With free agency around the corner, three Giants.com writers debate the most underrated signing in franchise history.
John Schmeelk: I think Kerry Collins gets overlooked since he never led the Giants to a Super Bowl title as starting quarterback. He did, however, get the Giants to a Super Bowl and delivered one of the most dominant home playoff wins in Giants history when they defeated the Vikings, 41-0, in the NFC Championship game following the 2000 season. He had a historic game, throwing for 381 yards and five touchdowns.
The impact of Collins' arrival cannot be underestimated. The Giants had cycled through three quarterbacks (Dave Brown, Danny Kanell and Kent Graham) after moving on from Jeff Hostetler and Phil Simms. None of the three were the answer at the position, but Collins gave the franchise real hope to challenge for a championship again.
It's rare when a team can find an impact quarterback like that in free agency. The Giants were able to because they took a chance on someone who had issues off the field that they bet he could overcome. The gamble paid off and Collins ended up being an effective winning quarterback for the Giants. He never won a title, but he settled the most important position on the field, one that had been in flux for much of the 90's.
Dan Salomone: Where 'Trel at? Safety Antrel Rolle needs to be mentioned here, along with the Plaxicos and Antonios, as the best signings in franchise history. He never missed a game in his five years with the Giants, made two Pro Bowls with the team and, of course, was a key member of the 2011 championship team.
That year, he lit a fire under the team on more than one occasion. Heading into the regular-season meeting with New England, he said, "I don't worry about our schedule. I feel like our schedule needs to worry about us." The Giants went out and beat the Patriots in Foxborough.
More famously, he sent a broad but clear message to his teammates following a 23-10 home loss to the Redskins, which dropped the Giants to 7-7 and set up must-win games against the Jets and Cowboys. "If you're going to go out here and play the game on Sunday, you need to be out there with your men throughout the week," Rolle said. "I've been nicked up all year long."
The Giants won their next six games, including four postseason contests, by a score of 162-84.
The 2020 league year and free agency period begin on March 18.
Lance Medow: If the most important position in the NFL is quarterback, then how do you choose anyone other than Kerry Collins. After a shaky ending to his tenure in Carolina in 1998 and a stint in New Orleans, Giants GM Ernie Accorsi took a chance on Collins, bringing in the veteran signal caller as Kent Graham's backup. He wound up claiming the starting job in Week 11 of the 1999 and never relinquished that role until following the 2003 season. For four-plus campaigns, Collins provided stability at a position that had been troubling the Giants since the Phil Simms era came to an end in 1994.
In his first full season as the starter in 2000, he only helped lead the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. While the outcome of the title game wasn't pretty, that accomplishment can't be overlooked, in addition to helping the team make the playoffs once again following the 2002 season. That year, Collins set a single-season franchise record by throwing for 4,073 yards, a mark that stood until 2011 when Eli Manning totaled 4,933 passing yards. The best numbers in Collins' 17-year career were posted when he was wearing a Giants uniform and his success is a big reason why the team reached the postseason twice in his four years as the starter.
There are certainly other worthy candidates, like Antonio Pierce and Antrel Rolle, but given the importance of the quarterback position and the issues the Giants had prior to Collins' arrival, I think he tops the list. Collins built the bridge between the Simms and Manning eras. He just doesn't get enough credit because there's no hardware attached to his name.