By Ernie Palladino
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Tim Tebow ran half-naked in the rain, driving every teeny-bopper in the Tri-State area into a state of mass hysteria. Check.
R.A. Dickey just interrupted a Mets’ descent that held all the esthetics of Dante’s tour through the rings of Hell. Check.
The Yanks have run away from the rest of the AL East, and not even a couple of tough weekend losses to the last-place Red Sox should figure to slow them down permanently. Check.
And Eli Manning and the Giants, fully clothed and with minimal fanfare, have gone to work on defending their Super Bowl title. Check.
So what’s left to talk about?
Brandon Jacobs, of course.
You wouldn’t think a couple of quotes from one of the newest non-Giants, now in a San Francisco 49ers uniform, would create even a ripple of controversy here. And yet, Jacobs managed to do just that in the pages of the Post, where he claimed he had begun checking out of his career in the Giants’ backfield in the offseason of 2011.
That’s before the regular season, before training camp, before the draft, before minicamps, before the offseason conditioning program started.
“I had been mentally planning to make this move for two years, so it didn’t surprise me that it happened,” Jacobs said of the Giants’ ultimate decision to set him loose before the free agency signing period. “I thought it was going to happen last year, to be honest.”
And then, the temperamental running back landed his biggest blow against the coaching staff.
“I was put in situations there where it stopped me from doing a lot,” he said. “I was mentally disturbed there.”
All players should have those problems. Sure, Jacobs was placed in some awkward running situations, but only because his injuries and resulting ineffectiveness opened the door for Ahmad Bradshaw to become the Giants’ preeminent running back. But even with that, and his battles with running backs coach Jerald Ingram and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride over how he was being used, and his open grousing in the media, Jacobs still left the Giants with two Super Bowl rings.
That’s two more than most players will collect in a lifetime.
You’d think a little gratitude would be in order here. But players criticizing old teams and old coaching staffs is nothing new. Actually, it’s pretty common as these things go. And it’s just as common to see those same players flop in their new surroundings with their new, theoretically more accommodating, coaches.
Sometimes, the players don’t even have to change locales. When the Giants underwent a major coaching change in 1991, a bunch of players were asked about the difference between the “retired” Bill Parcells and his eminent successor, Ray Handley.
Veteran defensive end Leonard Marshall, like Jacobs a recipient of two Super Bowl rings — both manufactured under Parcells’ watch — leaned back on the couch in the press room at the Fairleigh Dickinson-Madison training camp and gazed up pensively.
“Well,” Marshall said. “Ray treats us like men.”
And then Marshall proceeded to delineate all that was wrong with Parcells and oh, so right with Handley, who was just a month-and-change elevated from his benign servitude as Parcells’ running backs coach.
A while later, Gary Reasons came by and told us of a slogan he’d worked up after much careful consideration.
“This team is not in disarray,” it went. “This is Ray’s team.”
Sure was. Handley’s team went 8-8 that year. By early the following season, the squad was in full, open revolt against Handley and just about anyone else wearing a New York Giants coaching shirt.
A 6-10 flop the next year brought an end to two of the most surreal seasons in franchise history. Between controversy and incompetence, it was a wonder how anybody survived.
But hey, at least Parcells wasn’t around with his mind games and inhuman demands like, “do your job.”
The Giants didn’t get to another Super Bowl until 2000 under Jim Fassel, two coaches removed from Handley’s “man”-handling methods. We’ll see how things work out for Jacobs in San Francisco. He’s certainly in vastly different circumstances than that old Giants team. Jim Harbaugh stands as one of the league’s legitimately dynamic young coaches, and the 49ers’ defense is second to none.
But he’ll still play behind a star, Frank Gore. And the bottom line is that the 49ers haven’t played in a Super Bowl since they won it in the 1994 season. Just because the 49ers made the NFC championship game last year doesn’t make it an automatic berth this year.
It’s entirely possible that in time, perhaps by the teams’ Oct. 14 meeting in Candlestick Park, Jacobs may bury his bitterness and look at his Giants career as “the good old days.”
He won’t be the first to change his mind.
What are your thoughts on Jacobs’ comments? Be heard in the comments below!