Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
DRAFT DAYS HAVE HAD THEIR SHARE OF NIGHTMARES, TOO
Giant fans might point
to 1979, when the Giants picked quarterback Phil Simms in the first round of the
draft as the best day in franchise history.
Others might move ahead just a couple of years to 1981, when they chose linebacker
Lawrence Taylor as their first round selection. Still others might select 2004,
when the trade winds struck and the Giants came away with quarterback Eli Manning
in the first round.
And a few of the
older guys might point to 1951, when a running back from SMU named Kyle Rote turned
into the team's premier pick. Or the following year when another running back
- a kid named Frank Gifford from USC - became the team's first selection.
All are welcome, valid votes, and nothing wrong can be found with any of them,
because what did anybody know at the time those selections were made?
But the worst day in the Giants' first-round drafting history? No, not 1964 when
they took a running back from Oklahoma named Joe Don Looney; no, not 10 years
later, when the pick turned out to be a tackle named John Hicks, who ate better
than he played and ultimately ate himself out of the NFL; and not in (2002) when
the running back Ron Dayne turned in his No. 1 draft card, and not even 2003,
when a defensive tackle from the University of Miami named William Joseph proved
without a doubt that he couldn't play the game.
You have to dig a little and go back to 1965, when the Giants owned the very first
draft pick in the league, and they used it to select a 6-2, 220-pound running
back from Auburn named Tucker Frederickson. Not that Tuck was a poor choice -
he played six years for the Giants and finished with 651 carries for 2,209 yards
and nine touchdowns.
The problem was
this: The Chicago Bears had the next two choices, the second and third in that
draft, and they selected a running back named Gale Sayers and a middle linebacker
named Dick Butkus.
Both, of course,
are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and just imagine how their presence in Yankee
Stadium and as road warriors would have impacted the team. "I remained friendly
with Tucker through the years," said the late Wellington Mara much later.
"He was a gentleman, a wonderful person and a great athlete. But we both
reflected on what might have been if the Bears held that first pick and we had
‘settled' on Sayers and Butkus."
So now we are getting ever closer
to the Giants' 2018 draft - a memorable moment of truth since they have the second
overall pick and only the Cleveland Browns, who are 1-31 for the last two seasons,
will be able to snatch away an outstanding player.
They won't, of course, but will the Giants find a Sayers or a Butkus, or a potential
Hall of Fame quarterback or running back, or a Lawrence Taylor or a Michael Strahan?
Not that the 1965 draft
was another flop. The Giants actually reeled in many top-quality players that
year, including Frederickson, safety Spider Lockhart, cornerback Henry Carr, running
back Chuck Mercein, cornerback Willie Williams, running back Ernie Koy, linebacker
Olen Underwood, linebacker Jim Carroll and running back Smith Reed.
But oh, the thought of Sayers or Butkus on the team still lingers to this day.
And will the Giants make a similar choice in April? One that will provide memories
and statistics and victories and Hall of Fame consideration? Or will they take
another William Joseph or Ron Dayne?
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