Osi Umenyiora’s legacy in New York

Osi Umenyiora’s time in the Big Apple will be remembered by times of success, disappointment, injuries, ups, downs, but most of all — two Super Bowls.

As the soon-to-be free agent defensive end prepares for what is likely his final game in a Giants uniform at the Meadowlands, it will be rather interesting to see how the fans react to his departure. Umenyiora is seeking more money next season and a starting job, which would be difficult to find with the Giants already set with defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.

The Giants (8-7) still have an outside shot at making the playoffs if they can beat Philadelphia and find some help elsewhere this weekend, but missing the playoffs would almost certainly mean there will be changes. Last year’s Super Bowl win has been the lone bright spot in the team’s recent history — if the team misses the playoffs this season, it would be the third time in four years.

Umenyiora has been unhappy with his contract for a number of years, and his mediocre numbers this season (six sacks, two forced fumbles) will only help push him out the door. But through all of the controversy surrounding his contract and his relationship with the front office, Osi has been a fan favorite in New York since he arrived as a young defensive end.

His emergence onto the scene as a fan favorite stems from his exciting style of play. Perhaps his most memorable game in a Giants uniform was in 2007 against the Philadelphia Eagles when he broke the franchise record with six sacks in a game. His two Pro Bowl appearances, coupled with his performance as a member of the fierce defensive line in Super Bowl XLII will forever solidify his resume and legacy in a Big Blue uniform.

At age 31, Umenyiora still has some gas left in the tank, but the question is how much? His days as a dominant force in this league have seemed to pass us by. A change in scenery could very well make a difference as he could find some more playing time, but I am skeptical about his chances of returning to his glory days as he continues to get older.

Umenyiora admits that things did not have to end this way. Last week he told members of the media that he does, in fact, have regrets about the way he handled his recent years in New York. He wanted to remain a Giant forever, but he believes he burned that bridge when he refused to shut up about his contract.

Fan favorite or not, those days are in the past. As he continued to talk, he digressed on the field and ended up losing the edge he thought he had in the contract talks. We all enjoyed watching Osi in New York and we will always remember his role in helping this team win two Super Bowls. But in this situation, I don’t blame Big Blue. Osi Umenyiora’s ship in New York has sailed.

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