Yes, Tiki Barber looks and sounds horrible on television, and yes, he’s handled his retirement and post-football career rather gracelessly, but we shouldn’t, in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLII, take this as our cue to revise history.
I’ve been a New York Giants fan since the coaching days of Ray Perkins – this dates back to the very early eighties if you don’t know, which you probably don’t – and Barber’s definitely on my short list of Best Giants Ever. Others on this list, in no particular order, include Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Mark Bavaro, Phil Simms and Carl Banks. I don’t particularly admire Michael Strahan as a human being – I’ve heard some shit – but the guy’s been double teamed on virtually every play from scrimmage for the past fifteen years, which has to count for something.
In Barber’s case, I think what all these people who’ve suddenly become Giants fans since last week are failing to realize – since most of them hadn’t seen a Giants game since the last time they played in the Super Bowl (2000) – is that he literally carried the team on his back for seven seasons. For my money, the guy was the best player in the league for three years running, from 2004-06. There wasn’t anyone else in the NFL like him. Nobody.
Totaling over 2,000 all-purpose yards for three straight years – combined rushing and receiving – tends to make a very valid claim for this, and after watching every game Barber played for his entire career, I can say, with authority, that there wasn’t another player in the league who assumed such a substantial chunk of his team’s offensive load. If you watched enough games, you eventually came to realize that he touched the ball on just about every fucking play.
To say the Giants are in the Super Bowl because Barber is gone is ridiculous. To claim they’re better off without him on the team is asinine. And as a lifelong Giants fan, we sure as hell could use him a week from Sunday.