The 2011 Giants seem like a lifetime ago now. Eli Manning was a Top 10 NFL Quarterback, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL, Tom Coughlin was one of the league’s great coaches, the pass rush, lead by Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and promising, young defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks, and the Giants were Super Bowl Champions. The year is now 2018. Tom Coughlin runs the Jacksonville Jaguars, Eli Manning is a shell of his former self, and Victor Cruz, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora and Hakeem Nicks are out of the league. A lot has changed since 2011, especially for Jason Pierre Paul.
Pierre-Paul has gone through a lot of ups and downs throughout eight year NFL career, on and off the field. A costly offsides penalty against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010, cost the Giants the game and the lead in the division. A year later, a blocked Dan Bailey field goal but the finishing touches on a huge comeback victory for the Giants in Dallas on Sunday night that kept their playoff hopes alive. Pierre-Paul was a force for the Giants pass rush and defense from the time he was drafted. So much so, that the Giants placed the Franchise Tag on the star defensive end after the 2014 season, a season in which he had 12.5 sacks and 53 tackles. Than on July 4, 2015, Jason Pierre-Paul’s career and life changed forever.
The July 4th fireworks accident altered the course of his career. JPP lost his right index finger, broke his thumb, and scarred his hand for life, a mere month from 2015 training camp. Although Pierre-Paul has come back and has come back playing very well, recording at least 7 sacks in both of his final two seasons with the Giants, this once defensive force was visibly whimpered.
JPP, a big component of the 11-5 2016 Giants, took the 2017 struggles to heart, especially after he signed a four-year, $62 million dollar contract to remain with the team, after being franchise tagged for the second time in his career. It was a show of faith by the organization that drafted and raised his football career, the organization that saw this unexperienced freak athlete from the University of South Florida blossom into one of the best pass rushers in football. Even after the career altering injury, the Giants still saw enough in JPP to make him a franchise cornerstone. Boy did that change.
After Dave Gettelman came on as the new general manager, he moved on from Jason Pierre-Paul, by trading him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third round pick. Pierre-Paul has had a good first season as a Buccaneer, posting eight sacks through nine games, and tying the Buccaneer record for most consecutive games with a sack with six games.
This Sunday, Jason Pierre-Paul returns to his first football home. He returns to play in front of his former fans that stuck with him throughout every up and every down his career has seen. JPP will be lining up across from his former franchise QB in Manning on Sunday, and he has a message directly for him.
“‘I’m coming Eli.”