There were many moments and draft picks that led to the New York Giants massive success in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. One pivotal draft class that sticks out amongst the rest is the 1983 group.
The 1983 NFL Draft is famously known as the ‘Draft of the Quarterback’ for good reason. Hall of Famers like John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly all were snatched up that year. Crazily enough, three non-quarterbacks hall members were also selected in Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews and Darrell Green. What was lost in all the hype around this draft was the fact that the New York Giants added several key players whom would end up contributing to the foundations of their 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl teams.
1983 was Bill Parcells’ first season as head coach of the New York Giants. By virtue of their disappointing 4-5 record during the strike-shortened 1982 season, the team had the 11th pick of the first round. While the promise of the legendary players they selected in the draft was not immediately fully noticed, the dividends paid off down the road. The team struggled to a three win campaign in 1983, although those bumps would prove vital, as the 1983 rookies played a massive part in multiple title-winning squads.
That 1983 11th overall ended up being used on Terry Kinard, a defensive back out of Clemson who would start 14 games at free safety in his first year. The former Tiger standout went on to win Defensive Player of the Week and to be chosen to the All-Rookie team at the end of the season. Kinard play seven more seasons for the G-Men, logging 27 career interceptions and making one Pro Bowl. Kinard was an indispensable member of the secondary that thrived off an electric pass rush, constantly registering turnovers in the process.
Parcells’ second round pick was used to draft another defensive stalwart in Leonard Marshall out of LSU. After a 15.5 sack coming out party in 1985, Marshall impressively started all 16 games again during the 1986 Super Bowl season, while tallying another 12 sacks. Marshall also registered three huge sacks in the legendary playoff campaign.
The immortal Giant defensive lineman had an even more historic playoff run in 1990, leveling 49ers Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana and knocking him out of the NFC Championship game. The vicious hit would end up being voted the third ‘most devastating hit of all time’ by Fox Sports Net. The Giants ending up sneaking out a 15-13 win, and Marshall then contributed the team’s only sack in the 20-19 Super Bowl XXV win over the Buffalo Bills. It’s almost impossible to explain just how much Marshall meant to those Super Bowl teams, forming an impossible to stop pass rush on the right side with Lawrence Taylor.
The third round would yield offensive tackle Karl Nelson out of Iowa State. Although his career was tragically cut short due to a bout with Hodgkin’s disease, he made the most of his time count. Nelson started every regular season and playoff game of the 1986 Super Bowl season. His stable outside presence helped the Giants hold the potent Denver defense to just one sack, and gave QB Phil Simms the protection he needed to deliver a Super Bowl MVP performance for the ages.
Parcells and GM George Young struck gold once again in the seventh round with cornerback Perry Williams out of North Carolina State. Williams would have four interceptions during the 1986 season, including three in the ever important month of December. Rarely do seventh round picks even make the team they’re drafted for, but Williams was no ordinary late round pick. Williams ended up playing in 146 games over 10 seasons, winning two rings in the process.
The 1984 and 1985 drafts would continue to help shape the Giants into the team that would dominate the last half of the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, cementing Young and Parcells’ legacy. Looking back though, the 1983 draft class stands out as the most salient part of the dynasty. Most NFL fans would agree that George Young not being in the NFL Hall of Fame is just silly at this point, with the 1983 class being a case and point of why the five time executive of the year was head and shoulders above his competition.
Young may have failed to get the credit he truly deserved due to the presence of ‘Big Tuna’, but Giants fans are surely glad he was around to keep Parcells in check, and help give the all time great coach the tools he needed to succeed. The 1983 draft proved to be his favorite tool of them all.