#10) 2001: The Giants’ NFC Championship Game Rout
It had been a full decade since the Giants had appeared in a Super Bowl, and after missing the playoffs the previous two years, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that his 7-4 team (at the time) after two home losses, would make the playoffs. The Giants responded by winning their final five regular season games to clinch the NFC’s top seed. However, many thought that the Giants wouldn’t be able to slow down the high-powered, second-seeded Minnesota Vikings in the 200 NFC championship game, on January 14, 2001. Although the Giants would get blown out by Baltimore, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV, they not only reached that game by slowing down Minnesota, but they completely shut the Vikings down, and shut them out. In a game they could have won 80-0 if they wanted to, the Giants completely dominated Minnesota on both sides of the ball in a 41-0 thrashing, after leading 34-0 at halftime. Vikings’ star wide receiver Randy Moss called it “the worst defeat in his life.” Though, stay tuned for later in the list for one that might have been tougher for Moss to swallow, even if the score was a lot closer.
#9) 2009: The Knicks Slowly Returning To Relevance
After the Knicks achieved much success in the 1990’s, but finished that decade the same way they completed the 1980’s –- without an NBA title — former Knicks’ head coach Jeff Van Gundy could see the Knicks’ impending decline coming well in advance. With the Knicks still over .500 (10-9), just 19 games into the 2000-2001 NBA season, Van Gundy resigned on December 8, 2001. The Knicks proved Van Gundy’s prophecy correct, going 22-43 after Van Gundy stepped aside, to finish that season 32-50 while failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 24 seasons. From that point, the Knicks, despite being the most highly valued NBA franchise financially, have remained irrelevant in the NBA. However, as the decade winds down, there appear to be real signs that the Knicks might finally be turning the corner back on the road to relevance and respectability –- which would be great for both city which houses basketball’s mecca, and for the NBA, which has always considered New York its biggest market. On April 2, 2008, the Donnie Walsh era began, and the Knicks have since been pointed in a better direction. By no means has Walsh made all of the perfect moves since he’s joined the Knicks, and he certainly has plenty of work still cut out for him. But, with the firing of former GM and head coach Isaiah Thomas, and the hiring of current Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni, Walsh has given the Knicks something they had lacked since the 1990’s –- an actual working blueprint for restoring success to the franchise. Walsh was been able to effectively clear cap space to possibly bring in top free agents, while developing a young core of supporting talent. While about half of the current team will likely not be part of the team next season, there are still several players on one of the NBA’s youngest rosters who will be part of the future and who have given reason for hope. With those players contributing significantly after a 1-9 start (tying the worst in franchise history) en route to a 3-14 mark through November, the Knicks are 9-5 in the final month of the decade, with one very winnable game left New Jersey before 2010. And, they’re no longer simply trying to outscore teams under D’Antoni, as they’ve returned to their 1990’s roots, holding teams under 100 points in their past 11 games, while compiling a 7-4 record during that stretch.