Welcome back for our second chapter in Giants Draft History. We pick up in 1976, the inaugural year of Giants Stadium. The team finally had a home after three seasons of bouncing around. The new surroundings were strange ones. A ‘state-of-the-art’ concrete, utilitarian facility in the middle of the weeds off Route 3 in East Rutherford, NJ.
Initially, Giant fans didn’t know what to make of it. Only 10.4 miles from Manhattan, it seemed like North Dakota for many of the faithful used to attending games within the confines of NYC. There was no other way to get to the new stadium except to drive or take a bus from Port Authority. When you got to the stadium, there was nothing to be found in terms of bars or restaurants and very little variety once you got inside. You were there to see the game. period.
In 1976, the Giants were trying to turn the page on three dismal seasons of 2, 2, and 5 wins. Bill Arnsparger, the defensive genius behind the Miami Dolphins’ “No Name” defense had not been able to recapture that success with the Giants. He was fired after seven games (0-7) and replaced by assistant John McVay, who went 3-4 the rest of the way. In fairness to Arnsparger, the team never had a chance with all the traveling. In ’76, they played their first four games on the road waiting for the finishing touches to be added to the new stadium. When they finally opened the place up in early October, they faced the Dallas Cowboys, who were arguably the best team in the conference.
The team was going nowhere fast. They brought back QB Norm Snead when Craig Morton had run his course and relied on other veterans who were past their prime such as RB Larry Csonka. (Note: Both Morton and Csonka would go on to resume successful careers after leaving the Giants.)
The draft yielded several fine prospects. With the 13th overall selection in the first round, the Giants chose Colorado DL Troy Archer, a passionate, productive player with a high motor. Archer was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team in 1976 and then started all 14 games in 1977. He season was reduced to eight games the next season by a broken foot. On June 22, 1979, Archer was killed when he lost control of his truck on a winding road in North Bergen. He was 24.
“He was a big, strong kid who didn’t know his own strength,” said friend and teammate Jack Gregory after the accident. “He was a jubilant type of individual. That’s life, you have to go on but it’s going to be tough. It could happen to anybody. He was just starting in his life. This is just unbelievable.” (AP)
“It’s just a shame, that’s all” said owner Wellington Mara.”I just don’t have any words for it.” (AP)
Once again, the team did not have a second or third round pick. The second rounder went to Dallas in the never-ending horror that was the Craig Morton trade. The third-rounder went to Green Bay in the 1974 trade for QB Jim Del Gaizo.
With their two fourth round picks, the Giants chose Michigan RB Gordon Bell and Harry Carson, a highly-productive inside linebacker out of South Carolina State. Bell was a hit right away, showing versatility out of the backfield both rushing and receiving. He played only three years in the NFL, however, retiring in 1978. Carson went on to become one of the greatest players in team history, getting selected to nine Pro Bowls and eventually inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Of the other 11 players drafted in 1976, only two others made the team: LB Dan Lloyd and backup QB Jerry Golsteyn. Lloyd was an nice add-on to the already stocked LB corps and an exceptional special teams player. He could never break into the lineup with Carson, Brian Kelley and Brad Van Pelt around. His career was cut short by a battle with lymphoma, playing his last game for the Giants in 1979. Lloyd survived his very public bout with cancer (read).
In 1977, only five of the 13 players selected made the team. The Giants chose USC DE Gary Jeter with the fifth overall pick in the first round. Jeter was named to the NFL All-Rookie team, recording three sacks in 1977. 1980 would be his best season as a Giant with 10 sacks. A knee injury would cost him some time in 1981 and he was traded to the LA Rams after strike-shortened 1982 season. Although many fans saw Jeter as an underachiever, he went on to have a very long and productive NFL career. He played 13 seasons overall and recorded 79 sacks in his career.
In Round Two, the Giants selected WR Johnny Perkins out of Abilene Christian. Perkins was a long, lean target that the Giants could not capitalize on right away since they did not have a top passer. His best year came in 1981, when he grabbed 51 passes for 858 yards and six TDs. He retired after the 1983 season.
Again, the team had no third round pick, trading it to the Bears in 1975 in a deal for DL Dave Gallagher, who was gone after just two seasons. The other two players to make the roster from the ’77 draft were TE/WR Emery Moorehead and TE Al Dixon. Moorehead only played three seasons in New York, but went on to be a valuable player for the Bears until 1988. Dixon only played into the 1979 season for the Giants, going on to play in KC, Philadelphia and San Francisco over a seven-year career.
In 1978, the Giants were still in need of offensive lineman and took Stanford OT Gordon King with the tenth overall selection. King’s career was plagued by injuries. He only had two injury-free years: 1981 and 82. He missed the last two games of the 1983 season and all of 1984 with a broken elbow.
In Round Two, Big Blue went with DB Odis McKinney of Colorado. McKinney only played two seasons for the Giants. He spent the majority of his career with the Raiders and retired after the 1986 season.
The team’s next two picks both worked out well – finally. RB Billy Taylor of Texas Tech and CB Terry Jackson of San Diego St. Jackson became a reliable starter at CB for the Giants from 1978-1983. He finished his career with the Seahawks. Taylor had a short career but made the best of it. In his four seasons with the Giants, he gained 1640 yards on 454 carries and caught 78 passes for 647 more yards. He scored a total of 19 TDs for some very challenged Giant offenses.