John Mara: Honor for father 'important for me and for my family'

John Mara - The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Giants' co-owner speaks to Big Blue View on eve of 'Hometown Hall of Fame' recognition for his late father, Wellington Mara.

What does New York Giants' co-owner John Mara think of the latest version of the Manning Face, the bearded look quarterback Eli Manning has been sporting during the Giants' current four-game winning streak?

"I don't care whether he shaves or doesn't shave. I just want to win the game on Sunday," a laughing Mara said via phone Thursday afternoon.

Mara's late father, legendary Giants' owner Wellington Mara, will be honored Friday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate as part of the 'Hometown Hall of Famers' program. A plaque will be presented in Mara's honor during a ceremony at Loyola School in New York City, which Mara attended.

Wellington Mara died in 2005 at age 89 after running the Giants for 68 years.

"It's important for me and for my family, it really is," Mara said. "To realize that people still do remember him and remember the contributions that he made to football and also to New York. We're excited to have his legacy recognized by the Hall of Fame and especially his high school, Loyola School, which meant so much to him."

John Mara has officially been part of the Giants organization since 1991, and took over primary control of the franchise when his father passed. He said Thursday that he has tried to live up to the legacy his father established.

'My father set pretty high standards here for the way he ran this team.' - John Mara

"My father set pretty high standards here for the way he ran this team and the way he lived his life and the way he treated people and the reputation he had. Those are pretty tough standards to live up to, but they're worthwhile goals," Mara said.

"I think mostly I realize how lucky and blessed I am to have the opportunity to run this franchise that he built throughout his lifetime. Probably the most important lesson I ever learned from him is to try to treat other people the way you would want to be treated. I try to do that here with the Giants. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but that's a very simple goal for someone to set. That's a very important value he tried to teach each of his children.

"You know, obviously he had a great reputation for integrity and honesty and compassion, and all of those values are values we try to have around here."

The Giants and New York Jets will play host to the 2014 Super Bowl in February. That is "something that I don't think my father ever would have believed could have been possible," Mara said.

"It's something we're very proud of and humbled by the fact that the 30 other NFL teams have enough confidence is us to give us the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl," Mara said. "It's an obligation that we have to do a good job in making it the best possible week and game that we can. We're looking forward to it, there's a lot of work to be done and we think it's going to be a great week, it's going to be a great game."

Obviously, weather could be a factor. It will, after all, be February in New Jersey.

'We're very proud of and humbled by the fact that the 30 other NFL teams have enough confidence is us to give us the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.' - John Mara

"I think that we're ready for anything that might come along. Obviously we're used to dealing with all kinds of weather conditions in this area and we'll be ready for anything. Certainly we hope we have nice weather, particularly on game day, but if not we'll adjust accordingly and it will still end up being a great game," Mara said.

"Our major sales pitch when we asked the owners to award us the game was some of the greatest games in NFL history have been played in adverse weather conditions. They've been some of the most memorable games. Why not do that with a Super Bowl? We'll be ready for anything."

One Super Bowl bonus for Giants' fans, regardless of whether or not the Giants get there, could be the likely inclusion of former Giants great Michael Strahan in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Strahan is a semi-finalist, and the enshrinees will be announced Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl game.

"That would be great if it comes to fruition. I was quite frankly a little surprised that he didn't get in last year because I'm not sure what more you have to do to be considered a Hall of Fame candidate," Mara said

"He was not only a great player for us, but he was a great leader. I just think back to him during the 2007 season and the leadership he showed getting us to the Super Bowl and then winning that game and there's no way we have a Super Bowl season if Michael Strahan's not on the team.

"He meant a lot to this organization, and still does."

This year's Giants, of course, got off to an unthinkably poor 0-6 start. They have rebounded to win four straight, making Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium vs. the Dallas Cowboys a critical one. How does Mara feel about this year's version of the Giants?

"I certainly feel a little better than I did four weeks ago," Mara said. "Obviously we were all disappointed and surprised by the poor start that we had, but I am proud of the fact that our team stuck together and we're now at the point where we can play meaningful games late in the year. Hopefully we can keep this thing going and make a run."

Mara is a member of the league's Competition Committee and has been a part of the push to change the rules to make the game safer for players. That has led to frustration from defensive players, complaints from some that the league is going too far and criticism of officials.

Mara said the league is "heading in the right direction."

"You can't have it both ways," Mara said. "We're trying to make the game safer, we're trying to decrease the hits to the head and neck area and unfortunately that's occasionally going to lead to calls that people are going to complain about."

'we do need to continue to try to make the game safer.' - John Mara

The latest controversial penalty was on a hit by Ahmad Brooks of the San Francisco 49ers to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Mara defended that as the "proper call."

"Is it more difficult for officials? Yes, I think it is and unfortunately these calls get scrutinized and replayed over and over again and it does increase the pressure on officials. I think those are thing we just have to live with because we do need to continue to try to make the game safer. That's an obligation that all of us who are associated with the NFL have, and it's something that I take very seriously being on the Competition Committee," Mara said.

"Listen there are plenty of calls against my team that I don't particularly like from time to time, but when you sit back at the end of the season and look at everything there are certain things that you just have to live with in order to make the game safer for the players. I think it's well worth the effort that we're putting into it.

"I do think we're heading in the right direction. It's not going to be without controversy, it's not always going to be smooth sailing but if we can reduce the number of hits to the head and neck area and reduce the number of serious injuries then it's all worthwhile."

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