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George Young elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

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It’s about time

New York Giants
George Young in 1993.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Finally! George Young, former general manager of the New York Giants, has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Young was Giants’ general manager from 1979-97 and a five-time NFL Executive of the Year, was announced Wednesday as a member of the Hall’s Class of 2020, an uniquely large 20-member group selected in conjunction with the league’s centennial. He was one of three contributors chosen from a list of 10 finalists by a special panel comprised of members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Hall of Famers, coaches, football executives and several leading football historians.

The Giants had not made the playoffs in 15 consecutive seasons when Young became GM in 1979. The Giants won two Super Bowl titles and three NFC East championships during Young’s 19 seasons.

“George is certainly very deserving of being in the Hall of Fame,” said co-ownerJohn Mara in a statement released by the team. “My only regret is that he’s not around to enjoy this. He took our organization from being in last place and not having a lot of respect around the league, to being a Super Bowl Champion. He made every football department in our organization more professional. He changed the reputation and level of respect that our team had for the better. He improved us in so many different ways. He certainly is a very deserving Hall of Famer. Again, I only wish he could be around to enjoy this moment. It’s long overdue. All of us here are very happy that at long last, he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.”

“George Young’s career is the very definition of a Hall of Famer,” said Ernie Accorsi, who came to the Giants as Young’s assistant in 1994 and succeeded him as general manager when Young departed. “From assistant coach to scout to general manager to trusted advisor to Commissioner Tagliabue, every step of the way there was excellence. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of George or something I learned from him. The only bittersweet part is that he’s not here. But as the great Beano Cook would say, ‘If the Gipper knew, George knows.’”

Young was hired by the feuding Giants ownership in 1979 as a compromise candidate suggest by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Young’s first draft choice was Phil Simms, a little-known quarterback from Morehead State who was the franchise’s greatest player at the game’s most important position before Eli Manning came along. Two years later, Young chose linebacker Lawrence Taylor with the second overall selection in the NFL Draft. When his coach, Ray Perkins, left the Giants after the 1982 season to become the coach at his alma mater, the University of Alabama, Young promoted defensive coordinator Bill Parcells to head coach.

From 1981-90, Parcells, Simms and Taylor led the Giants to six playoff berths, three NFC East titles and two Super Bowl victories. Taylor and Parcells are in the Hall of Fame. So is Harry Carson, who arrived three years before Young but became a team captain and played in seven of his nine Pro Bowls during Young’s tenure.

Young drafted the top three rushers in Giants history (Tiki Barber, Rodney Hampton and Joe Morris), the most productive receiver (Amani Toomer) and the players ranked one through three in career sacks (Strahan, Taylor and Leonard Marshall). Three other members of the Ring of Honor were drafted by Young (tight end Mark Bavaro and linebackers Carl Banks and Jessie Armstead).

Young was named NFL executive of the year (1984, 1986, 1990, 1993 and 1997). The person who is receives that honor from The Sporting News is presented annually with the George Young NFL Executive of the Year Award.

Young retired from the Giants in January 1998 to fill the newly-created position of director of football operations for the NFL under Tagliabue, who was also a Hall of Fame finalist as a contributor. Less that four years later in 2001, he passed away at age 71.

This is an honor I have long believed Young deserved, having more or less rescued an iconic, floundering franchise.

“I think this would have meant a lot to George because he always had a great appreciation for the history of the game and he had so much respect for people who were enshrined in the Hall,” Mara said “I think this would have meant the world to him, even though he may not have admitted to that. I think this would have had a huge impact on him. Again, I’m really sorry he’s not around to enjoy it.”

“He would make light of it to a point,” Accorsi said. “But he would be very, very happy and fulfilled for this. This would have been something he cherished, because the game meant so much to him.”