Early in Little Giants, coach Kevin O’Shea — a former Heisman Trophy winner played by Ed O’Neill — holds tryouts for a youth football team and picks all the good players for his Cowboys squad. With one exception.
He whiffs badly (and sexistly) by not letting his niece, Becky, play on his team even though she’s clearly the best. And honestly, why were there even tryouts in the first place? Just let all the kids be on the team. Were the roster limits that strict? Hasn’t he ever heard of a depth chart?
But if a group hadn’t gotten left out, we wouldn’t have the great comeback story the movie turns out to be.
After some practice time to shape up, coach Danny O’Shea (played by Rick Moranis) gets his Giants team of outcasts (relatively) ready for their big game against the Cowboys. The matchup turned out to be a tale of two halves. The Giants go to halftime down 21-0, but — spoiler alert — come back to win with four touchdowns in the second half.
Given a chance at a do-over, Kevin O’Shea might think differently about how he’d pick teams. With the benefit of hindsight and a little bit of game tape, let’s break down the strengths and weaknesses of all the players from Little Giants.
Becky “Icebox” O’Shea
Throughout the movie, Icebox is referred to as a fullback by both herself and her father. I don’t doubt that she’s great there, but we don’t get to see much of it. The only time we do is on the final play, the Annexation of Puerto Rico, when she is just a decoy who doesn’t even have the ball. What we do get to see is that she’s an absolute star at linebacker.
Icebox can lay the wood.
She spends the first half of the game as a cheerleader — a main reason why the team falls behind, 21-0 — but she’s a lights-out defender in the second half. Cowboys running back Spike Hammersmith is running roughshod over the team early in the game. He couldn’t do a thing with Icebox in his way.
I mean, look at this freakin’ goal-line stand.
Sideline-to-sideline speed, fearless instincts, and the toughness to destroy a player much larger than her. Icebox is a first-round pick. Shame on you, Kevin O’Shea, for ever thinking otherwise.
Pro comparison: Undersized, but hard-hitting Steelers LB Mark Barron
Most of the evidence that Junior is an awesome quarterback came during practices. The only significant throw he makes in the game was a deep ball that bounces off the back of Rashid “Hot Hands” Hanon.
He’s gone for most of the second half after taking a cheap shot, right after delivering a huge hit of his own.
Junior is out of the game from that point until he comes back on the field for the last play. While we don’t see many throws from Junior, he does show off his hands and athleticism on the Giants’ first large gain of the second half.
With the exception of Icebox, Junior’s the best player on the Giants. It’s unfortunate that the last play of the game was the only one where both Junior and Icebox are on the field together.
Junior wasn’t at the original tryout. If he had been, he’d be on the Cowboys, because the kid’s got it all. Another first-round pick, for sure.
Rashid “Hot Hands” Hanon
Position: Wide receiver
From start to finish, Hanon is talked up as a receiver with an inability to catch. So much so that he puts an absurd amount of Stickum — an adhesive that was made illegal in the NFL long before Little Giants came out — to help him catch. It seems like the issue isn’t Hanon’s hands, though; it’s his confidence.
He’s a deep threat who can burn any defensive back but one who’s struggling with the yips. Even when he accidentally glues his hands to his chest with the stickum, he still manages to torch the defense.
You try racing someone with your hands flat against your chest. It’s not easy.
It’s not too surprising, then, that Hanon is able to make a play once he gets out of his own head:
That’s a game-breaking speed right there and a huge miss by Coach Kevin O’Shea. If nothing else, his Cowboys team could’ve used that quickness in the secondary.
Pro comparison: Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr., a speedy, former habitual pass dropper
Tad “Rad Tad” Simpson
Position: Running back
Tad’s weakness is that he’s absolutely terrified of contact. His very useful defense mechanism is that he’s excellent at avoiding it.
Running in circles and not gaining yardage is not ideal, but you really have to respect this elusiveness, while also asking what on Earth some of these defensive players are thinking.
Here’s his fear of getting hit coming in handy again.
And again, with a Lamar Jackson-esque juke:
I really worry what’s going to happen when Tad actually gets hit, but his aversion to it is at least bringing out some impressive moves.
Position: Offensive line/Defensive line
At one point in the movie, Steve Emtman, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, teaches Rudy that football is much a mental game as it is a physical one. That lesson apparently didn’t sink in until the second half, because Rudy gets pancaked early in the game by a blocker.
When Rudy remembers to believe in himself (and also use a little leverage for a change), he delivers a crushing block of his own.
It’s honestly tough to tell if Rudy is any good. He certainly seems to find more success on the offensive line than the defensive line. His consistency is lacking, though.
Pro comparison: The not nearly consistent enough Washington OT Ereck Flowers
Position: Honestly, I have no clue
Berman’s mostly comic relief with his one-liners and his overly enthusiastic and overprotective mom. His first notable moment in the game is when he disappears into his own uniform like a turtle — which is ridiculously impressive and definitely impossible.
But like any true cinematic momma’s boy, he has to lay out a player who disrespects his mom.
Jake’s also the one who runs the final leg of the relay in the game-winning “Annexation of Puerto Rico.”
What we know about Jake is that he’s small, not fast, not athletic, but pretty mean and fearless when he’s pissed off.
Pro comparison: Noted “Mama” defender, Vonn Bell
Johnny “Viper” Vennaro
Position: Running back
The only big moment for Johnny comes late in the game when his dad — previously too busy to play with his son — shows up. Excited to see his dad and give him a hug, Johnny runs through the whole Cowboys defense to make it happen.
That’s a run reminiscent of Beast Quake.
Timmy “Rawhide” Moore
This is probably the only character we get to know who doesn’t have a personal triumph. He spends most of the movie dressed like a cowboy and then gets run over in his only screen time during the game.
I mean, literally run over.
Come on ref, that sure seems like some unnecessary roughness or something.
Pro comparison: I don’t know. Is there someone who only gets trucked and never actually contributes? Probably a sideline photographer.
Marcus “The Toe”
We don’t ever find out the last name of Marcus, but that’s not even the biggest question he raises. The real mystery is WHY is he the kicker?
He gets “recruited” by the group to join the team when they see him kicking a dodgeball. Evidently, that shoehorned him into being the kicker even though there’s no proof he can actually kick a football.
The first play of the game is him completely missing the ball and kicking poor Johnny straight in the nethers.
His moment of glory is bouncing an extra point off the bottom crossbar and just barely through the uprights.
We don’t get to see the next two extra point tries, but the score gets to 21-21. Apparently Marcus keeps making kicks, even though I’m pretty confident someone else should be handling those duties.
Pro comparison: Historically awful Giants kicker Bob Timberlake
Position: Running back/Linebacker
The only Cowboys player worth knowing is Spike, a cheap-shotting tank of a kid who was — by all indications — raised like a pit bull barking at you through a chainlink fence. He’s the true antagonist of the movie, although I blame his dad for that, more than anything. The guy tells his son that he has to donate his kidney to Aunt Ruth if he doesn’t injure Junior Floyd!
Outrageously poor parenting aside, Spike is a freight train of a running back. Just about every time he touches the ball, it takes an army of Giants to tackle him.
He’s also a pretty terrifying linebacker. The major flaws in his game are that:
- He flies over the head of Tad Simpson on one tackle attempt and gets flipped by Icebox trying to go over her. Keep your feet on the ground, Spike.
- Icebox is in his head. For all the bravado, it’s pretty obvious that he’s worried about Becky O’Shea when he’s headed for the goal line in the final seconds of the game.
- Spike takes himself out of the final play by chasing down and tackling Icebox during “The Annexation of Puerto Rico.”
Ultimately, Spike’s machismo and violent play is his undoing and helps the Giants score a game-winning touchdown.
Pro comparison: Reckless Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict, who is suspended for the rest of the 2019 season.