NEW YORK GIANTS pass rushers have been terrorizing Philadelphia since Reagan. In the last 27 seasons, either Lawrence Taylor or Michael Strahan has lined up against the Eagles every year, with fire in their eyes and mayhem in their hearts.
So, how to put this?
Strahan was a miserable day at the office.
panic in the streets.
Strahan beat you up.
LT embarrassed you.
The quarterback ended up prone either way - Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, all of them - but it was different. Taylor was just scary, wild and wildly unpredictable (and that was before we even knew about the drugs). Strahan was more of an understated assassin, a familiar face, the gap-toothed guy next door who won an awful lot of battles over the years (except in the divorce court).
Now, Strahan is retiring. He announced it yesterday, 4 months after the Giants won the Super Bowl. He called team owner John Mara, then told FOXSports.com, "It was important that my teammates knew which way I was going before they got on the field to start the work to defend our title. It's time. I'm done."
It is quite a lineage of havoc, from Taylor to Strahan. One thing the two of them shared was a love of/lust for playing the Eagles. They both had more sacks against Philadelphia than anybody - 25 for Taylor, 21 1/2 for Strahan. Even though they played the Cowboys and Redskins (and Cardinals, back in the day) just as often, they almost always managed to squeeze a few extra snot bubbles out of the Eagles.
Snot bubbles; lovely term, just perfect, an LT-ism to describe the result of a kill shot delivered on a quarterback. It started way back in 1981, when Taylor was a rookie, when he had 9 1/2 sacks that don't even count in the record book because sacks didn't become an official NFL stat until 1982.
But from then to now, the Giants' pass rush has tortured the Eagles - and that is through good years and bad years and worse years. For 27 years, it has been led by one of these two singular talents. It is the dominant feature of this rivalry, this adversity the Eagles always have to figure out a way to overcome. Even on the days when Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan held his own against Strahan, it was a brutal business.
LT played until 1993 - Stra-han's rookie season. Now, finally, Strahan is leaving.
"Everyone talks about that 'dog' in you," McNabb said yesterday, talking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room. "Not everyone has that 'dog' in you, to be the best at what he does . . . Year in and year out, you know what you're going to get from him . . . It's not like 1 year he took a year off. Every year was consistent."
You check the old ledgers and the prominent number is 12 1/2, neither even nor odd. It provides an eerie, painful touch of symmetry to the plight of three distinguished gentlemen of the Philadelphia Eagles football franchise.
Because Taylor sacked Jaworski 12 1/2 times in his career. And Taylor also sacked Cunningham 12 1/2 times in his career. And Strahan sacked McNabb 12 1/2 times in his career.
(Somewhere, someone is running to play those numbers in that well-known lottery, the Pick 6 1/2.)
For 27 seasons now, the string has been unbroken. In all of that time, either Taylor or Strahan has lined up twice a year to greet the Eagles' signal-caller of the day, and to do it with a distinctive snarl. Jaworski. Cunningham. McNabb. They are No. 1 on Taylor's and Strahan's individual hit lists. The three most prominent faces of a franchise all wear the biggest blue tattoos.
"He had a long career, very solid career, Hall of Fame-type career," said Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who did his share of helping out in the blocking of Strahan. "I'm glad not to face him two times a year, though. He's a great player. It's hard to come up with words to describe the type of player he is. Great player. Long career. Glad we're not playing him anymore, though."
It will be the universal sentiment, even among those who cannot possibly remember all the way back to when this started. Twenty-seven seasons. You wonder if this might really be the end of a dominant theme in the life of a rivalry.
But, well, who are we kidding?
(Note to self: Continue practicing the spelling of O-S-I U-M-E-N-Y-I-O-R-A.) *
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