The national media was ablaze with the New York Times story of Tiki Barber’s retirement at the end of this season. Barber’s announcement was made days before the Giants went down to Texas and throttled the Cowboys. The end result of the game was the benching of Cowboys QB Drew Bledsoe and the emergence of the Giants as a favorite to win the NFC East. Barber’s announcement was viewed alternatively with surprise and scorn by much of the national media (including former players like Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson).
It occurred to me, though, that Barber’s revelation did us all a favor. For one entire week, it displaced a notorious Cowboy wide receiver from the news. The news also shifted the discussion for an entire week from the ongoing drama between the Giants offensive stars (Barber, Burress and Shockey) and the coaching staff. That drama has been blaring full blast since the G-men were ousted from last year’s playoffs by the Carolina Panthers. Barber went on record as saying the Giants were outcoached in a game they lost at home to a team they thought they would beat. Shockey said the same thing this year when the Giants were bum rushed out in Seattle. Burress implied as much when he decided to work out in Miami during the off-season. The Giants were bordering on becoming Team Turmoil entering their bye week at the beginning of the month.
Since that bye week, the Giants overcame a double-digit deficit on the road in Atlanta. They put the smack down on the Cowboys. Next up – the Buccaneers. Tiki Barber may not get into Canton because he simply has not had enough elite seasons as a running back. Still, at this point in his career, no one is better. He runs with power, speed and grace. He no longer fumbles the rock – and he doesn’t blow opportunities to shift the focus to where it needs to be. For one week, Barber moved the focus where it needed to be: on winning this year.