the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field, where the game-time wind chill was 23 degrees below zero, making it the coldest game in Giants history. That evening, the term “pregame warmup” took on a whole new meaning.
“Amani and Plaxico and I used to go out two hours before kickoff and do our little warmup,” Manning said. “We got out there and I’m tossing and they’re getting loose, and it’s (normally) a 20-25 minute workout. I think we made it five or six minutes, and I was like, ‘I’m loose, are you good?’ I saw them catch balls, they weren’t using their hands at all, they tried to catch everything with their body. I was like, ‘I think we’re ready, y’all ready?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, we’re loose, let’s go.’ So we called it quits. I said right there, ‘I gotta keep my hands warm at whatever cost.’ If your right hand gets cold, it’s just hard to function and make throws. So I had to get as many hand-warmers and have a plan to keep that right hand as warm as possible.”

In the brutal conditions, Manning completed 21 of 40 passes for 251 yards. He threw neither a touchdown pass nor an interception.

“(I had) no trouble throwing,” Manning said. “You don’t forget about the cold, but once you’re out there, you’re throwing, you’re playing football. You come to the sideline and I gotta keep my hand warm. But you kind of get warm, go back on the field and play 5-6-7 minutes and then you’re back on the sidelines getting warm again, so you never got cold-cold. The pouch (he wore around his waist) is for the hand warmers when I’m out there. When I came to the sideline, I had another special kind of glove I put on that had like 10 hand warmers. You had packets of hand warmers in there, so you’d come out sweating. And then you’re standing by the heater the whole time. Early in the game, I talked to (quarterbacks coach) Chris Palmer on the phone. My hands were getting cold talking to him, so I said, ‘I can’t talk to you anymore, I’ll see you at halftime.’”

Manning’s favored target was Burress, who dominated cornerback Al Harris and finished with a Giants postseason-record 11 receptions for 151 yards

“We weren’t throwing it down the field; it was more timing routes and on the outside and hitting Plaxico on a hitch route and fade routes,” Manning said. “I think eight of them were really the same route. It was like a hitch route, and if he was pressing, we reverted to a fade. Sometimes I threw it back shoulder, sometimes he went inside and it looked like a slant, but still we just kept running a hitch or fade or a back shoulder. One time, he didn’t win and I ended up going to the other side hitting Amani Toomer down that left sideline where he had a great kind of toe taps laying out on the left sideline. It wasn’t a complex passing game. It was just they were playing man-to-man, and we liked our guy versus their guy and they felt the same and Plaxico won that day.”

After Lawrence Tynes missed two fourth-quarter field goal attempts, including a 36-yard try on the final play, the Giants lost the overtime coin toss. But on the second play of OT, Corey Webster intercepted a Brett Favre pass and returned it to the Packers’ 34-yard line. The Giants gained five yards before Tynes ran onto the field to try the game-winning 47-yarder.
“I was worried,” Manning said. “The 36-yarder at the end of regulation, you’re feeling you’re about to go to a Super Bowl and you don’t make that. They get the ball first and they have Brett Favre. You’re a little worried, but Corey Webster steps up. They try to throw some sort of corner route, and he steps in front of it and gets an interception, and all of a sudden we’re in the driver’s seat. We’re in pretty good range, but not quite. In the cold, it was hard to kick, and it was hard to function, and you wanted to get a little closer. We didn’t get much closer, had a big fourth down and didn’t know what to do, but Tynes runs out onto the field and bangs it in.”

When the Giants had lost to the Patriots in the regular-season finale, several players, including Justin Tuck and Rich Seubert, said, “We’re going to play them again, and when we do we’re going to beat them.” Now they had their rematch in Super Bowl XLII.

But in the days prior to the game, it appeared they would have to play without Burress, who sprained his knee when he slipped in the shower. He tried to practice on Friday, but left the field almost immediately.

“We didn’t know if he would play,” Manning said. “He didn’t practice all week. But for the first 12, 14 games of the season he didn’t practice all week (because of an ankle injury) and just played on Sundays. It wasn’t ideal. Toward the end of the year, he started practicing on Friday’s a little bit. It wasn’t a big deal that he didn’t practice all week, he was going to be ready to play.”

Burress’ substitute in practice was David Tyree, who was best known for his special teams prowess. Two days before the game, Tyree handled the football as if he had lobster traps on his hands.

“It’s a red and green zone practice basically, short yardage, goal line, and David Tyree probably has the worst practice of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Coughlin said. “He can’t catch a thing, he drops every ball, ball hits him in the helmet, ball hits him in the shoulder. He just can’t catch anything that day.”

Manning, whose passes Tyree kept mishandling, remembers it well.

“He’s probably saying it wasn’t as bad as I claim it was,” Manning said. “But from my memory, it was a very bad practice. I’ve had bad practices, I’ve had bad games, and this is right up there with the worst of ‘em. Plaxico was going to give it a shot, and he ran one route and said he couldn’t do it. So Tyree’s going to fill in that spot, he’s going to be our X (split end), and he just caught a case of the drops that day, just dropped a lot of passes.”

But after the workout, Manning did what quarterbacks, team captains and leaders do and spoke with Tyree.

“I told him, ‘Hey, you’re a gamer, you show up in games, you showed up in the Chicago game (when Tyree had two big catches), you showed up in other games and made big catches for us,’” Manning said. “I knew he’d step up.”
He did just that. So did Burress, who played despite his knee injury.

A year earlier, Manning’s older brother Peyton had led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory against Chicago. Now Eli, just a month past his 27th birthday, had his chance to duplicate the feat. It was a monumental opportunity. But Manning tried not to think of the enormity of the situation, and instead focused on the game plan, and what the Giants needed to do to win.

That was still his mindset when he first stepped onto the field at University of Phoenix Stadium. In that moment, so many players think about their long football journey bringing them to the pinnacle of their sport, the Super Bowl.

“I tried not to,” Manning said. “I remember talking to my brother or other quarterbacks – or even Amani Toomer, who had played in a Super Bowl (losing to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV). I remember him saying how he was just sitting there taking everything in, that he made it to a Super Bowl, and you look up at the clock and the first quarter’s gone and the second quarter and you’re down 10 points. It’s like, ‘You don’t have time to take it in, you gotta play.’ Take it in after, take in the win, but you can’t just sit there thinking, ‘I’m playing in the Super Bowl. You gotta show up and be ready to play.”

Manning and the Giants certainly were. They took the opening kickoff and promptly bled 9:59 off the clock on a 16-play, 63-yard drive that ended with Tynes’ 32-yard field goal. Laurence Maroney’s one-yard run on the first play of the second quarter gave New England a 7-3 lead, which held up through the end of the third quarter. After combining for 73 points in their first meeting, the teams were engaged in a defensive smackdown five weeks later.

Early in the fourth quarter, Tyree made one of the big plays Manning had predicted when he caught a five-yard touchdown pass to put the Giants ahead, 10-7. For Tyree, it was a mere warmup to a much bigger show.

After Randy Moss’ six-yard touchdown reception regained the lead for New England at 14-10, the Giants took possession at their own 17 with 2:39 remaining. After Jacobs picked up a key first down on fourth-and-one, the Giants soon faced a third-and-five at their 44. What happened next was one of the most famous plays and greatest catches in Super Bowl history.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called “76 union Y sail.” The pocket collapsed in front of Manning, who somehow slipped away from three defenders, set his feet, and fired the ball deep down the center of the field. Tyree, who had lined up on the right side, leaped high for the ball, and used both hands to position it against his helmet as he bent backward and safety Rodney Harrison attempted to dislodge it. The most extraordinary catch in Super Bowl history gained 32 yards.

And the man who threw the ball had no idea what happened.

“If that’s the first quarter, I probably don’t throw that pass,” Manning said. “But fourth quarter, third down, running out of time, we needed a chunk and put it up for him. I saw him there and you know desperate times, desperate measures, and so gave him a shot hopefully it was – I knew there wasn’t a ton of other guys around, but hopefully he was going to catch it or nobody and then we got fourth and five.

“I didn’t know if he caught it or didn’t catch it. You maybe want to run a play or clock it or something so they can’t challenge it, but we had to take a timeout. So I asked David, ‘Did you catch it?’ and of course every receiver always says they caught it. It could have bounced six times and they said they caught it. I was like, ‘No, David, really come on, you got to tell me the truth. He was like, ‘I promise you, I caught it.’ And sure enough you see the replay and you kind of see everything that went on, hitting the helmet and holding onto it and how impressive it was. But it really wasn’t until after the game, watching replays of it on T.V. eight hours after the game, that you see it over and over again how awesome of a catch it was.”

It gave the Giants a first down on the Patriots’ 24-yard line. Manning was promptly sacked for a one-yard loss and threw an incompletion, setting up a third-and-11. He threw to the right side for Steve Smith, who picked up 12 yards and a first down on the 13.

Now it was Burress’ turn. The Giants’ hobbled leading receiver had caught only one pass, a 14-yarder for Manning’s first completion of the game. Now he lined up wide left. On the snap, Burress made an inside move that faked out cornerback Ellis Hobbs, then moved left and caught Manning’s pass for a 17-14 lead with just 34 seconds remaining.

“They finally came out with an all-out blitz, and we had Plaxico going up on a fade route if they did that and had a good matchup and throw it up to him,” Manning said. “I threw it early just because I knew it was an all-out blitz, and I didn’t have a ton of time. But I saw I was going to have enough time, so I threw it before he made the break. He ran a good stick, like he was running a slant, and the corner jumped the slant. I was hoping the ball was going to get down – hurry up and get down and so he can catch it. It was one of those he’s too open, you’re just going to have to throw it up to him and you know Plax ran a great route. It was a nice way to get a game-winning Super Bowl (touchdown).”
Is there a bad way?

After the defense stopped the Patriots on their last desperate possession, the colossal upset was complete. After taking a knee on the final play, Manning hugged as many teammates as he could find, found his fiancé – now wife – Abby – held the Vince Lombardi trophy aloft and was interviewed on the podium set up in the middle of the field, met the media, and then retreated to the locker room, where he shared a private moment with Peyton.

“I remember talking to Peyton, and he was talking about the Tyree play and the catch,” Manning said. “I was kind of asking him what the catch was like, because I hadn’t quite seen it all.”

Two days after the game, the Giants were honored by perhaps a million fans at a ticker-tape parade up Broadway in lower Manhattan.

“I remember just the amount of people,” Manning said. “I thought I knew what a parade was. I grew up in New Orleans, and I had been to Mardi Gras. I guess I just didn’t know what the Canyon of Heroes was, kind of heard about it, kept hearing the words, I just didn’t realize everything about it; just the confetti and the people just as far as you can see – down the side streets, the blocks, people everywhere hanging out of buildings. It was awesome, just total chaos and an unbelievable experience going through that.”

Ten years later, Manning and long snapper Zak DeOssie are the only members of the 2007 Giants still with the team – indeed, still active in the NFL. Though everyone else has scattered to their post-football lives, the group of men responsible for one of the greatest surprises in Super Bowl history, and one of the most unforgettable seasons in Giants history, will always be bonded by their magnificent achievement.

“Everything you went through that year,” Manning said, “going through playoff games and going through the ups and downs, and to have it all work out to win a championship and just the hugs that go on in the locker room afterwards, that’s love. That’s just passion, and you don’t lose those moments. Those memories are ingrained and embedded in your mind, and I think you do have a connection with all those guys. Obviously, with some more than others you’re close with – the offensive linemen and Brandon Jacobs, Plaxico, and David Tyree, and Amani Toomer, and Ahmad Bradshaw. Those are special bonds and friendships and relationships you have forever.”