What If The New York Giants Successfully Claimed Cris Carter Off Waivers in 1990?

Jan 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Carter alumni captain Cris Carter before the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Carter alumni captain Cris Carter before the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The ’93 draft brought in Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, starting guard Greg Bishop, and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Armstead. Another year, another draft without any receivers. Instead, the Giants went out and brought in former Denver Broncos Mark Jackson, Mike Sherrard, Michael Brookes, David Treadwell, and Mike Horan thanks to the recruiting efforts of new head coach (and former Broncos head cheese) Dan Reeves.

Jackson would lead the team with 58 grabs for 708 yards and four touchdowns. Sherrard had 24 catches for 433 yards and two touchdowns.

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  • Who knows if Parcells leaves after the 1992 season. Would missing one postseason really drive him away? I don’t think so. So, if the Big Tuna is still on board, he probably doesn’t bring in Mark Jackson or Mike Sherrard. Brooks, Treadwell, and Horan might also not have been acquired. It’s possible the Giants’ draft looks completely different. Maybe Mark Ingram stays knowing that he and Parcells get along and he senses the Giants still have a strong chance to contend.

    In ’93, Carter would haul in 86 receptions (4th in the NFL) for 1,071 receiving yards (7th in the NFL) and 9 receiving touchdowns (5th in the NFL). Cris would’ve been the Giants primary target and he would’ve helped the Giants win the NFC East over the Cowboys. Here’s how. Big Blue suffered three close, gut-wrenching losses below…

    1. Week 5 October 3 L 3-1 @ Buffalo Bills 14-17
    2. Week 9 October 31 L 5-2 New York Jets 6-10
    3. Week 18 January 2 L (OT) 11-5 Dallas Cowboys 13-16

    With Carter in the Giants lineup, the G-Men win those three games and go 14-2, securing the #1 seed and home-field advantage through the playoffs, which would look like this…

    Vikings miss the playoffs without Carter, Saints lose tiebreaker to Eagles.


    Eagles (8-8) #6 at 49ers (10-6) #3 – Niners win

    Lions (11-5) #5 at Cowboys (11-5) #4 – Cowboys win

    Packers (11-5) #2 & Giants (14-2) #1 – bye


    49ers #3 at Lions #2 – Niners win

    Cowboys #4 at Giants #1 – Giants win (in OT)

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: 49ers #3 at Giants #1 – Steve Young can’t handle Giants Stadium at full tilt. G-Men prevail with a strong defensive stand in the 4th.

    Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills would’ve gone 11-5 and ended up with the #3 seed instead of a bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs. They’d have to go through Joe Montana and Marcus Allen in Arrowhead instead of hosting Kansas City in Buffalo. It’s possible the Giants would’ve faced the Chiefs in Super Bowl XXVIII.

    How weird would that have been? Two outdoor weather teams battling in an indoor setting. Joe Montana going for his fifth Super Bowl ring, Simms going for his third (second as starter), both Super Bowl MVPs. Simms and Lawrence Taylor in their final season. Montana was 18-6 in a dome, Simms was 7-2. It would’ve been the oldest pairing of opposing starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.

    In a close game, the G-Men pull it out thanks to Carter’s MVP game, Rodney Hampton’s workhorse effort, and some trickery from Parcells. Taylor gets to Montana as does Keith Hamilton while Strahan and Armstead see their first Super Bowl appearance their rookie year.

    Simms, Taylor and Parcells all retire with three Lombardis each.

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    In the Carter-on-Giants timeline, Parcells stayed with the G-Men as head coach following the 1990 season and won another Super Bowl in 1993 then retired. Who would fill in? Well, it would be defensive coordinator Bill Belichick. See, Belichick left for the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns following the 1990 Super Bowl season with the Giants. Had Parcells stayed on as head coach in 1991, Belichick would most likely stay as DC, knowing that he was being groomed for the head coach spot in New York.

    With Belichick as head coach, who knows if Cris Carter stays with the team. Sure, he’s coming off a Super Bowl MVP year, but it’s possible he doesn’t have the same rapport with Belichick that he did with Parcells. For the sake of simplicity, I say he doesn’t butt heads with Belichick, but this is when things might go askew for Carter.

    See, in Minnesota, the Vikings brought in Warren Moon and Carter put up unbelievable numbers, which, at the time, were personal bests across the board: 122 receptions (1st/7th all-time) for 1,256 receiving yards (7th in the NFL) and seven touchdowns. Carter was also named 1st Team All-Conference by Pro Football Weekly and UPI, plus 1st Team All-NFL by the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, and Sporting News.

    Meanwhile the ’94 Giants selected Chad Bratzke, Jason Sehorn, and Thomas Randolph in that year’s draft. Without Carter, they would go 9-7, ending up in second place and missing the playoffs thanks to a tiebreaker with the Packers, Lions, and Bears. The defense was a borderline top 10 unit, but the offense was close to the bottom of the league.

    With Carter, the Giants could probably turn these three close losses…

    1. Week 8 October 23rd L 3-4 Pittsburgh Steelers 6-10
    2. Week 9 October 30th L OT 3-5 Detroit Lions 25-28
    3. Week 11 November 13th L 3-7 Arizona Cardinals 9-10

    …into wins, which would give the Giants a 12-4 record and a tie atop the NFC East with the Cowboys. However, Dallas wins the tiebreaker and gets the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs while Big Blue gets the #4 seed. Lions, now at 8-8, miss the playoffs.


    Bears (9-7) #6 at Vikings (10-6) #3 – Vikes win

    Packers (9-7) #5 at Giants (12-4) #4 – Giants win

    Cowboys (12-4) #2 & 49ers (13-3) #1 – bye


    Giants (12-4) #4 at 49ers (13-3) #1 – Niners win

    Vikings (10-6) #3 at Cowboys (12-4) #2 – Cowboys win

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Cowboys (12-4) #2 at 49ers (13-3) #1

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    This is where the Carter-less Giants fell apart. Yes, they selected the solid tackle Scott Gragg and fan favorite fullback Charles Way, but they also didn’t get much out of #1 pick Tyrone Wheatley. Calloway and Sherrard were the 1-2 punch at wide receiver. The team finished fourth in the NFC East with a 5-11 record. The offense was again towards the bottom of the league and the defense was middle of the pack – mostly due to how bad the offense was.

    On the other hand, Cris Carter enjoyed the best season of his career with the Vikings, somehow topping his monster 1994 season with a 1995 campaign that’s one for the history books: 122 receptions (2nd in the league / 7th all-time), 1,371 receiving yards (7th in NFL), and 17 receiving touchdowns (1st in NFL / 5th all-time). Yet, Carter was only named 2nd Team All-Conference by UPI and 2nd Team All-NFL by the Associated Press. Needless to say, it was a super pass-happy season for the league.

    Here were the games the Giants had a chance of winning if Carter’s on the team:

    1. Week 2 September 10th L OT 0-2 @ Kansas City Chiefs 17-20
    2. Week 7 October 15th L 2-5 Philadelphia Eagles 14-17
    3. Week 10 November 5th L 3-6 @ Seattle Seahawks 28-30
    4. Week 13 November 26th L 3-9 Chicago Bears 24-27
    5. Week 16 December 17th L 5-10 @ Dallas Cowboys 20-21

    If Big Blue wins all five, that brings their record to 10-6. That pushes the Eagles to 9-7, forcing them into a tiebreaker with the Falcons, which they’d win, knocking Atlanta out of postseason contention. Giants get the tiebreaker over Detroit with better NFC record (8-4 vs 7-5).


    Eagles (9-7) #6 at Packers (10-6) #3 – Packers win

    Lions (10-6) #5 at Giants (10-6) #4 – Giants win

    Cowboys (11-5) #2 & 49ers (11-5) #1 – bye


    Giants (10-6) #4 at 49ers (11-5) #1 – 49ers win

    Packers (10-6) #3 at Cowboys (11-5) #2 – Cowboys win

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Cowboys (11-5) #2 at 49ers (11-5) #1 – Cowboys win

    Next: 1996 - 1998