Can the '11 Giants match the '07 Giants?
The questions began minutes after the Giants defeated the Falcons on Sunday and remained a subject of endless fascination for media members who descended upon the Timex Performance Center this week.
How could we resist? The events of Jan. 20, 2008, were just recent enough that many of the key figures still are around, and just long ago enough to have taken on the gauzy glow of nostalgia.
This left the 14 Giants remaining from the upset of the Packers in the NFC Championship Game in an awkward position.
Some were willing to be dragged -- at times kicking and screaming -- down memory lane. Others hesitated, following the lead of coach Tom Coughlin.
Hey, Eli Manning, tell us about how cold it was that day! "It was chilly," he said after making the face he makes when he hears a question he does not like. "That's about all I remember."
OK, then. Let's dispense with history lessons and focus on what is important: Are these Giants good enough to do what those Giants did?
You can read several hundred words on that topic below, or you can save yourself some time by reading what defensive end Justin Tuck said after the Falcons game when asked to compare this Giants team to that one:
"We might be a better team -- quote, unquote -- just by the numbers. But I think Green Bay is better than they were in '07, too.''
That is debatable regarding both teams' defenses. The Giants struggled for much of this season and the Packers ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed per game (411.6).
But at the sport's most important position, each team has come a long way since four years ago this coming Friday.
Manning has evolved from a promising work in progress to a franchise-carrying force. The Packers traded in an aging, reckless future Hall of Famer for a rising, nearly flawless future Hall of Famer.
Let's put it this way: If Sunday's game goes into overtime, the Giants should not count on Aaron Rodgers throwing an interception to Corey Webster to set up the winning drive, as Brett Favre famously did.
The most interesting, and potentially important, comparison between the 2007 and '11 Giants is their defensive lines, where most of the key characters remain, minus Michael Strahan in his final season and plus Jason Pierre-Paul in his second.
Most general managers would take that trade. And most football people believe the only hope of stopping Rodgers will be getting the front four in his face.
What does Strahan say about all this comparison talk? "I think these are two totally different types of teams," he said.
"This year, you can lean on the offense to put points on the board, whereas at that point in 2007, Eli finally started to get his confidence in himself, but we were still a little unsure every game about what was going to happen with him."
Coughlin, an assistant for the Super Bowl-winning 1990 Giants, said Friday he couldn't recall everyone looking four years into the past then. But that was a different situation. The '86 Giants were a powerhouse; the '90 Giants were underdogs, led through the playoffs by a backup quarterback.
Fast-forward 21 years, and Strahan, David Tyree and other departed veterans of '07 have been asked for two weeks to compare the teams, and have responded with increasing reluctance.
Strahan explained why. "I understand the comparisons,'' he said, "but I wish this team would have their own history."
To do that, it will have to win as an underdog Sunday, win as an underdog again the following Sunday and win as a probable underdog again two Sundays after that. If they do, the '11 Giants won't have to answer questions about '07 anymore, and the '07 Giants will take a giant step back into history.
When someone asked Strahan if another improbable Lombardi Trophy would take away from the previous one, he said: "I don't think it diminishes that run. Winning a Super Bowl is being the best. It doesn't matter how you get there. I would be extremely happy for those guys and hope they can pull it off."