I recently got into a conversation that started with “what’s up with Tiki?”, so here’s J.T.’S Take.
First I have to say I loved Tiki. He was always my favorite Giant on and off the field. I remember watching him playing for Virginia on a Thursday night game versus Florida State and he was simply dominant. To see a guy that size have that big an impact on a game was amazing. I was extremely pleased when the Giants drafted him. The Giants in those years had the same affection for Virginia players that we now have with Boston College players, due to the fact that Al Groh was the head coach of Virginia, and he was a former Giants assistant. Anyway, I was excited to see what he could do in the NFL. I have had occasion to meet, speak with, and E-mail Tiki over the years and he has never been anything but kind, helpful, and a gentleman. Heck, I even named my dog after him!
I believe Tiki, who came across to some as being a little too proud of himself, having never really won anything in New York,( and we know in New York that winning that championship is everything) has received some very poor advice over the years. He started as New York’s darling and worked very hard to make himself the player he was. He interned at WFAN, and on Fox News. He certainly knew he had a future after football and wanted it to be in something other than football. He is a very intelligent man that wanted to explore all he was capable of doing. He always told Mike Francessa that he considered himself a man who played football, not just a football player. When he made the very poor decision to announce his retirement in the middle of the season, it was obvious he had grown weary of carrying the load of the Giants and of Tom Coughlin and his rules. You can find film of Tiki breaking the huddle, and looking to the sideline and shrugging his shoulders, as if to ask why are we trying to throw the ball? Just keep giving it to me, that’s what we do around here. Tiki was indeed done after 2006.
The next step was where I think he really took a wrong turn. Instead of returning to Fox News, to people who knew him, knew his work ethic, knew his strengths, he opted for NBC who played him a little. They promised him a spot on the Today show, a huge spotlight for a novice reporter, however, what I believe they really wanted him for was their new Sunday Night Football show with Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth. NBC threw Tiki into the Today show among people who probably didn’t take his work at FOX News seriously,( heck I don’t think the televisions at Matt Lauer’s and Meredith Viera’s house even get Fox News) and were a little taken aback by the “sudden star.” Then came the move to Football Night in America and that painful prodding and pushing by Cris and Bob to get Tiki to say something bad about “Elijah” or Tom Coughlin. Of course, we all know about the lack of leadership comments, but what strikes me as funny is the affection that Tiki always showed “Young Elijah” as he called Eli in those days. And a lack of leadership? While it would be difficult for Eli to outshine the Shockey. Strahan, Tiki trio, think about the final game of 2005 when Tiki broke the total yardage record for the Giants (with ONE fumble). Eli broke the huddle on the last play of the game against the Dallas Cowboys, needing a touchdown to win. He looked over the defense and made the correct call to audible to a run. Tiki scored the winning TD and broke the record. That’s not showing leadership? Not many young qb’s would have had the nerve to make that call.
The basics on the Tiki story after the comments about Eli and Coughlin show a man who craves attention. However, he is finding that attention only from people who he pays for it, or a new young girlfriend. Tiki’s comeback thoughts have been fueled by a personal trainer, who he pays, and an agent, who he pays. He needs a dose of reality. When he and his hand holding agent recently went on their promotional tour for his comeback they repeatedly stated, “although there has been a lot of interest in Tiki, we already know where we are going” Really? Did they lose your number? Unless Tiki is seeking some sort of guaranteed contract, he would cost a team $600 a week to bring to camp and see what he has. Camps are open for a week now, and no one except the Dolphins have called even for a workout.
I feel for Tiki in some ways because of all he had and all he could have been to New York. One Championship makes you a hero in New York. One Championship makes you immortal. Just the conversation of He and Ronde’ being the first twins to make the Hall of Fame would have set ESPN up for weeks. I hope Tiki figures it out, moves on, and is successful. It’s just a shame as to what could have been.