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Fact or Fiction: 1986 Super Season


*STATEMENT: The 1986 Giants Defense is the best in franchise history

*EISEN: Fiction - The 1986 defense was certainly great. It featured two Hall of Famers in Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, was first in the league in rushing defense (80.3 yards a game) and registered 59 sacks, a total no Giants team has matched in the quarter century since that title season. But I've always thought the defense on the 1990 Super Bowl championship team was vastly underrated. Carson was gone, but Taylor was still there, as were Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, Erik Howard and Leonard Marshall, among others. The team allowed only 211 points, the second-fewest by a Giants team in a 16-game season and 25 fewer than the 1986 team. Seven of their 19 opponents scored less than 10 points; only one score more than 21. The unit allowed 262.9 yards a game, compared to the '86 defense, which allowed 297.3 yards per game. In Super Bowl XXV, the Giants held a Buffalo team that averaged 29.1 points through 18 games to only 19 points. The 1986 defense was great, but I'll take the overlooked 1990 defense.

SCHMEELK: Fiction - I haven't gone through every Giant season but I'm confident in saying that the 1990 Giants defense was better than 1986 defense. For one, The Giants 1986 defense wasn't the best in the NFL in terms of points allowed or yards allowed. The 1990 defense was. The 1990 defense also allowed fewer yards overall, yards per play and points. Both defenses anchored Super Bowl teams, but the 1990 team did it with a backup quarterback. I'll take the 1990 group.

SALOMONE:Fiction - That means I'm going with the 1990 team, and I'm basing it off the Jeff Hostetler factor and the fact that they gave up fewer points to a tough slate of opponents. In the regular season, they allowed just 13.2 points a game on a schedule that included half a dozen playoff teams. Then we get to the playoffs where they dethroned the two-time defending champion 49ers in the NFC Championship (after holding the Bears to three points) and went on to win the Super Bowl.

*STATEMENT: The 1986 NFC Championship shutout was more impressive than the 2000 Championship game shutout

*EISEN:Fact - The Redskins had an outstanding offense designed by a Hall  of Fame coach in Joe Gibbs, who called the plays. They had extra motivation after losing to the Giants twice in the regular season. The Redskins proved how good they were a year later when Gibbs and pretty much the same cast of players won the Super Bowl. The Vikings had some great players (Randy Moss), but clearly weren't ready to compete in a championship game. And when the Giants took an early lead, the Vikings just checked out.
SCHMEELK: Fiction - The Giants finished with a better record than the Redskins in 1986, and had already beat them during the regular season. The Redskins were only ranked 9th in the league that year in terms of points per game, and the wind in the NFC Championship game nearly eliminated their passing game. The 2000 Championship Game on the other hand, was played against a team ranked 5th in yards and points per game featuring one of the most dynamic passing attacks in the entire NFL. Despite the fact the Giants played at home, they were not favored to win the game. It was a much tougher defensive assignment and therefore, more impressive.

SALOMONE:Fiction - I grew up in Minnesota, and I'll never forget the 41-Donut. The NFC Championship against the Redskins reached folk hero status given the conditions and victory in the ensuing Super Bowl, but pounding the Vikings should not be overlooked. At the time, Minnesota was a perennial playoff contender with a potent offense that included Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Robert Smith and Daunte Culpepper. Yet, somehow, the Giants were beating them 14-0 before everyone could sit down to watch at my cousin's house.

*STATEMENT: Phil Simms deserves to be in the Hall of Fame

*EISEN:Fiction - I like Phil Simms very much and he was a terrific player, but I don't think he's a Hall of Famer. If he  had been healthier early in his career, played in an offense that was more pass-oriented in the Giants' championship seasons and not suffered the broken foot that forced him to miss Super Bowl XXV, he would probably be a strong candidate. But you are what you are and Simms falls a little short of the Hall.
SCHMEELK: Fiction- It's tough judging quarterbacks from the 1980's based on the type of numbers quarterbacks are putting up today. With the advent of the short passing game, completion percentages are through the roof. Restrictive contact rules for defensive backs in the secondary have made it easier on quarterbacks too. Throw in the rules protecting quarterbacks from contact and it's easy to see how much better quarterbacks have it now than they did in Phil Simms' time.  You need to compare Simms' numbers to other in the Hall of Fame that played during or before his era. He compares favorably to a guy like Joe Namath but comes up short compared to most others.  I reserve the right to point out that I don't remember watching Simms in his prime, I was too young. Based purely on numbers I think he falls just short.  He was a great Giant, good guy, and a very good quarterback, but not quite a Hall of Famer.

SALOMONE:Fiction - Unless the statistics are glaring, it all comes down to Super Bowls. Winning multiple titles is crucial, and if he wasn't hurt late in 1990, he likely would be in. People can certainly make cases for the Giants Ring of Honor inductee based on players who have been elected that may not have his stats. And a lot of Simms' value came with his intangibles, which can't be precisely defined and thus furthers the debate.

*STATEMENT: Lawrence Taylor is the best defensive player in NFL History

*EISEN:Fiction - I say that only because I think it's impossible to name one player as the best, just as it's impossible to pick one quarterback, one running back or one wide receiver (okay, maybe Jerry Rice is an obvious choice there). Taylor was the best outside linebacker in history. But was he better than Dick Butkus? Deacon Jones? Joe Greene? Maybe he was, but it's difficult to compare layers from different positions. Taylor was arguably the most influential defensive player ever. Because of the frequency with which he terrorized quarterbacks, Joe Gibbs developed the one-back offense, which enabled him to put a second tight end on the field to try to block Taylor. It didn't always work, but it was an innovation borne out of the necessity of trying to stop Taylor.

SCHMEELK: Fact - It wasn't just LT's play that made him the best defensive player in the history of the sport, but also how he revolutionized the game and the position. The most premium position on the defensive side of the ball that every team wants is a pass rusher. That's because of Lawrence Taylor. He was feared as much as any player. I still remember interviewing Dan Marino and Jerry Rice outside the NFL draft a couple of years ago. I could still almost see the fear in their eyes when I asked them about playing against Lawrence Taylor. He was a unique talent and a dominant defender.

SALOMONE:Fact - This one is fairly clear and agreed upon. When the argument can be made for best overall player ever – not just defense – then it's case closed. Reggie White and Dick Butkus can hang around though.

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