If the New York Giants are worried sick about the prospect of losing their division and their season to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the greatest Giant of them all believes they shouldn't sweat the small stuff.
"If the Giants lose this game I would be shocked," Lawrence Taylor told ESPNNewYork Friday. "I don't think it's even a question that the Giants are a better team than Dallas.
"I know you think I'm biased, but the Giants have by far the better athletes, they are tougher mentally, and they have by far the better coaching. I guarantee you that Dallas ain't taking s--- away from the Giants. If the Giants lose this game, they'll lose it themselves. Dallas won't take it away from them."
Sentenced in March to six years probation following his January guilty plea to two misdemeanor charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute, Taylor has been trying to piece together his life in his Miami-area home. He had no interest in revisiting the case or the lawsuit filed by the then-16-year-old victim in a brief phone interview, but the Hall of Fame linebacker was willing to talk about his former team, and why the Giants should leave MetLife Stadium as NFC East champs.
"The Giants should work on their fundamentals and don't worry about what Dallas is going to do," Taylor said, "because the Cowboys can't hurt you. If the Giants limit their mistakes, they win. They're the better team. It they make a lot of mistakes, they're not going to win.
"So I would really, really guard against being too emotionally up for this game. That can cause you a problem."
Taylor said he doesn't see the Giants every week, but that he does watch all of their big games on TV. He's been most impressed by the pass rushers Justin Tuck (when healthy), Osi Umenyiora (ditto), and Jason Pierre-Paul.
"They've got some really gifted athletes there," Taylor said. "Guys like Tuck, Umenyiora and (Pierre-Paul), they're a lot better athletes than we had in our day. I look at those guys right there and damn, I couldn't imagine how good my Giants teams would've been if we had those athletes you've got nowadays."
"I don't even want to compare him to Phil Simms," Taylor said. "In my era, Phil Simms was one of the best. But Eli has impressed me this year because he's standing tall in the pocket, and he's delivering the ball without any fear."
Taylor was on the run Friday, spending time with his grandkids in Orlando. He did sound like he'd be in his living room seat early Sunday night for the kickoff.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this," he said. "All or nothing. When I played, we won some games against Dallas maybe we shouldn't have, and they won some games against us maybe they shouldn't have. When they had (Troy) Aikman and Emmitt (Smith), they were tough SOBs to beat. But they don't have those kind of players anymore."
The Cowboys do have Tony Romo, bad hand and all. Taylor said he'd seen some good things from Romo, just not good enough to scare him.
"If I was playing against Tony Romo," Taylor said, "he'd end up back on the golf course somewhere."
Taylor said he was kidding, even if it didn't sound like he was.
Ian O'Connor is the author of "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." Sunday Morning With Ian O'Connor can be heard every Sunday, 9-11 a.m., on ESPN New York 1050.