It was 30 years ago that the Giants had their first Super Bowl season, a memorable year which is the subject of Jerry Barca’s new book “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” (St. Martin’s Press).
“This team has an indelible place in sports history,” Barca said. “They launched the Gatorade bath, they had the first NFL player saying ‘I’m going to Disney World’ after winning the Super Bowl. There were great characters in LT, Phil Simms and Bill Parcells which everyone knows, but also a ton of great characters people may not know.”
When the Giants win, it usually comes as an underdog. The 1990 NFC Championship game win in San Francisco and Super Bowl XXV against the Bills. The 2007 and 2011 playoff runs culminating with wins over the Patriots. But the 1986 team was dominant, going 14-2, winning two playoff games by a combined score of 66-3, and then scoring 30 points in the second half of Super Bowl XXI against the Broncos.
There was a lot of losing before that championship season. After losing the 1963 NFL title game, New York wouldn’t make the playoffs until 1981. The 1981 playoff win came against the Eagles, the team that beat the Giants in the infamous 1978 Miracle At The Meadowlands game.
“The fumble was rock bottom and the low point of the franchise and then came the ride up,” Barca said. “They were dominant but it took years to get that way. This was a winning foundation for the teams that came later. The Giants have been winners since this team made them winners in the modern NFL.”
The Giants had once been a proud franchise that had faltered and came out on top again. Barca had written a book about the 1988 Notre Dame championship team that restored Fighting Irish pride after a mediocre decade. “It’s interesting when iconic, flagship teams have their down years,” Barca said. “There’s a journalistic question of what does it take to get back on top?”
Although the 1986 team is the subject of “Big Blue Wrecking Crew,” Barca takes time to focus on the teams that came before and all the pieces that came into place. General manager George Young, head coach Ray Perkins and a staff including Parcells and Bill Belichick looked to rebuild a dormant team.
“I think everything has to be put in context to tell readers why things are the way they are,” Barca said. “We know what happened in the games. My job has to be Wikipedia-proof and google-proof. I’ve got to give readers more than what they can look up somewhere. This goes into Parcells’ background and how the first Giants scout to see Simms was once a special agent in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover.”
There were a lot of breaks along the way. The Saints had the first pick in the 1981 draft but passed on Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms was sitting on the bench as Scott Brunner played and asked Parcells to be traded. And Parcells was almost fired after the 1983 season in favor of Howard Schnellenberger, who had led the Miami Hurricanes to a national championship.
“Parcells realizing who he had to be as a coach is enormous,” Barca said.
There were also fortunate draft day stories of Joe Morris and Mark Bavaro. Bavaro, the tight end known as “Rambo” was drafted in the fourth round. “There are so many little things along the way that could’ve stopped this from happening,” Barca said.