Players' legacies are made in the postseason, but they can't get there without first doing some special things in the regular season. With that in mind, the Giants.com crew debates the greatest individual seasons in franchise history.
John Schmeelk: Dan and Lance claimed the low-hanging fruit with Eli Manning's ridiculous fourth quarter production in the 2011 Super Bowl championship season and Lawrence Taylor's 20.5 sacks in 1986. This is where it gets a little tougher.
I'm going to dig into Giants history a little bit and reference two of Emlen Tunnell's seasons:
1949: 10 interceptions, 251 interception return yards, 2 return touchdowns, 26 punt returns, 315 punt return yards, 1 punt return touchdown.
1951: 9 interceptions, 74 interception return yards, 0 return touchdowns, 34 punt returns, 489 punt return yards, 3 punt return touchdowns
In both of those seasons, he was dominant as both a defensive back and a punt returner.
Another option for younger fans is Tiki Barber's 2005 season when he gained 2,390 yards from scrimmage, which is still the fourth-most productive season in NFL history, only behind seasons from Christian McCaffrey, Marshall Faulk and Chris Johnson. Barber was named first team All-Pro that year after rushing for 1,860 yards and over five yards per carry. He also caught 54 passes for 530 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns.
Barber's numbers that year may dwarf those of Frank Gifford's league leading 1,422 scrimmage yards in 1956, but it was a different era. Gifford was named first team All-Pro that season and was responsible for 11 touchdowns (including two passing). He deserves a mention for what was one of the best seasons in Giants history.
I will jump back to the modern age for one more great year: Michael Strahan's 2001 season. He was named Defensive Player of Year, first team All-Pro and set the NFL single season record with 22.5 sacks. His historic season shouldn't be overlooked.
When all is said and done, however, I am going to give the nod to Tunnell's 1949 season. He not only forced a lot of turnovers, he turned them into touchdowns while being one of the best punt returners in the NFL.
Dan Salomone: I don't think people appreciate Eli Manning's 2011 campaign. They "just" know the postseason heroics. The Giants had the last-ranked rushing attack and the sixth-worst defense in yardage allowed, and Manning put that team on his back with huge numbers. His 4,933 passing yards remain a single-season franchise record and were then the sixth-most in league history. That year, the Giants led the NFL with 18 completions of 40 or more yards. Manning was the first NFL quarterback to throw at least four touchdown passes of at least 72 yards since Kurt Warner and the "Greatest Show on Turf" in 2000.
Let's see, what else? Manning shattered a team record by completing 21 consecutive passes at one point. That was tied for the sixth-longest streak in NFL history and was the longest since his brother Peyton hit 23 straight in 2008.
Now here is where it gets legendary. Manning threw an NFL-record 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes in 2011. The previous record of 14 was set by Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas in 1959 and tied by Peyton Manning in 2002.
Lance Medow: Everyone is entitled to his or her 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.
Name another Giant who had that dominant a campaign 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 opposing quarterback. Thanks in large 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. Nothing comes 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.
The best photos of Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team