NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Friday, December 11, 2015, 12:45 AM
Carl Banks, here at the Daily News Hometown Heroes event in 2013, has to keep his emotions in check sometimes while calling Giants games.
There is a line Carl Banks won’t cross.
It’s a boundary of the mind. Not the foot.
Banks, the former Giants linebacker deluxe, suddenly found himself at the crossroads Sunday during the fourth quarter, when that infamous (at least for Giants fans) fourth-and-2 from the Jets 4 went down.
On the radio, there was frustration in Banks’ voice when Eli Manning’s pass was picked off by Rontez Miles. And the disgusted tone wasn’t about Tom Coughlin’s decision to eschew the field goal attempt.
Banks had already blessed that crucial, and controversial, hunk of strategy.
No, this was all about Rueben Randle, who in Banks’ opinion (and those of other concerned citizens, including his partner Bob Papa) cut the route short, which — at the least — made him a key suspect in the Giants’ demise. This was not the first time this season Randle had been accused of finding a patch of wet concrete on the gridiron, getting stuck on a route.
And listening to Banks Sunday, as well as on subsequent radio appearances, he left a distinct impression his reaction was not solely based on Randle messing up a particular play. Banks sounded like he had more to say about Randle but put the brakes on his mouth.
“I just had to stop myself (from further criticizing Randle) because it (the criticism) was starting to border on what I would say if I was holding a teammate accountable when I played — or if I was still playing,” Banks said during a telephone conversation. “That’s a mentality I did not want to put on display. Because then it becomes personal. I started to feel a sense of frustration beyond the professional aspect of it.”
Banks said that, as a broadcaster, he’s never reached a similar point with any other Giants player.
And Giants suits have never mandated anything from their broadcasters other than not making it personal while criticizing a player. “We can tell the truth about a player,” Banks said. “But we don’t trash him in the process.”
While Banks said he has never attempted to provide off-the-field advice to Randle, or do any “counseling,” he has set the bar high in terms of his own expectations for the wideout. This triggered his frustrations.
“It wasn’t a behind-the-scenes (discussion) because I don’t want to lecture a kid. I have never said anything about him publicly that I wouldn’t say to him personally,” Banks said. “…We had him on our show a couple of weeks ago and I said, ‘Look, my expectations for you are based on your ability and you have too much ability not to be a significant contributor for this team.’ It’s not like he hasn’t already heard that from me before.”
There is more than one way of looking at this. Banks is in his ninth season working in the Giants Radio Network booth. Through those years, he has dispelled a theory mostly perpetuated by pom-pom protagonists who broadcast for other local teams. They insist a voice cannot be hypercritical of the “home” team.
And it wasn’t like Banks went all that easy on Randle after the fourth-and-2 fiasco. That’s why it would have been interesting, and entertaining as well, to hear Banks’ mouth go south of the border, really letting loose on Randle. Banks considered that course of action. In a verbal sense, he went to the ledge. He just decided not to jump.
“When it gets there, and it never has, I might have to call the guy a dog. I’d rather make the point by saying he (Randle) didn’t run his route,” Banks said. “In reality, on that play, he quit on his team. That’s obvious to everybody. So at that point, on that particular play, I drew the line. I was headed for a place I didn’t want to go.”
On the other hand, Banks should be applauded for showing a certain restraint. He made his point, albeit making it while at the same time considering flooring the accelerator, so to speak, and speeding directly to Trash City.
The thought of going down that road did not leave Banks’ mind once the game ended. Without any prompting, during his Monday spot with WFAN’s Joe Benigno/Evan Roberts, Banks analyzed the play again before cutting his analysis short, saying: “…That’s as much as I can say about it because I’ll get in trouble…”
Not with the Giants. Or anyone else, for that matter. Banks felt himself getting too wrapped up in one player. To tempted to react to Randle with all the force and forceful adjectives he would have mustered as a player. This is what happens when someone who knows the intensity and commitment needed to play the game sees a talented type headed in the opposite direction.
Banks can see it. But there is nothing he can say to stop it.
“I was starting to become emotionally invested in it,” Banks said. “And I didn’t want to become an emotional hostage to a situation like that.”
Wise decision. That’s a gig with no benefits.