In week 15 against the Redskins Jeremy Shockey broke his leg. Since then the Giants have only lost once (against the Pats in week 17, a game of which Giants fans seem to speak so reverently about their team’s performance you’d think they won) and have become everyone’s favorite surprise story, winning three consecutive playoff games on the road.
All the way to the Super Bowl with the one and only Kevin Boss at starting TE. Boss has posted pedestrian numbers, during the run: 4 catches, 45 yards, and no TDs, numbers that Shockey bested in seven separate games this year. Boss’ numbers are insignificant in the light of the fact that Boss himself is insignificant, and doesn’t have the stature (or perhaps the personality) to storm into the huddle nostrils flaring, eyes wide open, curses flying, angry about not getting the ball in the right spot (or perhaps at all).
That’s one less thing the often fragile-seeming Eli has to worry about. In fact, post-Shockey he doesn’t seem so fragile or shaken at all. Now when he comes to the line and points out blitz pick-ups or call audibles he no-longer exudes anxiety, but poise. Now that the baby-faced Eli doesn’t have to second-guess himself on account of the flamboyant Shockey he can concern himself solely with executing. With Shockey out, Eli’s TD/Int rate is 8/3 and 4/0 in the playoffs. And as if to emphasize this likely explanation even further, Shockey has been conspicuously absent from the bench and cheering section during the Giants run.
Strangely, the NY press (specifically the Post) held off commenting about this, as if it was a non-story. Underdogs climb to Super Bowl without one of their best known (if actually best) players, perennially nervous QB becomes perennially composed, and it’s a non-story? For a paper that regularly lambasted Eli, Coughlin, and the rest throughout this season (as well as seasons past) they now seemed uncharacteristically coy. Finally, forced to generate fresh copy for the two weeks before the Super Bowl they got around to it.
It’s almost as if they knew they had missed out on a significant subplot: Paul Schwartz of the Post pointed out that “per team policy, players on IR do not travel with the team and thus Shockey did not go with the Giants to their playoff stops in Tampa, Dallas or Green Bay. Actually, Shockey was in no condition from a physical standpoint to travel or stand on a sideline cheering for his teammates. He needs crutches to get around, meaning it would be dangerous for him to position himself anywhere near the Giants bench during games.” Team policy is all well and good, but Schwartz’ own offering is a dubious excuse and presumes we’ve never seen players on crutches standing with their teammates on the sideline. See: Arthur Blank pushing Vick’s wheelchair, or better yet, this week’s Sports Illustrated sidebar about Greg Gadson, an army veteran and paraplegic whose been traveling with the Giants, providing inspiration, and guess what, watching from the sidelines. Schwartz comes off more as Shockey apologist than a reporter honestly seeking and explanation. Not to be outdone, Steve Serby one-ups him and attempts to talk Shockey into coming to Arizona, urging him to be this year’s Phil Simms.
The stigma that comes with being injured is well documented. No doubt it’s been painful for the “fiery” Shockey (the Post’s preferred adjective for him): the only player-specific Giants merchandise that’s still readily available in the local Scottsdale memorabilia shops is that which bears his name.
It’s also worth noting that the Post’s coverage neglected to consider the other incarnation of the injured player, that of the rallying point. As such they implicitly make both points, that Shockey’s absence has proven a boon to the NYG offense, and that the they (the NY Post) didn’t bother to address that.