This is the fourth of an eight-part series analyzing each Giants draft choice.

Zak DeOssie, Round 4 (116):

Of the two Giants Super Bowl winning teams, history gives a lot more respect to the ’86 version. On ESPN’s list of the all-time greatest Super Bowl teams, the ’86 team pulls in at 8th, while the ’90 team pulls in at 33rd (and the 2000 team, which they refer to as “a completely uninspiring and forgettable team” [ouch] pulls in at 78th, third to last on a list that was compiled before last year’s Super Bowl.)

I’m not disputing that the ’86 team was better, but not by nearly so much as people claim. Why no respect for the ’90 Giants? Maybe it all comes from the misconception that the Giants were lucky that Scott Norwood missed that field goal, that they benefited from another team’s fuck-up, that the wrong team won the Super Bowl because some piss-ant kicker choked the game away.

This is bullshit, and here’s why: During the 1990 season, Norwood had gone just 1-for-5 on field goals over 40 yards on grass. As of the :08 mark of Super Bowl XXV, he had never hit a field goal as long as 47 yards on grass.

Given this, it was incumbent on the Bills offense to move the ball into reasonable field goal range, while it was incumbent on the Giants defense to keep the Bills out. This was the real battle, and the Giants won it. By the time Norwood got on the field, the battle had already been lost by his offense.

Norwood could have made up for the failure of the Bills offense by coming through with an extraordinary effort on that field goal, one that, given his abilities, would have been completely out of line with his prior track record. But he didn’t come through with this extraordinary effort, but rather a normal effort, which, for him, from 47-yards on grass, amounted to a missed field goal.

To the casual, non-Giant fan, the letdown quality of the missed field goal – that dramatic moment when it’s up… it’s got the distance… and it’s… noooooo good – obscures the fact that nobody had any reason to expect Norwood to make the kick in the first place.

So did this missed field goal represent a failure for Norwood? No, because he just performed the way he should have been expected to. To say that Norwood choked is like saying that Rey Ordonez choked because he didn’t get a hit with the bases loaded and two outs: the odds simply weren’t with him. Was it a failure for the Bills offense? Yes, that it was.

But most importantly, it was a triumph for the Giants defense, which, masterminded by a mad little genius named Bill Belichick, came through in the clutch and did what they had to do.


Anyway, let’s keep talking about the under-appreciated 1990 New York Football Giants, who, to remind you, ranked 33rd on ESPN’s list of the top teams ever to appear in a Super Bowl and generally garner no respect.

But look, our 13-3 record that year is certainly nothing to sneeze at, nor was our +124 point differential, which was only 11 points worse than the +135 differential of the ’86 team.

And while the ’86 team steamrolled through the playoffs, outscoring their opponents by a combined 105-23, the ’90 version blew out the Bears in the first round before beating, albeit by a combined three points, two of the strongest teams of the era in the Niners and the Bills, both of whom easily would have ranked in the top 15 on ESPN’s list had they won that Super Bowl.

Quick: which of the Giants Super Bowl teams had the better defense? Was it the ’86 version that featured LT in his MVP year, Hall of Famer Harry Carson, and Carl Banks in his prime? Or was it the ’90 defense, which featured a similar cast of characters, but is often thought of as the last gasp of a once great unit that precipitously declined shortly thereafter?

Well, if you anticipated the obvious unexpected answer here, you were right. Yes, it was the ’90 Giants defense, who ranked first in fewest points allowed in giving up 13.2 points per game, slightly better than the ’86 team, which ranked second in the league in allowing 14.8 points per game.


All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I’m excited about Zak DeOssie, whose father Steve DeOssie (who, in my fourth grade class, was often confused with WWF’s Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase), played inside linebacker on that superior 1990 Giants defense that brought us that sweet, unexpected championship.

The strange thing about DeOssie the Younger is that despite his NFL pedigree and Brown education (how did Steve DeOssie’s son get into Brown, by the way?) he enters the league as an athletic, but raw product. The fact that he is right now more athlete than football player belies the common conception about sons of pros: usually these guys have the instincts and smarts; if they’re held back by anything, it’s that despite their parents, they didn’t hit the jackpot in the genetic lottery.

Basically what we have in DeOssie is a hard-ass, hustling athlete who currently lacks instinct and technique. His speed, rangy frame, and aggressiveness will help us immediately on special teams – the scouting report describes him as “a capable wedge-buster,” which gives an indication of his balls-to-the-wall style. He is also a long-snapper (like his pops), and if he proves up to the task, he could allow us to get rid of one-dimensional long-snapper Ryan Kuehl and perhaps employ a kickoff specialist.

But it’s an open question whether he’s ever gonna become skilled enough to be a good outside linebacker. The scouting report says that he “lacks a good feel for reading keys and will take false steps,” that he “needs to diagnose the in-line blocking schemes better as he can be caught up in traffic,” that he “has a tough time diagnosing the inside rush lanes,” and that he “is slow to react to the pass.”

(The same scouting report said that DeOssie’s frame – which has the potential to fill out an additional 20 pounds – may be conducive to a move down to defensive end, so we’ll see if linebacker will be his permanent home.)

Who knows what type of player DeOssie will turn into, but having athletic, kamikaze guys on the roster who can make sticks on special teams never hurts, nor does it ever hurt the Giants to have able-bodied linebackers – DeOssie will join Chase Blackburn in pushing our two projected starters at OLB, Kawika Mitchell and Gerris Wilkinson.

The thinking behind this pick was also interesting, given that we had just drafted the undersized but instinctive and productive Alford a round earlier. If drafting Alford in the third round was a vote for instincts over physique, than drafting DeOssie in the fourth round is the opposite. And I have no problem with combining the two approaches.