With the 2019 Bracket Challenge underway, we debate the best individual season in Giants history.
JOHN SCHMEELK: It is really hard not to take Lawrence Taylor in 1986, given the fact he won the NFL MVP award, but I will try. I’m going old school here and taking Y.A. Tittle. Tittle still owns records in the Giants record book dating back to 1963. He threw for 36 touchdowns that year and had a ridiculous 104.8 passer rating. He played the most important position on the field and won the league MVP award that season. As good as Lawrence Taylor was, he did not play quarterback, which is always going to be a more impactful position than linebacker. Tittle’s numbers were ahead of his time, and he had the best individual season in Giants history.
DAN SALOMONE: L.T. is going to win this thing for all of the reasons Lance mentions next, but I’m making the case for Eli Manning in 2011. First, I think you have to put championship seasons ahead of the others in the bracket, and Manning still holds the NFL record for most completions and passing yards in a single postseason. He threw nine touchdowns to just one interception in four playoff games, ending with his second Super Bowl MVP performance. Detractors say the “Helmet Catch” was a fluke, but they don’t have a leg to stand on when you bring up his pass to Mario Manningham down the sideline on the game-winning drive against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
In the regular season, he carried the team. He set the franchise record with nearly 5,000 yards passing and did so with a last-place rushing attack and a defense ranked 27th in yards and 25th in scoring. Nevertheless, he led the Giants to the NFC East title in dramatic fashion, defeating the Jets on Christmas Eve and then the Cowboys in a winner-take-all finale. In the postseason, he outdueled Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith and Tom Brady – again. The NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park is still the gutsiest performance I have ever seen live. He endured 13 quarterback hits and six sacks from a punishing 49ers defense, and got up every time.
LANCE MEDOW: Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but let’s face it, there’s really only one correct answer to this question. In 1986, Lawrence Taylor won NFL MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in sacks (20.5), was named to the Pro Bowl, earned first-team All-Pro honors and helped the Giants win their first-ever Super Bowl title. He’s just one of two defensive players (Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page – 1971) in NFL history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, and the only defensive player to be unanimously voted league MVP.
I’d like you to list another Giant who had that dominant of a season and capped it off with both individual and team hardware. Taylor was responsible for more than one-third of his team’s sacks (59) that season. He recorded six multi-sack games and wreaked havoc against every single opposing quarterback. Thanks in part to Taylor’s dominant season, the Giants posted a 14-2 record and claimed the top seed in the NFC and ultimately cruised past the Niners, Redskins and Broncos en route to winning the Super Bowl. Taylor even returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in the Divisional Round against San Francisco. The Giants Bracket Challenge highlights a number of impressive individual seasons, but none come close to what Taylor accomplished in 1986. It’s not just the best individual season in team history. It’s arguably one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history.