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The Legacy of the Position: Giants, Wide Receiver



While the needs vary each year, the NFL Draft brings hope and optimism to every single franchise. Many view this hope as being for the fortunes of the franchise and in a lot of ways they are correct. New faces to the organization can spark championship dreams. But there is another kind of hope that needs to be discussed. The hope is that player lives up to the standards set before him by those who once stood in his shoes for the franchise. According to numerous reports, including Pro Football Focus, the New York Giants need to replenish their wide receiver corps. Let's take a look at their illustrious history of the position and the standards that have already been set.


The Lineage


The New York Giants' history with wide receivers is unique. Due to its age, it must be noted that for the first few decades of the franchise, they never had a true wideout. Instead, they had ends. That doesn't mean that they didn't have some good ones. On the contrary, they boasted some of the finest ends of the era.


Before he became a Pro Football Hall of Famer as a tackle and well before he became a Baseball Hall of Famer as an umpire, Cal Hubbard enjoyed two years of dominance as an end in the Big Apple. In New York's first championship-winning season of 1927, Hubbard was named an All-Pro for the first time in his career. His dominance as a Giant was short-lived however as he moved to Green Bay two years later and switched to tackle.



Excellent play from their ends continued for the Giants after Hubbard left. Ray Flaherty filled his shoes seamlessly and even led the league with 21 receptions for 350 yards and five touchdowns in 1932. When his playing career ended in 1935, he had thrice been named an All-Pro. Eventually, he would win two titles as the head coach of the Redskins.


The good ends kept entering the catacombs of the Polo Grounds as Jim Lee Howell came in 1937. He earned his lone Pro Bowl nod in 1938 after gaining 163 yards and scoring twice. A few years after he retired as a player in 1947, Howell stood on the sidelines as the coach of Wagner University when the Giants brought in Kyle Rote. Little did they know that their paths would soon cross.



In 1954, after several losing seasons in a row, the Giants decided to fire their longtime coach Steve Owen and replace him with one of his old players. When Jim Lee Howell took over the reins, he had no idea the kind of greatness that he would witness over the next several years. Soon, he would hire Tom Landry to coach the defense and Vince Lombardi to coach the offense, two great football minds collaborating against one another in practice every day.


Under Lombardi's guidance, Kyle Rote blossomed into one of the league's premier ends. In 11 years with the team, he would be invited to four Pro Bowls and appear in four NFL Championship Games. His best year as an end came in his last year at the position, 1960. In that year, he gained 750 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. The following year he switched to halfback where he strangely did even more through the air, gaining 805 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.


When Rote retired, Del Shofner took his spot. The end from the Rams made three Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro three times in his seven years as a Giant. He stunned the sports writers with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 1961 through 1963, a rare feat for that era. He scored 23 touchdowns between 1961 and 1962 as well.



A few years after Rote retired, Homer Tomes joined the franchise, recording 1,000-yard seasons each year between 1966 through 1968. He also scored 13 touchdowns in 1967 as he earned Pro Bowl nods that year and the following year.


While much of the late 1950s through the early part of the 1960s was a glorious time for the Giants, the later part of the 1960s was not so wonderful as it began an extensive period of futility. While they made the playoffs in 1981, the team was dominated with the presence of rookie outside linebacker sensation Lawrence Taylor and a competent ground attack. Wide receivers were paid little attention at that time.


As the team won the Super Bowl in 1986, their coach Bill Parcells realized that he couldn't rely solely on tight ends and running backs forever. He had to adjust his archaic offense. Anticipating the changing times, he drafted Mark Ingram in 1987. While he was never a Pro Bowler and he was short even for that era (5'10") he had long arms and a good stride to stretch the field when necessary. Plus, he had a "never say die" attitude that was shown prominently in Super Bowl XXV as he picked up a critical first down late in the game.


They drafted Chris Calloway in 1992,-Ingram's final year in New York- and were pleasantly surprised with the fleet-footed receiver's production. He recorded more than 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns between 1997 and 1998.



Despite their relative success at receiver, the Giants still needed a true number-one wideout. In 1996, they drafted Amani Toomer out of the University of Michigan. While he was never invited to a Pro Bowl, he was the team's most consistent receiver for the next 11 years. He recorded 1,000 yards each year from 1999 through 2003 with his best season being 2002 when he gained 1,343 yards and eight touchdowns. Late in his career, he had yet to gain a Super Bowl ring. But in 2007, the Giants went on a run for the ages as their reliable receiver gained 760 yards and scored three touchdowns from Eli Manning. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl that year where they defeated the undefeated New England Patriots.

The Giants were well prepared for the hole Amani Toomer left after he retired in 2008. In successive years, they drafted Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks and signed Victor Cruz off of the undrafted heap in 2010. Each would play an integral role in the Giants' run for the 2011 Super Bowl. While Manningham gained 523 yards and scored four touchdowns, Nicks gained 1,192 yards and scored seven touchdowns in 2011.


However, Cruz proved to be the biggest surprise, especially in the playoffs. That postseason, he caught 21 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, a much bigger impact than his 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. Like a shooting star in the night sky, that incredible trifecta lasted together only for a few short years, but their impact was everything for the Giants as they again beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

As their incredible trifecta left for greener pastures, the Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. The LSU receiver proved to be everything as advertised and more, recording one of the greatest catches in NFL history in just his rookie year. He was electric and subsequently made it to the Pro Bowl, recorded 1,000 yards and scored 10 or more touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. After gaining 1,052 yards and scoring six touchdowns in 2018, his enthusiasm for the team began to wane and he asked for his release, signing with the Browns in the offseason.


The Legacy


Currently, the Giants lack a true number-one receiver. In the playoffs against the Eagles, quarterback Daniel Jones was exposed as he looked befuddled against the incredible Eagles pass rush. Part of his problem was lack of receiver depth. Who will they pick? We shall see this weekend.



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