The Giants' history is littered with miracles on the field and controversies off it

Back in May the NFL writers and editors at CBSSports.com gathered together to discuss the key figures and moments of every NFL franchise in the Super Bowl era. Before long we were discussing every team's best and worst moments, along with their most-hated players and coaches, as well as some of the more bizarre things each team has been involved in. That spirited discussion produced this series -- the Good, Bad, Ugly and, sometimes, Bizarre moments for every team. We continue with the New York Giants.

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When it comes to picking the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and Bizarre for the New York Giants, I have to remind myself that I grew up a Giants fan.

Yes, I used to have sleepless nights over bad losses, poor rosters and bad coaching. When I got into covering the league, those allegiances were long gone. But back when I had my Giants garbage can with Spider Lockhart and Ron Johnson and the gang, their putrid ways would eat at me as a kid.

I can fill up a sheet of ugly and bizarre.

Much of the good came later -- long after I gave up being a fan and caring.

Since this series focuses on the post-Super Bowl years, it won't include ugly memories like Frank Gifford getting blasted by Chuck Bednarik. Or the Giants fans singing "Goodbye, Allie" to coach Allie Sherman.

The Good

Eli Manning and the two Super Bowls (and David Tyree)

Eli Manning comes across as the looser, goofier, fun-loving brother in the Manning quarterback hierarchy, much less serious than big brother, Peyton.

That might fit in most situations, but come crunch time, Eli Manning has been a stone-cold killer who made the plays to win championships.

The Giants won two Super Bowls with Manning under center in the past decade, and it's his ability to make plays in crunch time that played big roles in both of them.

Manning led three fourth-quarter, comeback drives to score touchdowns to beat the Patriots in the two Super Bowls, two in the first victory in Super Bowl XLII to stun the previously undefeated Patriots. New England was going for perfection in that game, but Manning's heroics, including the amazing 32-yard helmet catch by David Tyree that is the greatest grab in Super Bowl history, ended that dream season.

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The Helmet Catch. Getty Images

In the second victory, Manning drove the Giants 88 yards in 2:49 to lead the Giants to the game-winning touchdown in the final minute -- a score the Patriots allowed to happen to try and keep time for their offense. There wasn't enough, and Manning got his second ring.

Manning is now 35 years old, which is hard to believe. It seems like just yesterday when Peyton's little brother didn't want to play in San Diego, leading the Giants to work a trade to land him in the 2004 NFL Draft after San Diego picked him first overall.

In his 12 seasons, Manning has thrown 199 interceptions, or 16.5 per season. That's way too many, and those mistakes have often led to the now legendary and GIF-giving Eli faces.

But the reality is he's a two-time Super Bowl winner, and that offsets all the mistakes, even more so since his fourth-quarter heroics in those games are the reasons the Giants won them.

The Bad

Lawrence Taylor, off the field

Lawrence Taylor is the greatest defensive player ever, in my book.

The man helped revolutionize football with his ability to rush the passer from a stand-up position in the Giants' vaunted 3-4 defense. Coaches came up with schemes just to block him, such as the 49ers pulling guard John Ayers on almost every passing play to give help on Taylor off the edge in a game. The Redskins came up with the H-back to help block him.

Didn't matter. Taylor unleashed havoc on quarterbacks, getting 132.5 career sacks and having seven double-digit seasons.

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Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was nearly unstoppable on the field. USATSI

That's unreal, but it's even more so considering Taylor had off-the-field issues for pretty much his entire career. He was once asked what he could do that no other linebacker could do. He said, "Drink."

He was suspended twice for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and later admitted to using teammates' urine to beat the league's drug tests. There are stories of him showing up on game day directly from a night out at the club. Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick seemed to turn a blind eye to it because they needed his sack ability.

Through it all, he was a special player. But the ugly side that was somewhat hidden during his career showed up after it. In 2010, he was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. He faced a variety of charges, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received six years probation.

It was the latest black eye for a Hall of Fame player who once said he was an adrenaline junkie. These days, he gets his fill on the golf course, although he was recently involved in a domestic issue with his current wife that led to him getting a gash in the back of his head. No charges were filed.

Taylor the player is second to none, but I often wonder how good he would have been if he actually took better care of himself.

The Ugly

The Miracle (or Disaster) in the Meadowlands

Situational coaching gets bastardized all over the NFL these days, and one play from 1978 is one of the worst examples of situational coaching in league history.

It cost the Giants a game.

It cost coach John McVay his job.

It cost Giants fans hours of agonizing, bed-tossing nights wondering how a team could be so stupid.

The situation was this: The Giants and Eagles were both alive in the playoff chase when they met on Nov. 19, 1978. The Giants were 5-6 and the Eagles were 6-5, with the winner a potential wild-card team.

The Giants led 17-12 late in the game when rookie Odis McKinney picked off a pass with under two minutes left in Giants territory and the Eagles without a timeout.

On first down, quarterback Joe Pisarcik took the snap and dove to the ground for a 3-yard loss. You might ask why he dove rather than taking a knee in the "victory formation." That's because it wasn't part of the NFL then. That wasn't put into the league's rules until 1987, so he had to be touched down.

On that play, an Eagles linebacker -- either Frank Lemaster or Bill Bergey, depending on differing accounts -- blasted the Giants offensive line, and they took exception. This was supposed to be a play where line etiquette took over. So there was some theory the Giants linemen wanted to run another play to get at the culprit.

Whatever the reason, the Giants handed off to Larry Csonka on the next play and he ran for 11 yards. With 31 seconds left, Giants offensive coordinator Bob Gibson called for the same play rather than have Pisarcik fall down again.

This time, Pisarcik bobbled the snap, hit Csonka on the hip as he tried to hand off, and the ball squirted free. Herman Edwards -- yes, you-play-to-win-the-game Herman Edwards -- picked it up and ran 26 yards for the winning score.

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The Fumble. Getty Images

The score came as CBS Sports rolled the credits at the end of the game. The crowd was stunned. The Giants season would go down the drain from there, while the Eagles would make the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Gibson was fired after the game for his botched play call and McVay was cut loose after the season. Gibson never called another NFL play and never talked about that play right up until he died in 2015.

The Giants hired Ray Perkins after that, and when he resigned after the 1982 season, a guy by the name of Bill Parcells took over as coach. That led to a lot of good, even the franchise's first Super Bowl victory in 1986, but the hurt from the Miracle in the Meadowlands -- as well as the stupidity of the call -- is something Giants fans will never get over.

The Bizarre

Plaxico Burress shoots himself and ends up in prison

When the Giants won Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots, Tyree's catch received all the attention, but it was Burress who caught the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left in the game.

He was a hero to Giants fans.

Later that year, his career with the Giants was over -- after he accidentally shot himself in the leg. While out at a New York City club in November of 2008, Burress shot himself with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol he was carrying in the waistband of his pants. When it began to slide down his leg, he reached for it and it fired, sending him to the hospital. Since he wasn't licensed to carry a concealed weapon, Burress ended up in prison for 20 months.

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Plaxico Burress went to jail after shooting himself Getty Images

He never played another down after that for the Giants. After his release from prison, Burress played one year for the Jets and four games for the Steelers, his first team. By then, after sitting out two seasons, he wasn't close to the same player he was before prison.

From superhero to going to prison for 20 months after shooting himself is certainly a tale of the bizarre.

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More Good, Bad, Ugly and the Bizarre

Where's your favorite NFL team? Check the schedule below

AFC East

NFC East

  • June 17: Dallas Cowboys
  • 20: New York Giants
  • 21: Philadelphia Eagles
  • 22: Washington Redskins

AFC West

  • June 23: Denver Broncos
  • 24: Oakland Raiders
  • 27: Kansas City Chiefs
  • 28: San Diego Chargers

NFC North

  • June 29: Chicago Bears
  • 30: Detroit Lions
  • July 1: Green Bay Packers
  • 4: Minnesota Vikings

AFC South

  • July 5: Houston Texans
  • 6: Tennessee Titans
  • 7: Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 8: Indianapolis Colts

NFC South

  • July 11: Carolina Panthers
  • 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 13: Atlanta Falcons
  • 14: New Orleans Saints

AFC North

  • July 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 18: Baltimore Ravens
  • 19: Cincinnati Bengals
  • 20: Cleveland Browns

NFC West

  • July 21: Arizona Cardinals
  • 22: Los Angeles Rams
  • 25: Seattle Seahawks
  • 26: San Francisco 49ers
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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