(Photo Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger)
When you are an 0-6 team who should be leading your division and contending for a Super Bowl and when you are a free-agent running back who graced the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL series and should be a starting running back, a match-made in heaven is going to happen.
On Wednesday, the New York Giants (0-6) were in desperate need of a running back. With a run game hampered due to injuries, poor play, and fumbles, the Giants took the best one on the market: Peyton Hillis.
Hillis is known mostly for gracing the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12 rather than his running back and receiving skills, skills that until now, have gone unnoticed.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Griffin for Esquire.com
Hillis attended the University of Arkansas before going pro and had a big freshmen year. As a true freshmen, he rushed for 240 yards and 6 touchdowns as well as 97 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, ranking him 4th for touchdowns in the SEC. Yet, Hillis fell through the cracks when running backs by the names of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones bursted onto the scene.
After being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2008, Hillis was underutilized and undervalued. Denver listed him as a fullback, but when injuries plagued the running back corps, Hillis took advantage and produce a 100-yard receiving game as well as a 100-yard rushing game during the season.
After his 100-yard rushing game, Hillis was honored as the Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week and FedEx Ground Player of the Week. A season-ending injury ended his breakout start and with Mike Shanahan fired and Josh McDaniels hired as the new Broncos head coach, Hillis found himself out of McDaniels’ vision of the Broncos, he was underutilized in 2009 and subsequently traded during the offseason in 2010 to the Cleveland Browns.
There in Cleveland, Hillis found his niche and finished the 2010 season with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as well as 477 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the 2010 season that put Hillis on the map and also on the front cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12. As legend has it, the next season is cursed, and it just so happened that the 2011 season was a year to forget.
Hampered by injuries and unsuccesful negotiations for a contract extension caused Hillis to struggle in 2011 and as a result, the Browns let him test the waters of free agency and drafted a guy by the name of Trent Richardson. Hillis was signed by Kansas City Chiefs, but played as a backup to Jamaal Charles.
The words underutilized and undervalued don’t even do justice to the treatment of Hillis. Not only is he a great running back, but he is good with his hands and makes an offense better. With Denver and Cleveland, he improved offenses that had quarterbacks who were either subpar or loose cannons. It was his offensive presence that helped each team and made teams that are known for their defense good on offense.
Enter the New York Giants who have been horrendous on both offense and defense. With no running game and no way to utilize the dual-threat of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for fear of Manning throwing another inception, Hillis is the best option.
He may not be the long-term solution, but he should not be a short-term solution. His history shows that he has been overlooked for his talent and with a team that is in need of Superman, ‘Cover Boy’ can be the hero.
Many say that Hillis fell from grace, but in reality, he was pushed off of grace. He was pushed off by other organizations who didn’t see the talent he possesses. With a team that is mathematically still in a playoff race, but in hindsight out of a playoff race, this is Hillis’ chance to show those organizations who pushed him out how wrong they were.
‘Cover Boy’ may not be Batman, but hey, Gotham needs a hero and Hillis may not be the hero Gotham wants, but the hero they need.
New York Giants: Where is Jerry Reese?