In a weeklong series, The Post is looking at alternate realities in New York sports. Today’s edition looked at whether the Giants would have won a second straight Bowl if wide receiver Plaxico Burress didn’t shoot himself in 2008. Here are some other big Giants what-ifs from the past 30 years:
What if Bill Belichick was the successor to Bill Parcells in 1991?
Parcells left in May following the Super Bowl-winning 1990 season. But before that, GM George Young had shown favoritism for Ray Handley, the running backs coach and clock-management guy, over Belichick, the defensive coordinator who Young thought cursed too much and was a bit of an oddball. Belichick left in February, leaving Handley to be named head coach, and the rest is very sad Giants history. Belichick went on to have some success, it seems.
What if the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers draft-day trade never happened?
GM Ernie Accorsi loved Manning, really liked Ben Roethlisberger and was not interested in drafting Rivers. Slightly more than seven minutes into San Diego’s allotted 15 minutes on the clock with the No. 1-overall pick, Chargers GM A.J. Smith called Accorsi and asked, “You want Eli?’’ Smith insisted on Osi Umenyiora as part of the package and was rebuffed. Smith wanted Rivers, and Manning had already stated he did not want to play in San Diego. The deal was made and called into the league office just in time. The Chargers took Manning, the Giants at No. 4 took Rivers and then swapped the players.
What if Hakeem Nicks did not get hurt in Week 2 in 2012?
It is hard to believe Nicks at present is just 32 years old. He compiled 155 receptions for 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns in a two-year span and was a central figure in the Super Bowl XLVI run. He hurt his left knee in a blowout victory at Tampa Bay, and though he only missed the next three games, he was never the same. If Nicks stays healthy and productive, the Giants do not take Odell Beckham Jr. with the No. 12-overall pick in the 2014 draft. They probably take guard Zack Martin (taken No. 16 by the Cowboys) or, just maybe, the player taken at No. 13 by the Rams: defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
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What if Tom Coughlin did not become more player-friendly after the 2006 season?
Coughlin came close to getting fired after the Giants went 2-6 in the second half of the 2006 season to finish 8-8. He was unpopular, viewed as a curmudgeon, unwilling to bend and uncaring to the needs of his players. Michael Strahan was openly defiant of Coughlin’s “five minutes early’’ mantra. Co-owner John Mara had enough, and told Coughlin he had to stop being so unlikeable. Charles Way, a former Giants fullback working at the time as the team’s director of player development, offered this advice: “You need to let the players see you the way you are with your grandchildren.’’ That hit home and turned into a crossroads moment in franchise history.
What if Trey Junkin, in his first and last game for the Giants, did not make a bad snap in a wild-card playoff game in the 2002 season?
Junkin, an NFL long-snapper for 19 years, was summoned out of retirement to replace injured Dan O’Leary (who replaced released rookie Bob Jones). After the 49ers shockingly turned a 38-14 deficit into a 39-38 lead, the Giants had a shot to prevent a monumental collapse, as Matt Bryant lined up for a last-second 41-yard field goal. Junkin’s snap to rookie holder Matt Allen was low and wide, and all Allen could do was scoop up the ball and throw an ill-fated pass that fell incomplete. Referee Ron Winter missed a blatant interference penalty on eligible receiver Rich Seubert and declared the game over. That devastating loss stuck with head coach Jim Fassel, who was fired after the next season.