During his five seasons in New York, Barry Cofield gave the Giants everything he had and more. A fourth-round draft pick out of Northwestern in 2006, Cofield’s relentless work ethic in the middle of Big Blue’s defensive line helped Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck create havoc from the outside.
The Giants, 38-42 plus two first-round playoff exits during the five years before Cofield’s arrival, were 48-32 plus a 4-1 postseason mark that included a victory in Super Bowl XLII during his five seasons as a regular.
Strahan and Co. provided the flash, but Cofield was the blue-collar heart of the defensive line, the unit that propelled the Giants to the huge title game upset of the previously perfect New England Patriots four years ago.
“He’s a hell of a football player, … one of those complete defensive tackles,” Tuck said. “A lot of our rush stuff is predicated on formations and he’s smart enough not to miss a beat with that.”
However, the ever-tightfisted Giants missed out on retaining Cofield when he was a free agent this offseason and he signed a six-year, $36 million contract with their ever-profilgate NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins, whose fans he had mocked for cheering New York’s failure to make the playoffs despite its season-ending triumph in Landover eight months ago.
“That shows you the state of their team, that they were cheering about us failing,” Cofield said back then in reference to a scoreboard video showing the Packers had claimed the NFC’s final playoff spot away from the Giants. “When you have no success, those are the kind of things that excite you.”
A new uniform and $12.5 million in guaranteed greenbacks later and Cofield can’t wait for the chance to end Washington’s six-game losing streak against New York and to show those same fans how he now bleeds burgundy and gold as much as they do.
“It’s my first time in a real game in front of the fans here in Washington,” Cofield said about Sunday’s opener. “We’re looking to start a new era in Redskin football. It’s great that (the opener is against) the Giants. It’s going to be fun. I never lost contact with (his ex-teammates). Those relationships go past the football field. It’s a weird sense of familiarity, but it all comes down to what we do … no matter who we play. I don’t expect too much interaction pregame. It’s going to be a fight until the clock strikes zero. But after the game I’ll hug everybody. The only thing I miss (about) New York are my friends.”
But friendship only goes so far. Not only has Cofield schooled his new linemates about the idiosyncrasies of the Giants’ offensive linemen, he has ratted out Tuck and Co. to the Redskins’ blockers.
“There’s little things I know about each guy from facing them every day in practice and I try to relay those things to my teammates,” said Cofield, who seems to have adjusted smoothly on the fly from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 nose tackle. “Every weakness I think they’ve got is going to be shared with my new teammates.”
If the Redskins upset the Giants on Sunday, maybe we’ll realize that the undersung Cofield was more of a difference-maker than we ever knew.