Strahan Walks Away After 15 Years, 5 More to HOF
Two former NFL players will forever be linked, first from a late-season sack in 2001 and next in five years when both will undoubtedly be first ballot entries into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Brett Favre announced his retirement first, and now Michael Strahan has followed him into 'then afterlife,'
Back on that cold afternoon in East Rutherford, New Jersey, against the Green Bay Packers, Strahan broke the single-season sack record with Mark Gastineau - the player who held the mark - watching from the Giants' sideline. Good friend Favre appeared to take a dive and give Strahan the sack, but neither player ever admitted as such. Regardless, 22 1/2 sacks is an incredible number and still stands.
Strahan contemplated retirement last year, and held out of training camp and the entire preseason. He was deservingly criticized for doing so, choosing to remain in California trying to make up his mind while his teammates sweated through two-a-days at the University of Albany. When he did return, injuries on the Giants' defensive line forced him into extended action right away in Week 1 at Dallas.
After shaking off the rust, Strahan appeared to be in excellent condition and was a major contributor to the shocking Super Bowl championship season. Playing in all 16 regular season games, Strahan recorded 57 tackles (46 solo), 9 sacks, 11 assists and 1 fumble recovered.
He was asked in the post-game press conference in Arizona if he would be coming back, and Strahan would not commit either way. There was speculation that the defensive lineman would announce his retirement during the team's recent ring ceremony, with the entire organization basically in attendance. When that didn't happen, it appeared that Strahan was coming back for at least one more season. But shortly thereafter, he made up his mind and walked away from the game he adored.
"It has been a great 15 years," the 36 year-old said during his retirement speech. "I have had a phenomenal career. I have had the opportunity to play with some of the greatest players in the history of this game, and have played for some of the greatest coaches in the history of this game."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin realizes the ripple effect Strahan's retirement leaves on his team. "There is an outstanding football player who is no longer a part of our team so anytime a player of that magnitude moves on an makes the choice to retire, no question there is a void to be filled, he said. "Young people are going to have greater opportunities as well and hopefully will step up and meet that."
Players such as Mathias Kiawanuka, Dave Tollefson and Renaldo Wynn are who Coughlin is referring to, and they all must hone their game to make Strahan's absence less noticeable, a tall task indeed.
Just looking at his career numbers, Strahan will be remembered as one of the best defensive ends of all time. He is fifth on the all-time total sack list with 141.5, and made 868 tackles (655 solo). Strahan also hold team records with 216 games played and also made 9 1/2 sacks in the postseason. There were only three teams in the NFL that Strahan did not register a sack against (Colts, Steelers and Ravens) and he also made seven Pro Bowls.
The Class of 2013 will certainly be a special one. Brett Favre, and now Michael Strahan will head that group, just as they did for their respective teams all these years. And there won't be any controversy this time around.