Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch took the first step toward fixing the dysfunctional New York Giants on Monday, handing coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese their walking papers. As uncomfortable as it is telling someone face-to-face that they no longer have a job that was the easy part.
Mara admitted Monday that he and Tisch knew “wholesale changes needed to be made to this organization.”
Now comes the hard part. Getting the right general manager and coach to effect those changes and help the Giants climb out of the embarrassing pit they have fallen, or maybe jumped headlong, into.
The Giants are already waist-high in a tailspin that has seen them miss the playoffs five out of six years. Unless they win twice over the final four games this will be the worst 16-game season in franchise history.
If Mara and Tisch don’t get the right general manager and coach, and that GM and coach can’t identify and develop the next franchise quarterback, a long period of bad football could be at hand. Wilderness Years, Part 2 — for real.
Using Ernie Accorsi is a good start
The former Giants GM pulled off the 2004 trade for Eli Manning and was largely responsible for building the 2007 championship team. He has consulted on GM searches for the Detroit Lions (hired Bob Quinn), Chicago Bears (Ryan Pace) and Carolina Panthers (Dave Gettleman).
Want clues to guys who might be on the Giants’ short list of potential GMs? Start with some guys who have been candidates in those three places. Current interim GM Kevin Abrams is one. Minnesota Vikings Assistant GM George Paton interviewed in both Chicago and Carolina. Green Bay’s Eliot Wolf was rumored to be the guy Detroit wanted, but the Packers denied him permission to interview. Gettleman and Accorsi worked together for a long time with the Giants, and Gettleman got the Carolina job. Buffalo Bills VP of Player Personnel Brian Gaine interviewed in Detroit and Chicago
There are others with connections to Accorsi, including Lions VP of Player Personnel Kyle O’Brien, who wasn’t on our original list.
Previous connections to Accorsi are not a prerequisite, of course. After helping the Bears hire Pace away from the New Orleans Saints, Accorsi explained to the Chicago Tribune what he looks for in a GM candidate:
“I always look at who's making the player personnel decisions on a team, and do they have players they're getting in the middle rounds they're winning with? You have to do that today. You only have seven picks, and the draft is still your lifeblood.
"And I look at the Steelers — that's why I think (GM) Kevin Colbert is so good. They have third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-round draft choices that they're winning in the playoffs with every year. And New Orleans rebuilt that team in a hurry, and that's how they rebuilt it. Listen, (quarterback Drew) Brees was a big pickup and all. That's fine. But you look all through that line, and you have players playing all through those two lineups that they picked in the middle or lower rounds. So, on paper, I thought, 'Someone has to be making the right decisions here.' “
Eli Manning and the future at QB
The Giants are apparently going to return Manning to his rightful place as the team’s starting quarterback this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. What happened to Manning last week was a travesty, especially since ownership allowed it to occur at the hands of a coach it knew was going to have to be replaced.
Thing is, now that the streak was snapped and Manning was forced to suffer the indignity of watching Geno Smith play his position, things can never quite be the same between Manning and the Giants.
Sure, he could start Sunday. He could start and play every snap the rest of the season in what would amount to a victory lap, a ‘thank you’ for all he has done for the franchise. He could even be back next year as the starter, though I think I agree with Brett Favre that Manning is more likely to be starting somewhere else next season.
Even if he is starting for the Giants in 2018, the franchise has made it obvious that they are pointed to the future. One a quarterback who will be 37 next season may not have a part in. Even if Manning is back he can never really play without looking over his shoulder, without knowing he’s keeping the job warm for whoever the new GM and coach believe is the future, without knowing the rug could again get pulled out from under him at any moment. In essence, if he’s back with the Giants he is Kurt Warner circa 2004.
Finding Manning’s heir and developing him properly is job No. 1 for the new Giants decision-makers. Maybe it will be Davis Webb. Maybe it will be one of the top QBs in the upcoming draft.
The new GM and coach absolutely have to get the quarterback decision right. Otherwise? Wilderness Years, Part 2.
Maybe the next coach will come from the list of candidates we published on Monday. Maybe it will be someone off the radar right now who we haven’t considered.
My view is that I highly doubt it will be Nick Saban — he will want way too much money, and way too much power. I also think it’s fantasy land if you think Jon Gruden will coach. My $.02 is he likes the attention, he likes being asked, he likes talking about it and leaving the door ajar. But, I don’t see it. He’s got too good of a gig at ESPN. Bill Cowher? Please. He has been out of the coaching ranks since 2006. Let’s live in the present.
My expectation is that John Mara and the Giants follow the preferred script of hiring a general manager first and then letting that GM find the coach.
Mara did say that despite the failure of the McAdoo era he wouldn’t shy away from a first-time coach. “If you think you have the right guy, you have to go for it,” he said.
If the Giants do hire a first-time coach, my guess is they look for someone with wider experience than the one organization/one system background McAdoo had before coming to New York.
Mara mentioned leadership, specifically a need for more locker room leadership. That probably begins with finding a coach who can communicate better with players and who can earn respect rather than demand it.
Personally, I would like to see someone who has a breadth of experience, first-time coach or not, and someone willing to coach the entire team and not be a one-side-of-the-ball guru type coach.
We won’t, however, really get any clues to who the next coach will be until we know who ownership puts into the general manager’s chair.