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'Jersey Guys' examines Giants' Garden State romance

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The New York Giants won four Super Bowl titles from 1986 to 2011. In the 1950s and early 60s, the team claimed another title and went to the NFL championship game five times in seven seasons.

Jersey Guys, the latest episode in NFL Network's Timeline series, doesn't focus on those glory runs. Instead, Jersey Guys tells the story of the oft-messy middle period in the history of a decorated franchise, a state of unrest that included decades of losing and a contentious divorce from the city they called home.

That city isn't just any city, of course. The Giants once represented New York, playing in famed Yankee Stadium from 1956 to 1973. When the Giants reached an agreement to move to the swamp lands of Northern Jersey in 1973, it sent shockwaves through the region.

"Every family always dreams of the day they can move into their own house and get away from the in-laws," former Giants owner Wellington Mara said at the time.

That dream represented a nightmare for then New York City Mayor John Lindsay, who called Mara and the Giants "selfish, callous and ungrateful" for the decision to uproot. Imagine this: So upset was the city, they terminated the Giants' lease with Yankee Stadium two games into the 1973 season. Talk about a lover scorned.

For the next two seasons, an awful Giants team would play home games at the rickety Yale Bowl in New Haven, Conn., a 2.5-hour trip from their practice facility in Jersey City.

Can you imagine if this happened today? Ian Rapoport would be doing live hits outside the Giants' facility for approximately eight months straight.

The second half of Jersey Guys -- narrated with the right amount of Garden State gumption by Jon Bon Jovi -- focuses on the Giants' rise from hopeless NFL doormat to champion that took on the personality of the state that embraced it. There's a lot of great stuff from Bill Parcells here, whose hiring -- along with the drafting of Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor -- rescued the Giants from perpetual failure.

"There's nothin' simple in New Jersey," Parcells said. "Traffic's hard, to get to where you're going's hard, everything's hard."

That doesn't sound like a compliment, but coming from Parcells, it's a love letter. More accurately, it's a Jersey thing.

Extra points:

» This is the second of five Timeline episodes we'll recap for Around The NFL. (Check out our recap of Favre Returns right here). Jersey Guys re-airs Tuesday at midnight ET, on Thursday immediately following Thursday Night Football coverage and Friday at 10 ET. Next Tuesday brings the premiere of Tale Of Two Cities, which looks back at the rivalry between the Cowboys and 49ers.

» As someone who has traveled over the George Washington Bridge hundreds of times, I really loved Jersey Guys and suspect others from the region will enjoy it as well. There's some great NFL Films footage of Mickey Mantle-era Yankee Stadium, not to mention cameos from local icons like Ed Koch, Chuck Scarborough and a young Mike Francesa. "It doesn't get any better than Manny's chicken francese!"

» How bad were the Giants from the mid-60s through the early-80s? They missed the postseason for 17 straight years and had just two winning seasons. That's Browns-level futility. During one game, a plane flew over Giants Stadium with the message "15 years of lousy football we've had enough". In another scene, fans burn their tickets and railed against ownership. Again, these are fans of the New York Giants. A different time indeed.

» I can't say for sure, but this has to be one of the last interviews given by Giants legend Frank Gifford, who passed away in August at age 84. Gifford was the face of those glamourous early Giants teams, a prince of New York who was Derek Jeter before Derek Jeter existed. Let's just say I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at Manhattan's 21 Club in 1956.

» Highlights of peak Lawrence Taylor never get old. Just a breathtaking talent who was operating at a different speed than everyone else on the field. Scary dominant.

» Last word from the Big Tuna: "I never liked to go right to work. Stop in for your coffee. You know you're going to see people, you see your neighborhood people, there's a little chit-chat always." This is such a Jersey sentiment from Parcells, a Hasbrouck Heights native who played as a youth in the marsh lands where Giants Stadium and MetLife Stadium were eventually built. Parcells was the perfect guy at the perfect time for the Giants.

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