Third and Short: Debating the need for Strahan

In this installment of Third and Short, our experts weigh in on Michael Strahan. Is his retirement debate a ploy to avoid training camp? That's one of the questions considered.

Originally Published: May 7, 2008
ESPN.com

In this installment of Third and Short, our experts weigh in on Michael Strahan. The New York Giants star defensive lineman is debating returning for a 16th NFL season or opting for retirement. On Thursday, Strahan said he had decided what to do, but is waiting for the right time to announce his intentions. Some speculate that time will come after another training camp has passed.

While the world awaits the announcement, our experts consider whether Strahan just wants to avoid another training camp, who might succeed him as the pass-rusher offenses fear most and whether the Giants would benefit if he retired.

James Walker: Should we put much into the theory that Strahan will wait until training camp is over before deciding whether he has another season in him?


This is more than a theory. It's part of Strahan's history, because it's been done before. Just last season, Strahan missed 36 days of training camp before reporting to the Giants, so there's enough evidence to suggest it could happen again.

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But what's the big deal? Every year there are a handful of elite players in the NFL who are undecided about their futures. Last year it was Strahan and Brett Favre; this year it's Strahan and Jonathan Ogden. It didn't distract Strahan last season after helping lead the Giants to the Super Bowl. So if Strahan chooses to lose more than $500,000 to skip training camp again before returning, more power to him. If in the end he decides to retire, at least he did his due diligence and took his time before making a difficult decision.

Pat Yasinskas: If Strahan retires, who becomes the league's most-feared pass-rusher?


On paper, Jared Allen is the only logical choice. He had 15½ sacks last season while playing only 14 games for a Kansas City Chiefs team that usually was behind, so opponents didn't have to throw a lot.

Allen's move to the Minnesota Vikings could make him even more dangerous because he joins a defensive line that might be the best in the league. With running back Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's offense is going to control the ball and score points consistently. That should give Allen more sack opportunities than he had with the Chiefs.

But I also see two sleeping giants out there, who might have more physical talent than Allen and have produced big numbers in the past. Carolina's Julius Peppers had only 2½ sacks last season, and while the Panthers repeatedly said sack totals don't mean everything, the truth is, there's not a person in the organization who believes Peppers had a good year.

That's why the Panthers are shaking things up and moving Peppers from the left to the right side. Oh, there's one other reason why Peppers is poised for a big year: He's headed into the final year of his contract.

The other defensive end with the ability to bounce back in a big way is Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney. Injuries limited him to nine games last season and he has produced just nine sacks over the past two years. Freeney's too talented to stay quiet for three straight years.

[+] EnlargeMichael Strahan, Nicole Murphy
AP Photo/Brian BohannonWhere would you rather be if you were Michael Strahan, with Nicole Murphy at the Kentucky Derby or on a practice field?

Mike Sando: Are the Giants better off without Strahan, given that they have an abundance of pass-rushers and his retirement would mean one less bellyaching star in the locker room?


No way. Opponents still fear Strahan as much or more than they fear any other Giants lineman, at least situationally. The "bellyaching star" label is awfully harsh. Think of it this way: By standing firm against Tom Coughlin's draconian tendencies, Strahan was instrumental in helping the veteran coach move into the 21st century in terms of how he deals with players. By most accounts, those changes proved critical in helping the Giants finally realize their potential and win a Super Bowl.

The Giants should work with Strahan if he still wants to play but is averse to battling through a full training camp. Forget the outdated idea that coaches must apply the same rules across the board, regardless of a player's age or accomplishments. Strahan's body is winding down, but he still can play. Strahan had 16 tackles in the Giants' first two playoff games last season. He had two sacks in the playoffs, including one in the Super Bowl.

The rest of the NFC East -- not the Giants -- would be better off if Strahan retires.

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