Giants trade glamour for quiet efficiency

January 29, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. -- The trees are safe from the New York Giants this time.

When they won Super Bowl XXI after the 1986 season, nearly whole forests had to be cleared to provide the paper for all the books that were written about the Giants.

They were the toast of Broadway. They were a glamour team. Lawrence Taylor still was in his prime. Phil Simms was coming into his own. Joe Morris was a star running back. Even linemen such as Jim Burt were in demand by the publishers.

The team that edged the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV Sunday night is different, though. It hardly impresses anybody.

The Giants' backup quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, couldn't beat out Todd Blackledge at Penn State and transferred. Their featured running back, Ottis Anderson, is heading for Plan B free agency for the third straight year. Their starting cornerback, Everson Walls, was dumped by the Dallas Cowboys. Their kicker, Matt Bahr, was cut by the Cleveland Browns.

Their style of football is so old-fashioned that it goes back to the days of Pop Warner: running the ball and defense.

"Our whole plan was to shorten the game," coach Bill Parcells said. Not very spectacular, but it works.

In a sport in which the hares -- the wide-open passing teams -- get a lot of attention, the Giants are the tortoise that plods to victory. Their strength is simply not making mistakes. Parcells noted they had one turnover in three playoff games and 15 in 19 games overall.

It figured that their Super Bowl victory came down to a 47-yard field-goal attempt by the Buffalo Bills' Scott Norwood with eight seconds left. All the Giants could do was watch. If he made it, they lost. If he missed, they won. He missed.

Parcells compared the Giants to the 1982 Washington Redskins. He said the combination of Anderson and David Meggett was similar to the duo of John Riggins and Joe Washington.

"It was a very similar type operation," Parcells said, noting Washington was a change of pace to Riggins.

The Giants don't scare foes, though. Even their opponents seem more puzzled than intimidated when they lose to them. Buffalo's Bruce Smith suggested after the game that the Giants weren't the best team in football.

"He's still talking?" Parcells said after the news conference yesterday when he was informed about Smith's comment.

"Why don't you ask him to come on over and talk to Jumbo and see how that went?" he said.

He was talking about offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott, who helped neutralize Smith during the game.

Parcells added: "For that day it does. For that day, it makes us the best team in football. That's why they've got that trophy with our name on it."

Parcells, though, didn't seem ready to make any boasts about the Giants' being the best team.

"I don't know. I know this: We went on the field 23 times this year, including preseason. There were three teams that beat us. The Philadelphia Eagles. We beat them. San Francisco. We beat them, and yesterday we cleaned the slate," he said.

They lost to the Bills in December, 17-13, in a game that didn't mean anything to the Giants.

Parcells then summed it up.

"I think we're as good as. . . The best? I don't know. I think we're as good as," he said.

That's as strong a statement as Parcells would make.

There may be an upside to all this, though. It may make it easier for the Giants to defend their title than it was last time.

The Giants were a classic example of a team that couldn't handle success when they were the defending champions in 1987.

Two days after the Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos, Parcells tried to get out of his contract to take a job with the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants denied permission, but it robbed the team of a chance to savor the victory.

It then seemed as if half the players and Parcells wrote books aboutthe season.

The Giants started off 0-2, then lost three strike games, and the season was over. They staggered to a 6-9 finish and missed the playoffs.

Parcells is handling things differently this time. He repeated the statement he made Sunday night that there will be "no controversy" this time.

He didn't specifically say he'd be back, but he said he wouldn't decide on his future until "the dust settles" in two weeks or so.

It also seems unlikely Parcells is going to retire or head for another job.

He again talked about what it's like running through the tunnel for the start of the Super Bowl game.

"I can't explain what it's like. It's euphoria," he said.

Talking about what it's like to win the last two games in dramatic fashion, he said: "It's better than anything. It's better than anything. It really is."

Does that sound like a man who's going to walk away?

Parcells conceded it's not easy being a defending champion. The San Francisco 49ers became the only team to repeat in the past decade when they did it in the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

"It always a little tougher because everybody takes shots [at you]. Sometimes when the players come back to camp, they don't understand that. They think everything is going to pick up where they left off. It's my job as a coach -- a lot of coaches have had trouble with this -- to get them in gear and get them going in the right direction," he said.

The Giants, though, will have more incentive than most defending champions do. They can try to prove they're the best team in 1991.

NOTES: The big question for the Giants is who'll be the starting quarterback: Hostetler or Simms? All Parcells would say is that Hostetler "earned a tremendous amount of consideration" for the job. But he said Simms is "one of my guys" and pointed out they started out 10-0 with him.

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