Monday, June 9, 2008

The Strahan Legacy: What a Difference a Year Makes, Pt. 1

Very few professional athletes have changed their legacy by prolonging their retirement by one season like Michael Strahan. To illustrate this, we're going to give you two Strahan tributes: 1 had he retired before last season, and one for his current retirement.

Part 1: A Michael Strahan "Tribute" following a retirement announcement of September 1, 2007

So Michael Strahan retires with 132.5 sacks, 2nd on the Giants all-time to the man who literally invented the category. He was often the face of the franchise, his gap-tooth grin perfect for the bright lights of New York City. In Strahan, the Giants had a perennial pro bowler, and unarguably one of the most feared defensive ends of his time. Hell, the man broke the sack record.

But let's examine his legacy a little more closely, shall we? Sure, he was a great pass rusher, and he'll easily enter the Hall of Fame in his first few tries, but what was his legacy to the team? Well, first off, he has the most bogus claim to a record this side of Barry Bonds. What play comes to mind when football fans think of Michael Strahan? Sure, it could be a sack followed by his patented muscle flex, but isn't it more likely to be his record breaking sack of Brett Favre? And for what it's worth, fantastic pursuit by Strahan on that play, chasing after Favre just enough so that Favre could slide into him. Yup, that's Michael Strahan's big claim to fame. A sack record gift wrapped to him by Mrs. John Madden.

But what about the team success during this time? Well, he played for Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin. And he was a part of some very good teams, most notably the 2000 team that went to the Super Bowl. Lest we forget, the team also made the playoffs in '93, '97, and '02. So the '93 team had a good run, but let's focus on the '97 and '02 teams. Strahan was the leader and best player on both of these defenses. (Though a surprisingly good case can be made for Jason Sehorn in '97.) And how did the Giants' seasons end in '97 and '02? Historically embarassing. In '97 they blew a two score lead with roughly a minute left, and in '02 the team blew a 30+ point lead to Jeff Garcia, T.O and the 49ers. In both of these games, a simple defensive stop would've saved the game for the Gmen. And in both of those games, Strahan and his defense came up embarassingly empty. He's not the only guy to come up empty during those moments, but he was conspicuously present in body only in both of those games.

And let's delve further into this. Sure, Strahan has had some fantastic seasons with the Giants, but when did one of them coincide with great success for the Giants? His record setting season was 2001, where the Giants suffered a post-Super Bowl hangover, going 7-9. In fact his 4 greatest statistical seasons, with sacks in parentheses were '01 (22.5) '03 (18.5) '98 (15) '97 (14). Meanwhile, the Giants' record in those years were 7-9, 4-12, 8-8, 10-5-1. And in '00, '02? 9.5 and 11.0 respectively. Good numbers, but this certainly helps prove the theory that the less that Strahan did on the statsheet, the better the Giants were. And that, friends, will always be Strahan's legacy. A great player, who put up great stats, but never when the Giants needed them. The A-Rod of the Yankees, if you will.

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