GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Now that Super Bowl XLII has come and gone and your mind has been effectively blown, open it up. Open your mind and look not at the impossibility of what we witnessed Sunday night, but at the possibility of what we might witness for years to come.
Did we just see the coming of the NFL's next dynasty?
And is it the New York Giants?
Two days ago this was a mostly laughable concept. I understand that. But two days ago Eli Manning hadn't yet produced a Super Bowl fourth quarter worthy of Joe Montana. Two days ago Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora hadn't looked like the most disruptive pair of defensive ends since Harvey Martin and Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Two days ago Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw weren't Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. They were just Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, Mr. Who and Mr. Huh.
Today all of those guys are Super Bowl champions.
And tomorrow they'll enter the prime of their career.
â€¢ Eli Manning is 27. Tuck is 24, Umenyiora 26. Jacobs is 25, Bradshaw 21.
â€¢ Tight end Kevin Boss, who trucked Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison on a 45-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter, is 24.
â€¢ The starting five on the New York offensive line averages a shade over 27 years of age.
â€¢ The oldest linebacker, Antonio Pierce, is 29.
â€¢ The most talented members of the secondary are rookie cornerback Aaron Ross and fourth-year safety Gibril Wilson.
â€¢ The defensive tackle who sacked Tom Brady on the Patriots' final, futile possession? Jay Alford. He's a rookie.
This team isn't going anywhere, people.
The Giants have some old pieces, but all teams have those. Not counting punter Jeff Feagles, whose position is the easiest to replace, the oldest key piece to this puzzle is 15-year veteran Michael Strahan, who might retire.
As good as he is -- and Strahan is a possible Hall of Famer who was active and tireless Sunday -- Strahan can be replaced by Tuck, who would have been a fine choice for Super Bowl MVP. Tuck sacked Brady twice, hit him a few more times, forced a fumble and was the best player on a defense that held New England's record-breaking offense to a shocking 14 points.
Tuck could have been the MVP, but Manning was a fine choice, too. After playing putridly for three quarters -- his quarterback rating entering the fourth was 44.4 -- Manning was every bit as good as his MVP-winning older brother, Peyton, in the final 15 minutes. In the most pressure-packed quarter of his career, Eli was 9-for-14 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He danced out of sacks, muscled away from defensive linemen and made gutsy throws deep down the field. He was a little bit Fran Tarkenton, a little bit Brett Favre, and every bit a Super Bowl MVP.
And this was just his fourth season in the NFL. Older brother Peyton's best years were his seventh, eighth and ninth. Troy Aikman hit his prime in his fifth season. Joe Montana's best season came when he was 33.
Eli Manning is 27.
Eli has never impressed me a great deal, at least not to the point where he should be mentioned in the same story with quarterbacks like Favre, Aikman, Montana and older brother Peyton. But he was obviously the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2004 for a reason -- he has great genes and the results from Super Bowl XLII speak for themselves. No NFL dynasty has come without dynamic play at quarterback, and Eli Manning appears to offer that.
To stay atop the NFL, though, the Giants will need to shore up their receiving corps. Amani Toomer is nearing the end of his career, and 30-year-old Plaxico Burress has the knees and ankles of a much older man. Tight end Jeremy Shockey has trade value. Perhaps he can be used -- since the Giants didn't need him in the playoffs and actually were better once he was injured -- as bait for a receiver or a cornerback given the advanced age of R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison.
But that's about it. Otherwise the Giants are set at quarterback, running back, fullback (Madison Hedgecock), tight end, the offensive and defensive lines and linebacker. And NFC championship-winning kicker Lawrence Tynes is only 29.
The more I think about it, the more I think the biggest challenges to the Giants' throne will come from within their own kingdom. Coach Tom Coughlin is a tough, grinding SOB, although he loosened up this season and had to like the result. Even if Coughlin stays relaxed (for him), New York's unforgiving fan base is always one bad mood away from turning on this team and making the Giants wish they could play all their games away from home.
With all of New York behind them, though, the Giants could achieve sustained greatness. That's a sentence I couldn't have written two days ago, but all of a sudden it's a sentence, and a concept, that must be taken seriously.
I think they will be good, I think next year they won't be so good, but I bet they contend 2-3 years down the road.
Keep in mind this team went 10-6 during the regular season and are in the most consistently competitive division in the NFL. If Eli is consistent from now on, maybe they could be up there next year, I just don't think it is the case, but I thought the same about Romo.
If sense were common, everyone would have it.
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