MICHAEL STRAHAN has a unique perspective of Donovan McNabb's career, and not just because 10 percent of his 141 1/2 sacks were of McNabb.
Strahan, perhaps the greatest of all Giants, is buddies with McNabb. They chatted last week, in fact.
Like most out-of-town observers, Strahan cannot believe how little Philadelphia seems to appreciate the best quarterback in franchise history.
"Everybody in Philly – when he's gone, they're going to miss him," Strahan told the Daily News yesterday. "Even if they'd won the Super Bowl, I don't know if they'd be happy. It's like he can't do enough."
Strahan's perspective this season has come from a studio. He's an analyst on "Fox NFL Sunday," in his first year of retirement after helping the Giants win the Super Bowl a year ago.
He admires what he considered to be McNabb's high-road fortitude in 2008. McNabb had been derided by the press and fans. He even got benched seven games ago. He accepted it all without excessive protests and returned to the form that sent him to five Pro Bowls.
"I think he's handled it about as well as you could handle it. A lot of guys would have complained about, 'How dare you bench me?' " Strahan said. "They'd have tried to get the coach fired. Donovan said, 'I'll accept it like a man.' "
Strahan acknowledged that there was a change in McNabb, postbenching, that goes beyond his subsequent 97.7 passer rating - or, maybe, explains it.
"We talked about that last week. He's resurrected himself because he's having fun," Strahan said. "He doesn't care what people think about him anymore. You see him on the sideline now - he's dancing. He's laughing. Before, he was always on the edge."
Of course, McNabb isn't the only person Strahan speaks with. On Tuesday, he said, he interviewed the Giants' three-headed running attack. He routinely speaks with former teammate Jessie Armstead, now a first-year coach for the Giants.
He came away believing that the Giants, sputtering into the playoffs as the top seed, are comfortably insecure, in part because of the Plaxico Burress fiasco.
It isn't the absence of Burress that made the Giants vulnerable in December. Burress had been a disruptive entity and sporadic contributor this season, Strahan said, even before Burress shot himself in the thigh in late November and was done for the season.
The Giants began 11-1 but are on a 1-3 slide, said Strahan, mainly because workhorse runner Brandon Jacobs was nursing a knee injury and defensive tackle Fred Robbins was battling shoulder and hand issues.
Now, playing without Burress, and playing poorly down the stretch, there is a strong sentiment that the Giants aren't a Super Bowl-caliber club . . . which fits their motivational profile just fine.
"The Giants are a team that needs to play with a chip on its shoulder," said Strahan.
He should know. During his two Super Bowl runs with the Giants he was a loud and frequent champion of the unappreciated. He has passed that torch to the club's middle linebacker.
"That's what makes Antonio Pierce play well - the fact that he's doubted," Strahan said. "I'm sure he'll be stressing that the rest of this week."
In the locker room, Pierce will have an eager audience.
"They operate better off that," Strahan said. "There have been a few games where they have been completely flat. That could have been complacency."
Strahan spoke with a fire that recalled his joy of the game. He declined the Giants' requests to return early this season after injuries seemed to seriously deplete them. As the season progressed, certainly, a small part of him must have wanted back in . . . right? And, given the opponent this week, he has to be frothing at the mouth . . . right?
"Every once in a while, I really, really wanted to play," Strahan admitted.
This is not one of those times, even though his familiar combatant and unlikely speed-dial pal, Jon Runyan, would be lined up opposite him.
"Big ol' strong Jon Runyan is one of the main reasons I retired," Strahan said, laughing. "Justin Tuck can have all of him this weekend."
Does that mean he expects the Giants, sackless in the teams' two meetings this season, to finally get to McNabb?
Strahan wouldn't dish that: "Ah . . . you've got to watch the show on Sunday." *