New York Giants: TE Legend Mark Bavaro
By Michael Stewart
Mark Bavaro was drafted in the 4th round in the 1985 draft by the New York Giants. Very little was made of his selection as Bavaro was mainly a blocking TE at Notre Dame. That all changed when starting TE Zeke Mowatt suffered a season ending injury before the start of the 1985 season. Bill Parcels who commented that Mark Bavaro was so impressive during training camp that he had no reservations of making him the starting TE to start the 1985 season. Bavaro responded with 37 receptions for 511 yards and 4 TDS. The highlight of his rookie season was a game against the Cincinnati Bengals; which Bavaro caught 12 passes for 175 yards. Bavaro was named to the NFL All –Rookie team and continued his success the following season with 66 reps/1,001 yards and 4 TDS which was followed by being selected to his 1st Pro Bowl.
Bavaro’s attributes was not gauged by his offensive numbers alone, but rather his ability to block as well. During his Giants career, Bavaro matched up against some the best DE in the league; most notably Reggie White of the Eagle, who would say. “Bavaro was the best blocking TE I have ever gone up against.” Bill Parcells also would comment that “Bavaro was the toughest player he has ever coached” which says a lot with a roster full of Hall of Famers like Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor. One of the most memorable play that was summed up Mark Bavaro’s career as a Giants occurred on Monday Night against the San Francisco 49ers when Phil Simms threw an innocent pass over the middle to Bavaro and what happened next simplified Mark Bavaro’s career. It nearly took seven 49ers defenders to finally drag him down, some of which were carried for almost 20 yards, including future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. This one play propelled the Giants to victory and eventually the Super Bowl.This reputation as a tough player was further cemented later in the season when he played for six weeks with a broken jaw that forced him to sip food through a straw. He continued to establish his reputation as an excellent blocker during the season, and was described as “the premier tight end” in the league by 49ers’ coach Bill Walsh before the team’s playoff matchup.
Bavaro performed well the during the 1987 season and was again selected to the Pro Bowl. He finished the season with 55 receptions, 867 yards, and 8 touchdowns. He followed that with 53 receptions, 672 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 1988. After failing to miss a game due to injury in his first four seasons, Bavaro struggled with knee injuries in 1989 and was limited to seven games. He came back to play in 15 games in 1990. The Giants started the season 10–0 and finished 13–3. They advanced to the Super Bowl where they played the Buffalo Bills. During the game Bavaro made two key third down receptions to keep scoring drives alive as the Giants won 20–19.
Bavaro struggled with a degenerative knee condition throughout the 1990 season; which limited him from practicing at all. In the summer of 1991, the Giants cut him and then re-signed him due to a dispute and placed him on PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
Despite being advised to retire several times by the doctor who worked on his knee, Bavaro signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1992 by Giants former DC Bill Belichick, who had become the HC with the Brown. Bavaro played one season for the Browns and managed to appear in all 16 games. After the season he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles where he played in all 16 games again and had 43 receptions, 481 yards, and 6 touchdowns in 1993. After playing one more season for the Eagles he retired in 1995 at the age of 31. Bavaro finished his nine NFL seasons with 351 receptions for 4,733 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Mark Bavaro finished with 351 receptions for 4,473 yards and 39 TDS; with 2 Pro Bowl selections and 2 Super Bowl rings. The Giants have had TE’s who have had great success such as Bob Tucker and Jeremy Shockey. However; Bavaro was special and he will always be at this point the greatest TE in New York Giants history.