Top 10 New York Giants Players of All Time

Updated on November 19, 2019
Eli Manning and the Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game February 2012
Eli Manning and the Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game February 2012 | Source

Who Are the 10 Greatest Giants of All Time?

The New York Giants have had many great players on their roster since the team first took the field in the National Football League (NFL) in 1925. Who are the top 10 players in Giants history? This list ranks the 10 best players in terms of their individual accomplishments and their impact on the team.

Hundreds of football players have spent all or part of their careers with the Giants. Many of these players have been among the best ever to play the game. 28 players who played for the “Big Blue” have been honored with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that these players represent the best of the best.

The Giants themselves have honored some of their top players. They have retired the jersey numbers of 12 great players. And in 2010, the Giants unveiled the New York Giants Ring of Honor, recognizing players, coaches, executives, and owners who the team believed had made great contributions to the organization. To date, the Ring of Honor includes 33 players.

None of these honors, of course, apply to active players, some of whom might be worthy of consideration among the top Giants football players of all time.

So with all these great players to choose from, how can we decide on the top 10 players of all time?

Selection Criteria for This List

Any “best of” or “greatest of” ranking is bound to be at least partly subjective. There is data, of course, that can and should be considered to make any ranking at least somewhat scientific. But no algorithm or mathematical formula yet devised can produce a definitive ranked list that everyone will agree with.

This is especially true when the list attempts to rank football players (or players in any sport, really) who play different positions. Another complication arises when the universe of players includes players from different eras. It's difficult to "scientifically" compare a modern NFL running bank with a lineman from the pre-modern era.

So with those caveats, here are the factors—in no particular order— that I considered in ranking the 10 best New York Giants players of all time:

  • Length of Giants Career: Players with longer Giants careers and primary identification with the Giants are given preference. The Giants have had many great players who have spent their entire NFL careers with the Giants. Others played for the Giants for part of their careers and may have been equally successful or more successful with another team. A number of Giants players in the Hall of Fame, for example, are actually more closely identified with a team other than the Giants. Some of these (Fran Tarkenton or Y.A. Tittle, for example) are close cases; others (e.g.., Larry Csonka) are not.
  • Membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: This is close to a prerequisite for eligible players. But I have also assessed the probability of eventual induction into the Hall of Fame for active and recently retired players.
  • NFL and Media Recognition: Awards (Most Valuable Player, etc.), selection to the Pro Bowl, and selection as a First-Team All-Pro (during Giants career only).
  • Individual Achievements: Leading the league in an important category (while with the Giants) or being among career leaders at retirement.
  • Team Success: Team won-lost records, playoff appearances, and especially, NFL Championships and Super Bowl Championships (with the Giants only).
  • Recognition by the Giants: This typically would be either induction into the New York Giants Ring of Honor or having one's jersey number retired. (Although the latter is not as much of a factor as I would have anticipated, since many of these players were overshadowed by others who played later or were edged out based on other factors listed here.)
  • Intangibles: I have seen a lot of the Giants play, going back several decades, at least to the mid-1970s. So part of my evaluation is based on my own impressions of the players over time (only, of course, for those players whom I saw play), supplemented by opinions of sportswriters and other experts over the years.

So this is a somewhat subjective list, and there is definitely room for debate. Especially because it's a New York Giants list, which is drawn from so many excellent players over such a long team history, there is a lot of room for debate.

I've listed a few of my Honorable Mentions at the end of the ranking—outstanding players who didn't quite make the cut for my ranking of the top 10.

10. Harry Carson

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 1976–1988 (entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Named to NFL All-Rookie Team 1976
  • Member of four playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XXI Championship
  • Selected for nine Pro Bowls
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 2006
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Harold Donald "Harry" Carson joined the Giants in 1976 as their fourth round draft choice after playing college football at South Carolina State University. He quickly established himself with the Giants and earned the starting middle linebacker job midway through the season. He was named to the 1976 NFL All-Rookie Team.

Carson was a powerful defensive force for the Giants and an integral part of two of the team's most dominant defensive units. From 1981 to 1983, he was the right inside linebacker in the “Crunch Bunch” linebacker squad with Lawrence Taylor, Brad Van Pelt, and Brian Kelley. Beginning in 1986 the fearsome front 7 of the Giants' defense became known as the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew,” with Carson again at the right inside linebacker position.

In his 13-year career with the Giants, Carson intercepted 11 passes and recovered 13 fumbles. He led the team in tackles in five seasons. In 1986, when he helped lead the Giants to their first Super Bowl win, he had 118 tackles in the regular season and another 23 in the playoffs, including 7 in Super Bowl XXI.

Carson was a respected team leader on and off the field and was a 10-time Giants captain. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and into the inaugural class of the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

Sam Huff, West Virginia University yearbook, 1955
Sam Huff, West Virginia University yearbook, 1955 | Source

9. Sam Huff

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 1956–1963 (first 8 years of 13-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for four Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Two-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1982
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants selected Robert Lee "Sam" Huff in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft. Huff had grown up poor in West Virginia coal country, but he excelled at West Virginia University and was named an All-American in football as well as an Academic All-American.

Huff was a lineman in college, but the Giants had difficulty fitting him into their defensive line. He decided to leave the team, but assistant coach Vince Lombardi persuaded him to stay. Defensive coordinator Tom Landry adopted a new 4-3 defense and switched Huff to linebacker. When the starting middle linebacker was injured in the second game of the season, Huff took over. Although the Giants lost that game, they went on to win the next five in a row and ultimately won the NFL Championship.

Huff became known for his hard hitting and tackling ability, along with his great speed. In his eight-year Giants career, he had 18 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles. The Giants made the playoffs in six of Huff's eight seasons. Giants fans were angered when coach Allie Sherman traded Huff to the Washington Redskins before the 1964 season. Huff continued to have success for the Redskins for several years, but 1964 marked the beginning of a 17-year playoff drought for the Giants.

Huff displayed strong leadership skills and football knowledge as well as athletic prowess. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, and he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team in recognition of his success during his years with the Giants. In 2010, the Giants honored Huff with induction into the team's Ring of Honor.

Frank Gifford
Frank Gifford | Source

8. Frank Gifford

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Halfback/flanker 1952–1960, 1962–1964 (entire 12-year NFL career)

  • Recorded 9,862 total combined yards, including 3,609 yards rushing and 367 receptions for 5,434 yards; scored 78 touchdowns and 484 total points
  • Member of five playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for eight Pro Bowls
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro
  • NFL Player of the Year 1956
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1977
  • No. 16 jersey retired by Giants in 2000
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

After Frank Newton Gifford starred as an All-American at the University of Southern California, the Giants selected him in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft. It wasn't long before Gifford became a star in New York, on and off the field.

Gifford was an exceptionally versatile player with a wide range of skills (ultimately being selected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions). He began his Giants career in 1952 as a defensive back but was a two-way player the next season. Beginning in 1954, Gifford primarily played running back under Offensive Coordinator Vince Lombardi, although he also saw some action on special teams in the next several years. Gifford gave credit to Lombardi for everything that he accomplished in football.

Gifford's best year statistically was 1956, when he led the league with 1,422 total yards from scrimmage. He also kicked two field goals and eight extra points. He won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and led the Giants to the NFL Championship.

Gifford was forced to retire after the 1960 season due to a severe head injury. He missed the entire 1961 season but came back in 1962 and played for three more years at a new position, flanker (essentially equivalent to wide receiver). He used his great pass-catching skills to excel in this new position too and was chosen for his eighth Pro Bowl in 1963.

After his retirement, Gifford launched a new career as a sports broadcaster, most notably appearing on the ABC network's Monday Night Football for 27 years. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. The Giants retired his No. 16 jersey in 2000 and inducted him into the Ring of Honor in 2010.

7. Emlen Tunnell

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive back/safety 1948-1958 (first 11 years of 14-year NFL career)
  • Member of three playoff teams with the Giants
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for eight Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1967
  • Selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Emlen Lewis Tunnell signed with the Giants as a free agent in 1948 after serving heroically in the Coast Guard during World War II and playing football at the University of Iowa. He was the first African-American to sign with and play for the Giants.

Tunnell was a superb defensive player. He was a key piece in the Giants' early 1950s “umbrella defense” (a 4-1-6 alignment) that often neutralized an opponent's passing game. In his Giants career, he intercepted 74 passes for 1,282 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tunnell was also an outstanding kick returner, who tallied 2,206 yards on punt returns and 1,215 yards on kick returns for the Giants. In 1952, he actually gained more yards on interceptions and kick returns than the league's leading rusher. As a result of such feats, he was nicknamed the Giants' “Offense on Defense.”

Tunnell and the Giants' defense came up huge in the 1956 NFL Championship game when they held the Chicago Bears to 7 points in winning the Giants' first championship in 18 years.

In 1959, after Vince Lombardi left the Giants to become the head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, the Packers purchased Tunnell's contract from the Giants. Tunnell played for the Packers for three years. After he retired, he worked as a special assignment coach, scout, and defensive backs coach for the Giants from 1963 to 1974. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and into the Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

6. Andy Robustelli

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive end 1956–1964 (9 years of 14-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for five Pro Bowls as a Giant
  • Three-time First-Team All-Pro as a Giant
  • Won Bert Bell Award for NFL's Player of the Year 1962
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Andrew Richard "Andy" Robustelli came to the Giants before the 1956 season in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the Giants' first-round draft pick. In five years with the Rams, he had earned a reputation as a stellar defensive player, played in two Pro Bowls, and voted a First Team All-Pro twice.

Robustelli's trade had a significant impact on both teams in 1956. The Rams went from the best record in the Western Conference to the worst, and the Giants won the NFL Championship in their first playoff appearance since 1950. Along with rookie Sam Huff, Robustelli received much of the credit for the Giants' defensive turnaround. The Giants went on to post winning records in each of Robustelli's first eight seasons. He was selected to play in five Pro Bowls in his first six years as a Giant and was voted a First Team All-Pro in four of those seasons.

Robustelli was fast and strong. He was a great pass rusher who probably would have been credited with numerous sacks if sacks had been recorded in that era. He had a great work ethic and did not miss a game during his entire Giants career.

In his last three seasons as a player with the Giants, Robustelli also served as the Defensive Coordinator. He retired after the 1964 season but returned to the Giants as Director of Operations for five years in the team's lean years of the 1970s. Robustelli was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and into the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2010.

Michael Strahan in Super Bowl Parade XLII Parade, New York City
Michael Strahan in Super Bowl Parade XLII Parade, New York City | Source

5. Michael Strahan

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Defensive end 1993–2007 (entire 15-year NFL career)
  • Member of seven playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XLII Championship
  • Selected for six Pro Bowls
  • Four-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Won two NFL sack titles including the single-season record of 22.5 sacks in 2001
  • 2001 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 2014
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s Team

Impact With the Team

The Giants selected Michael Anthony Strahan out of Texas Southern University in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft. A foot injury kept him out of action for much of his rookie season. He became a starter in his second season, but his performance was unremarkable in his first few seasons.

His breakout season came in 1997, when he recorded 14 sacks. He was selected for his first Pro Bowl and named a First Team All-Pro. He was voted to six more Pro Bowls and selected as a First Team All-Pro in three more seasons during his career.

From 1997 on, Strahan continued his dominance as a pass rusher with both speed and power. He recorded double-digit sack totals in six seasons and twice led the league in sacks. In 2001, he set the official record with 22.5 sacks and also led the league in tackles for a loss. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for 2001.

Strahan played on two Super Bowl teams. In Super Bowl XXXV, he had 1.5 sacks in the Giants' loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In Super Bowl XLII, he sacked New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady for a loss of 6 yards and also had 2 solo tackles to help the Giants upset the previously undefeated Patriots. Strahan retired after the game, ending his great career on an appropriately high note. At retirement, he had a total of 141.5 sacks, which was fifth in NFL history at the time.

Strahan has gone on to have a very successful post-football career in television as a talk show and game show host. Meanwhile, his accomplishments on the field were recognized by his induction into the Giants' Ring of Honor in 2010 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Strahan was also named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s Team.

Rosey Brown 1965
Rosey Brown 1965 | Source

4. Rosey Brown

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Offensive tackle 1953–1965 (entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won 1956 NFL Championship
  • Voted NFL Lineman of the Year 1956
  • Selected for nine Pro Bowls
  • Six-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1975
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s Team
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants drafted Roosevelt “Rosey” Brown Jr. in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL Draft, as the 322nd player overall. At just 20 years old, Brown quickly proved himself to be a steal. He won a starting job and kept it for 13 seasons, spending his entire career with the Giants.

Brown was exceptionally fast and agile for a lineman. He relied primarily on speed and technique, rather than pure strength or bulk. He excelled both in protecting the pass and in leading sweeps for the Giants' famed ground game. When Brown died in 2004, halfback Frank Gifford said he wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if it hadn't been for Brown.

Brown's tenure with the Giants coincided with the team's dynasty years of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the eight years from 1956 to 1963, the Giants compiled a 73-25-4 record and won their division six times, winning the NFL Championship in 1956. That year Brown was named the NFL's Offensive Lineman of the Year.

After retiring as a player, Brown joined the Giants' coaching staff as assistant offensive line coach. He was promoted to offensive line coach in 1969 and later served as a scout. His overall career with the Giants extended for over 50 years.

Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975 and included in the inaugural 2010 class of the New York Giants Ring of Honor.

Eli Manning Against the Seattle Seahawks, 2011 Championship Season
Eli Manning Against the Seattle Seahawks, 2011 Championship Season | Source

3. Eli Manning

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Quarterback 2004–present (entire 16-year NFL career to date)
  • 55,981 yards passing and 360 touchdown passes (through 2018)
  • Selected for four Pro Bowls
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI Championships
  • Two Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Awards
  • Co-winner NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award 2016

Impact With the Team

Elisha Nelson "Eli" Manning has been the Giants' starting quarterback since 2004 and is entering his 16th season as of this writing. It's always difficult to compare the career performance of an active player to those whose careers are completed, but with most of his Giants career behind him, it seems safe at this point to say that Manning belongs among the all-time great Giants.

After an outstanding college football career at the University of Mississippi, Manning was drafted No. 1 overall by the San Diego Chargers. Since Manning had publicly stated that he would not play for the Chargers, however, the Chargers had a deal in place with the Giants whereby the Chargers would immediately trade Manning in return for the Giants' first round pick, quarterback Philip Rivers, and several other draft picks. As a result, Manning started his career with the Giants, where he's remained ever since.

Manning started seven games in 2004 but was not particularly successful. Even so, he was named the starter for 2005. He responded by leading the Giants to an 11-5 record and the NFC title. It was the first of four consecutive playoff appearances for the Giants. Under Manning's leadership, the Giants scored 422 points in the 2005 regular season, the most they had scored in a season since 1963.

Manning's two most memorable performances have come in the Giants' Super Bowl victories against the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Manning was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for both games.

In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants beat the previously undefeated and heavily favored New England Patriots 17-14. After Manning had put the Giants ahead 10-7 with a touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, the Patriots came back to take a 14-10 lead with only 2:42 to go. Manning engineered an 83-yard touchdown drive to re-take the lead and win the game.

Manning led the Giants to another come-from-behind 4th quarter win against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. With the Patriots leading 17-15 and less than 4 minutes remaining, Manning drove the Giants down the field for the winning touchdown with 1:04 left on the clock.

Manning's Giants career has had its ups and downs. The team's overall record in regular season games that he started was just 2 games over .500 through 2018. But Manning has passed for 55,981 yards, and he's proven his leadership time and again. The two come-from-behind Super Bowl wins and MVP awards speak for themselves. It's premature to speculate on what post-career honors will come Manning's way, but I think his place in this list is secure.

2. Mel Hein

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Center 1931–1945 (entire 15-year NFL career)
  • Member of eight playoff teams
  • Won 1934 and 1938 NFL Championships
  • Voted NFL's Most Valuable Player 1938
  • Selected to four Pro Bowls
  • Five-time First-Team All-Pro
  • No. 7 jersey retired by Giants 1963
  • Charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963
  • Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1930s Team
  • Inducted into the New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

Melvin Jack "Mel" Hein was an All-American center at Washington State University who led the 1930 Cougars to an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Hoping to play professionally, Hein contacted several teams to offer his services. The Giants were the high bidder with an offer of $150 per game.

The Giants got their money's worth and more. In addition to being an expert snapper, Hein proved to be an aggressive blocker and tackler who also displayed speed and agility. His toughness and durability were unsurpassed. In the pre-modern era of two-way players, Hein was a 60-minute "ironman" who played in 170 games over 15 years. Without facemasks, football was a tough game, and center was an especially brutal position. But Hein only called for a timeout once in his career, to set his broken nose before returning a few minutes later.

The Giants had 11 winning records in Hein's 15 seasons, due in no small part to Hein's contributions. They reached the NFL championship game seven times and won it twice.

Then as now, center was not a glamorous position, and a center accumulated very few stats in the record books. But Hein's skill and toughness were recognized by his contemporaries and the league. In addition to four Pro Bowls and five First Team All-Pro selections, Hein won the first NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1938, over some very good competition at more “glamorous” positions. Giants team owner Wellington Mara once called Hein the greatest player of the Giants' first 50 years.

After his retirement from the Giants, Hein coached in the college and professional ranks for many years. He also served as the supervisor of officials for the American Football League from 1966 to 1969 and for the American Football Conference from 1970 to his retirement in 1974.

Hein was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of eleven players in the inaugural 1963 class. The Giants retired his No. 7 jersey the same year. Hein was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1930s Team, and the Giants honored him again in 2010 with induction into the Giants Ring of Honor.

1. Lawrence Taylor

Giants Career at a Glance

  • Linebacker 1983–1993 (entire 13-year NFL career)
  • Recorded 132.5 career sacks and 9 interceptions
  • Member of seven playoff teams
  • Won Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV Championships
  • Selected for 10 Pro Bowls
  • Eight-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year
  • Voted NFL Most Valuable Player 1986
  • Giants jersey No. 56 retired 1994
  • Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame 1999
  • Inducted into New York Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Impact With the Team

The Giants drafted Lawrence Julius Taylor, widely known as "L.T.," out of the University of North Carolina with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. It is no understatement to say that Taylor invigorated and dramatically improved the Giants.

Taylor's impact was immediate. The Giants' defense already featured linebackers Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelley, and future Hall of Famer Harry Carson. With Taylor added in the right outside linebacker slot, the linebacking unit took on a new identity, becoming known as the “Crunch Bunch.” For older fans, the Giants' defense began to remind them of the dominating defenses of the great Giants teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In 1981, Taylor's rookie season, the Giants' defense improved to 3rd in the league in number of yards allowed from 24th in 1980. The Giants reached the playoffs for the first time after a 17-year drought. Taylor won the awards for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected to his first of 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and was named a First Team All-Pro for the first of six consecutive seasons.

Taylor had almost unparalleled athletic ability with great strength and blazing speed. With his unrelenting, powerful attacks, he was a superb pass rusher who repeatedly disrupted offenses. It is widely acknowledged that he changed the way the position of outside linebacker was played and forced opponents to redesign their offenses.

Taylor posted double-digit sack totals in seven consecutive seasons and accumulated a total of 132.5 sacks in his 13-year career. He was primarily a pass rusher, yet he also recorded nine interceptions in his career, including an interception in 1982 that he returned 97 yards for a touchdown. But his statistics don't really even tell the story. You had to see Taylor in action to fully appreciate how dominant he was.

Taylor's defense helped lead the Giants to wins over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI and the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, capping seasons in which the Giants went 17-2 and 16-3, respectively. In the 1986 season leading up to the first Super Bowl win, Taylor recorded a league-best 20.5 sacks. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NFL Most Valuable Player Award, and the Bert Bell Award for Player of the Year.

Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. The Giants honored him by retiring his famous No. 56 jersey in 1994, less than a year after his retirement. The team also inducted him into its Ring of Honor in the 2010 inaugural class.

No one can seriously argue against Taylor's selection as the greatest New York Giants player of all time. In fact, he is almost surely among the top 10 NFL players of all time. For Giants fans who saw him play, Taylor was a special player who added excitement to every game.

Honorable Mentions

The Giants have had so many exceptional players throughout their history that it is difficult to single out 10 players as the best ever, let alone rank them.

Here are some additional players who deserve consideration in any list of the greatest New York Giants players, listed alphabetically but not ranked. Do you think any of these players belong in the top 10? Are there others who should be listed here?

Tiki Barber

  • Full name: Atiim Kiambu Hakeem-Ah Barber
  • Running back 1997–2006 (entire 10-year NFL career)
  • Great cutback runner with exceptional field vision
  • Holds numerous Giants franchise records, including most career rushing yards (10,449), most rushing yards per game (67.9), and most 1,000-yard seasons (6)
  • Member of five playoff teams
  • Selected for three Pro Bowls
  • First-Team All-Pro 2005
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Charlie Conerly

  • Full name: Charles Albert Conerly Jr.
  • Quarterback 1948–1961 (entire 14-year NFL career)
  • Brilliant field general who amassed 19,488 career yards and threw 173 career touchdown passes in his career
  • Led the Giants to the 1956 NFL Championship
  • Selected for two Pro Bowls
  • Giants jersey No. 42 retired shortly after his retirement
  • Inducted him into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Conerly probably deserves induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gifford and others lobbied for him but without success.

Ray Flaherty

  • Full name: Ray Paul Flaherty
  • End 1928–1935 (6-plus years of 8-year NFL career)
  • Great offensive lineman
  • Led NFL in receiving yardage 1932
  • Member of 1934 NFL Championship team
  • Two-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Giants jersey No. 1 retired 1935
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1976 (primarily as a coach)

Tuffy Leemans

  • Full name: Alphonse Emil Leemans
  • Fullback/tailback 1936–1943 (entire 8-year NFL career)
  • Workhorse running back
  • Led NFL in rushing in rookie year
  • Rushed for 3,132 career yards
  • Three-time First-Team All-Pro
  • Member of 1938 NFL Championship team
  • Giants jersey No. 4 retired 1940
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1990
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Phil Simms

  • Full name: Phillip Martin Simms
  • Quarterback 1979–1993 (entire 15-year NFL career)
  • Resilient big-game quarterback with 33,462 career passing yards and 199 touchdown passes
  • Member of six playoff teams
  • Led the Giants to their first Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXI, in which he set several Super Bowl records and was named Super Bowl MVP
  • Led Giants to an 11-3 record through 14 games in 1990, but suffered a season-ending injury and was unable to play in the Giants' Super Bowl XXV win
  • Giants jersey No. 11 retired 1995
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Ken Strong

  • Full name: Elmer Kenneth Strong
  • Fullback/kicker 1933–1935, 1939, 1944–1947 (8 years of 12-year NFL career)
  • Outstanding ball carrier
  • Scored 17 points in 1934 NFL Championship win
  • First-Team All-Pro 1933
  • Giants jersey No. 50 retired 1947
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1967
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Y.A. Tittle

  • Full name: Yelberton Abraham Tittle
  • Quarterback 1961–1964 (last 4 years of 17-year pro career)
  • Led the Giants to three consecutive division titles 1961–1963
  • Selected for three Pro Bowls with the Giants
  • Won four major MVP awards with the Giants
  • Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971
  • Giants jersey No. 14 retired 1965
  • Inducted into Giants Ring of Honor 2010

Tittle would almost certainly have made my Top 10 list if he had played longer for the Giants.

Final Thoughts on the All-Time Best Giants Players

My list of top 10 Giants players includes nine players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which should not be too surprising. As an active player, Manning is the only exception, and I'm confident that he is a future Hall of Famer.

There are only three players on the list whose numbers have been retired by the Giants: Hein, Gifford, and Taylor. But all six players among the Honorable Mentions have had their jersey numbers retired, which may argue for including at least one or two of them in the top 10 list.

Almost all years in the Giants' long history are represented, from 1931, Hein's first year, through the present. There is one large gap, though. No players on the list (or among the Honorable Mentions for that matter) were active with the Giants in the decade between 1965, Brown's last season, and 1976, Carson's first. It is probably no coincidence that this decade marked the middle of the longest playoff dry spell in Giants' history, when they failed to make the postseason for 17 years in a row.

Great players often do correlate with team success. The top 10 list includes players from all four of the Giants' Super Bowl championships and three of their four pre-Super Bowl NFL championships.

You may notice that fully half of the players on the list played on the 1956 NFL Championship team. That was the highlight of an era in which the Giants had a lot of success year after year. Giants fans have been blessed with many great teams and outstanding players over the years, but that team has to go down as one of the best NFL teams of all time.

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    • brianlokker profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Lokker 

      2 months ago from Bethesda, Maryland

      Thanks CJ. I came close to including George Martin and Sean Landeta among my Honorable Mentions, but I had to cut off the list somewhere. I expected that including Eli would be the most controversial part of the article, and my timing wasn't great, since he was benched this week! But I still think he'll remain among the greatest Giants. And as a Duke grad, I'm looking forward to seeing Daniel Jones succeed too.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      2 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Can't argue with anybody on the list, although I'm not an Eli fan. I would give honorable mention to George Martin, Sean Landeta and Spider Lockhart. I know Spider's teams were pretty bad, but was a great player.

      Fun article. Sharing. Thanks.

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