Lawrence Taylor became the greatest Giants player ever, but as a rookie, his defensive coordinator liked to remind him that the team had other options when it drafted him.
"The next best dominant linebacker was Hugh Green," Bill Parcells said of the 1981 draft class. "It became one of my ways to get after Taylor’s [butt]."
Green was selected seventh overall by the Buccaneers. While Taylor was tearing up the NFL from his very first weeks on the field, Green was doing pretty well for himself, too. And because the Giants were playing the teams in the NFC West that season, they were watching a lot of tape of teams facing Green and the Bucs.
"We’re watching the Rams against Tampa and Hugh Green makes a play," said Parcells, who was in his first year as defensive coordinator for the Giants. "I said, ‘Man, who’s that 53?’ Taylor answers the question. ‘That’s my man, Hugh Green.’ "
Parcells kept watching. When Green intercepted a pass, he said: "We haven’t seen much of that around here." They watched more tape. "Hey, there’s that 53 again," Parcells said. "Man, he looks good."
By this point, Parcells said, the veterans in the room, including Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelly, had caught on to what their coach was doing. Taylor, the rookie, hadn’t yet figured it out.
Two weeks later, the defense was back to watching tape of the Bucs, this time in preparation for the 49ers.
"And I’m like, ‘Huh, there’s that 53 again,’ " Parcells said. "Finally, Green makes another play and I’m like, ‘Man, that son of a bitch is really good.’ "
That was all Taylor could take.
"Taylor shrieks out, ‘Then why didn’t you draft that son of a bitch if you love him so much?’ " Parcells recalled. "Everybody in the room is on the floor laughing and the lights go on and there’s Taylor, he’s sitting two seats from me. And he can’t do anything but laugh because everybody else is just on the floor laughing."
While the episode ended in a good chuckle, Parcells had figured out which buttons he could push to get the most from Taylor. They were pushed for the next decade.
"That shows you something about Taylor," Parcells reflected. "He didn’t like anybody saying this guy is better than you are."
With Bob Glauber