“History means nothing.”
With that sweeping statement, New York Giants Coach Bill Parcells answered those prognosticators--and they are numerous--who already have thrust his team into Super Bowl contention.
“Just because you were proficient at something a year ago means nothing,’ Parcells said. “You have to re-establish it every year.”
Parcells has some recent history on his side. As students of “Monday Night Football” will recall, the Giants looked less than invincible in losing to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-28, three days ago.
History now yields to hype as the Giants prepare for this week’s meeting with the Chargers at the Meadowlands.
“San Diego has the best offense I’ve seen since I’ve been in the National Football League,” Parcells said.
New York defensive end Leonard Marshall added: “The best in football, no doubt about it.”
The Chargers, of course, played one of their most spectacular games of the decade in defeating the Miami Dolphins, 50-28, Sunday.
San Diego Coach Don Coryell wasted no time throwing the superlatives back at the Giants.
“They could be the best defense we will see this year,” he said.
And assistant head coach Al Saunders got in on the war of compliments.
“Lawrence Taylor (Giant linebacker) is the prototype at his position,” Saunders said. “He is the best player among the best group of linebackers in pro football. He is the single linebacker in the league who requires so much special attention (from an offense). He is truly something special, one of the best ever.”
With all these bests and untouchables, a game of heroic dimensions must be in the offing.
If so, it would contrast sharply with Parcells’ perspective on the Giants’ opener.
“I was very disappointed in our play Monday,” Parcells said. “I don’t think we played well on defense, period. We missed tackles. We had a couple of missed assignments. I was really quite disappointed.”
The Giants may have the league’s second-best defense--they ranked behind only the Chicago Bears last season--but, obviously, they are not impregnable.
“We really didn’t expect to lose to Dallas,” Marshall said. “I was disgusted with the way I played and the way our entire defense played. (But) that gives us some motivation for this week.
“We know we can’t just line up and expect to win (every game). Who are we fooling? Look what happened to the Cardinals last year after they were picked in the same position as us this year, to win the NFC East.”
Parcells said the Chargers are better than the San Diego team that defeated the Giants, 41-34, in 1983.
“I think they have improved tremendously on defense. . . . They certainly look superior to what I have seen recently,” he said. “I know we were not a very good football team at all back then.”
Parcells said he wasn’t surprised by the San Diego rushing game, which generated a six-year high of 224 yards against Miami.
“Defenses may not be as run-conscious as they should be, and the Chargers exploit that,” he said.
“They have such tremendous balance, striking power and diversity in weapons. They would be difficult for anyone to beat if they play like they did against Miami. They present a real challenge for our defense--or any defense.”
The New York defense is similar to that of the Los Angeles Rams in being simple in design, according to Coryell.
The New York defense is also similar in design to the defense formerly employed by the Chargers, with one exception. “They have the people to play it,” Coryell said.
After deliberating for two days, the Chargers decided to put defensive lineman Terry Unrein on injured reserve, thus keeping quarterback Mark Herrmann on the active roster and eligible to play as soon as he is healthy.
Unrein, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery for cartilage damage suffered Sunday, will be out at least a month and could miss the rest of the season. Doctors will examine his knee in two weeks.
As insurance, the Chargers have signed veteran defensive lineman Lester Williams, who was waived by the New England Patriots.
Williams, a first-round draft choice in 1982, became expendable when the Patriots drafted nose tackle Mike Ruth this year.
The Chargers are down to four healthy defensive linemen who were with them through training camp--Lee Williams, Chuck Ehin, Leslie O’Neal and Earl Wilson. The fifth lineman, Dee Hardison, was picked up last week after being waived by the Giants.
The Chargers think that Herrmann, who has a strained ligament in his knee, will be able to compete before Unrein. Thus, the decision was made not to place him on the injured list.
“There’s a good chance he could be ready in two weeks,” Coryell said. “A quarterback is not like other players. It’s a little easier for a quarterback to play if he’s not completely healthy, as Dan (Fouts) has proved in the past.”
Until Herrmann is ready, the No. 2 job falls to Tom Flick, who won’t get any extra rehearsals in practice.
“With the complexity of our offense and the things we have to work on, the majority of the preparation time has to go to the starter,” Saunders said. “Our object is always the same: to score more points than the opposition, and to keep Dan healthy, not necessarily in that order.”