Michael Strahan, the most gregarious, liveliest, loquacious and perhaps smartest defensive end in football is retiring. The Giants are holding a press conference tomorrow to make the announcement official.
The Giants' loss is the NFC's gain.
The Giants took Strahan with their second-round pick in the 1993 amateur draft -- a bit of a reach considering that he played at a small school (Texas Southern) with minimal decent competition. But after a year-long apprenticeship in 1993, Strahan excelled. By 1995, he was basically a 60 tackle per year player -- a good total for a defensive end. From 1997-2005, he was a seven-time Pro Bowler with six 10+ sack seasons and four with more than 70 tackles. The Giants' seasons collapsed in 2004 and 2006 when he lost significant playing time to injury. And the Giants' defense transformed from horrid to strong after Strahan regained his playing shape in 2007 -- the Giants allowed 80 points and 11 touchdowns in their first two games as Strahan played his way back to shape after a training camp holdout; by the end of the year, Big Blue was among the top 10 teams in total defense.
Strahan was THE leader of the Giants. NFL Films has great cuts of Strahan in last year's playoffs exhorting the team, telling the offensive line how "17-14, 17-14 will be the final score in this game; if you believe it, it will happen" during the Super Bowl. He also took a young player, from a small school, also a second-round draftee, under his large wing . . . and Osi Umenyiora is the Pro Bowl caliber heir to Strahan's mantle.
So here's to Big Mike -- a complete defensive end who could bury the quarterback and defend the run. In five years or so, we'll hopefully hear him give the speech of a lifetime at his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.