Which Giants team is better, 2000 or 2004 version?

Hey Giants fan, you ready for a good debate? TGI sure is, as Palmer and Schwartz battle it out over which Giants club is better, 2000 or 2004?

Ken Palmer: Finally we have a topic where you could possibly keep up with me. Although I highly doubt it. This year's club is better, through and through. They're smarter, more athletic, more talented, more disciplined and of course better coached. While Jim Fassel gets a lot of the credit for turning New York's season around and driving their bus to the playoffs in 2000, Tom Coughlin has already done more with this team in less time. This was a Super Bowl caliber team last year that Fassel could only milk four wins out of. Coughlin has de-Fasselized these Giants and has them headed to the playoffs.

Paul Schwartz: It's just so easy to bust on Jim Fassel, isn't it? Well, Kenny, I'm pushing my chips to the center of the table so listen up. Fassel in 2000 was a nice guy who finished first. What a concept! He pushed all the right buttons that year. Go ahead and make fun of his "guarantee'' but it ain't bragging if you can back it up. Jim's Dandies won seven straight after he made his promise, including two rousing playoff victories. Has any coach before or since gotten as much out of Kerry Collins as Fassel did? Collins was so much more dangerous with that mighty right arm than Kurt Warner (four touchdowns in his first seven games) is for this year's offense, which is too reliant on Tiki Barber. And, at least for one season, Fassel created Thunder and Lightning and got some mileage out of Ron Dayne. Coughlin can't get a damn yard out of Dayne and Fassel somehow got 770 out of him.

KP: Yeah, just like Fassel got 1,006 yards out of Barber in 2000 and Coughlin will probably get close to twice as much out of number 21 this year. Barber had 748 yards through seven games. The Giants in 2000 caught fire when it mattered, got on a crazy streak and made it all the way to the playoffs. But what happened when they got there? Gentleman Jim had the entire organization so spooked by the mighty Ravens that by the time kickoff rolled around they never had a chance. There's no way this club under Coughlin would get blown out on the grandest stage of all. Sure these 2004 Giants stumbled against the Lions, which also happened in 2000, but they responded by routing the Vikings in Minnesota, not the Cardinals in Phoenix, as Fassel's boys did in 2000. It's plain for all to see that this year's version has a lot more offensive talent than they did then, most noticeably at RB, TE and QB; even the WRs are more experienced.

PS: Look, I know you sometimes look at the game as some sort of Fantasy Football deal but it's what's up front that counts. You want to go player-by-player with me across the line? You'll be sorry. Just look at the 2000 offensive line: Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker, Dusty Zeigler, Ron Stone and Luke Petitgout. There was a little bit of everything: Experience, power, youth and a real chemistry. It was far, far better than the 2004 line. And this year's defensive line, while a solid mix rotated nicely by coordinator Tim Lewis, doesn't have anyone as tough as good 'ol Hammer, Keith Hamilton. Plus, Cornelius Griffin back then was a terror as a rookie and don't forget, Michael Strahan was four years younger. I won't insult your intelligence by comparing Howard Cross at tight end to Jeremy Shockey, but you have to admit that Cross was a beast as a blocker and this year's Giants could sure use some of that.

KP: I guess I'll give you the O-line, but it's not the mismatch you make it out to be. Just because David Diehl and Chris Snee haven't been around 10 years and aren't go-to guys for the media doesn't mean that they can't play and aren't performing well. The up-tempo, more sophisticated nature of this offense also hides a few of the OL's warts. Kurt Warner is smarter and more accurate than Collins, who threw 16 INTs that year. Through seven games, Warner only had two picks. Coughlin has reinvented Barber, taking him from an above-average player to a league MVP candidate and Jeremy Shockey is capable of dominating at any time. These quick, exciting Giants on offense are more effective, fun to watch and plain and simply better. And that goes for the defense too, where Norman Hand and Fred Robbins might not be as tough as your boy Hammer, but they sure play a lot better.

PS: The 2000 team was more explosive and more dominant. The defense amassed 44 sacks. At linebacker, no one now comes close to approaching the inspiration and excellence of Jessie Armstead and today's Giants would kill for Micheal Barrow at middle linebacker. Jason Sehorn at cornerback could catch the ball on interceptions with one hand better than the Wills (Allen and Peterson) can with two. Remember, this defense was orchestrated by John Fox, and no one put his players in better positions to succeed. You want to talk special teams? Fine. In 2000, Ron Dixon was the kick returner and he was a terror, unlike this year's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust return game. By the way, think Dixon (Mr. alarm clock) and Coughlin would have had a warm and fuzzy relationship? The Giants in 2000 weren't a great team but they played great at the right time. Come back and talk to me when this year's team has a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl appearance.

KP: Thanks for making the Ron Dixon point for me. The fact that Fassel continued to put up with a troublemaking malcontent like Dixon is yet another reason why these Giants are better. Dixon would be long gone under Coughlin, and everyone else would have sat up and taken notice. I'll take Barrett Green on the upside of his career over Jessie on the downside any day, and it's great that Sehorn can catch, if only he could have covered consistently. Kevin Lewis? Unproven? Yes. Unknown? Indeed. Uncredentialed? Probably. Capable of making more impact plays in a game than Mike Barrow did in a season? Absolutely! By the way, Gibril Wilson's pretty good at strong safety, not to insinuate that Sam Garnes wasn't or anything like that. Fox did a great job; Tim Lewis is doing even better. All those turnovers have sure come in handy, huh? These Giants are headed to the Super Bowl and when they get there, they won't embarrass themselves. Why? Because they're much better than their 2000 brethren.

PS: These Giants are headed to the Super Bowl? Isn't it bit early to be drinking? I hope that statement is the result of plenty of hops and barley and not something you thought of in a rare sober moment. The only way these Giants are going to the Super Bowl is if Coughlin invites the whole team to his former Jacksonville home and pays off the ushers to sneak them in. Look, there's no reason to discredit this year's team, which is one of the early-season surprises in the NFL. But I remember sitting there in Tampa, not able to believe the Giants in 2000 made it to the Super Bowl. Then I remembered. They were the team that trounced the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC Championship Game. You think Coughlin would ever loosen the shackles long enough to allow such a feat? It would be an excellent game if the '00 and '04 Giants matched up, but the 2000 club would definitely win.

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