What do we – the Giants – have to be thankful for?

<b>Paul Schwartz:</b> Thanksgiving has just come and gone and I can still smell the turkey, taste the stuffing and feel on my waistline the pumpkin pie. The holiday season is upon us, with the malls teeming with shoppers and colorful decorations lighting up neighborhoods.

All this good cheer makes it that much more difficult to think about Kenny Palmer and how one-sided these little debates we've had all season have been. I think I'll get Kenny a Football for Dummies book to stuff into his stocking. Oops, I'm drifting into negative thoughts. Rather than beat him up again, this week let's allow the healing to begin as we consider what we're thankful for with the Giants.

Ken Palmer: Nice shot, Paul. Getting a little brash, aren't we, considering most TGI readers are still laughing over your defense of Jim Fassel in last week's paper. Yes, the holiday season is upon us, and we do have plenty to be thankful for and excited about. While the season is in the tank and even Tom Coughlin is going to need an awful lot of eggnog to convince himself that the Giants will play beyond Jan. 2, there are a lot of good things going on in New York and it's up to us to point them out. If there's one thing I've learned from Paul all season it's to state the obvious - over and over again. With that said, I can say that I'm most thankful that I've gotten to know Kurt Warner the little bit that I have. He's a true professional and gentleman in every sense of those words. I've never met a pro athlete on any level with as much class, dignity and humility. Believe me, Paul could learn an awful lot from the gracious Mr. Warner. As sportswriters, it's hammered into our heads to be objective and unbiased. With Warner, it's impossible. I want this guy to land and succeed somewhere else next season almost as much as I want Penn State in a bowl game.

PS: You made a good choice. See, being cordial isn't that hard, is it? I'm thankful for Tiki Barber and not just because he's having a career year, moved over 1,000 rushing yards after only 10 games and has cured the fumbling problems that set him back the past few years. You hang around this business for enough years and you get a sense for many different athletes in many different sports. Few, if any, are the complete package the way Tiki is. He's honest without being petty; he's insightful without being self-absorbed. You just know life after football will be good for Tiki no matter what he decides to do.

KP: Surprisingly good choice, Paul. That's about as nice as I can get. If Warner is 1, Barber is a very close 1A. Tiki is terrific in all regards. But Tim Lewis might be 1B. He's sharp, witty and as genuine as they come. The biggest regret I'll take from this season (Besides not finding a more capable opponent for 'Double Coverage') is that Lewis has been off-limits to the media for all but three days since he was hired on Jan. 9, two days after Coughlin was brought on board. It's plain to see that Lewis knows more about the game of football than most in this business and he doesn't mind sharing his knowledge and politely educating in the process. I'd be lying if I said I'm not counting the days till Coughlin makes his assistants available again. I know I'll be making a beeline for Lewis.

PS: Another good one. You're getting the hang of this. Here's one that I'm sure you'll agree with. It's hard not to appreciate seeing Wellington Mara on the scene at Giants Stadium, every day, every game, always observing, never intruding. He's the owner and can do what he wants, but he lets his coaches coach and his general manager manage. When perspective is needed, Mr. Mara is there to offer it, gladly. Something as subtle as walking over to a player and patting him on the shoulder, or offering a kind word of reassurance, makes a world of difference. How about when he was asked if he was looking forward to Eli Manning's first game and Mr. Mara said "yes, until the first interception.'' He's got a way with words and he uses them judiciously.

KP: Can't beat Mr. Mara. No one is more Giants than he is. What a great gesture he made by going to Warner's locker right after he was benched and offering a few caring words. Mara's humility makes the failings of a bozo like Daniel Snyder even more enjoyable. While he often gets a bad rap with the media, Michael Strahan is all about humility himself. He's easily the best DE the game has seen in a decade and is in the annual running for best defensive player, yet he'd rather spend time talking up one of his teammates than blathering on about himself. While leadership in professional sports is often overrated, you cannot even begin to measure what Strahan means to this team and this locker room. There's only one reason basically everyone eventually got in line behind Tom Coughlin - because Strahan said so. OK, Paul, our All-Thankful Dream Team is shaping up. We've got Mara running the show, Lewis the defense and Warner, Tiki and Strahan providing their Pro Bowl talents, work ethics and attitudes on the field and in the locker room. But we need someone to coach these guys, and Larry Brown will not take the job. Any thoughts?

PS: Wow, Kenny, you never cease to amaze me with your insight. Believe it or not, I'm thankful for Tom Coughlin. Not because he's so warm and fuzzy, not because he doesn't let me talk to his assistants, not because he limits access to himself, not because he can't deal with someone repeating a question during the course of a week, not because he doesn't let me watch practice and not because he'll never be confused with someone offering up great sound bites. I'm thankful for Coughlin because there are never any surprises with him. There's enough unpredictability in sports. Coughlin is a constant. He's on schedule and on the clock. He comes in, says "Good morning'' or "Good afternoon'' and there's no nonsense with him. OK, that's not much to appreciate, but it IS the holiday season. Soon enough, all these good feelings will fade and then, Mr. Palmer, the kid gloves are off. By the way, I'm thankful I don't own your wardrobe or frequent your hair stylist. One more thing: Humbug!

KP: That's bah humbug to you, Paul. Thankful for Tom Coughlin? Perhaps it's you that's dipped into the holiday punchbowl a few weeks early. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm very thankful for Jeremy Shockey. Not that he keeps dropping passes, but because he's turned into quite a standup player on the field and in the locker room. When Shockey complained about his role earlier in the year, there's no question it was a team-first rant; he's never self-serving, as much as he often has the right to be. When he says something we all perceive as foolish, it's usually because he cares about winning more than just about anyone else in that locker room. Shockey certainly has his warts, but it's been quite impressive how he's grown up since arriving in New York. Now if we could only get Paul to grow up and stop dressing like he's going to a frat party at U-Albany, all would be well with the world.

Enjoy every second of this holiday season; if you all behave, Santa might just bring you a couple pass-blocking offensive linemen and fleet-footed wide receivers.


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