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Giants mourn death of former coach Ray Perkins

Perkins’ tenure began Giants’ rise from the Wilderness Years

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Ray Perkins, whose tenure from 1979-1982 as coach of the New York Giants began the organization’s turnaround from a period commonly referred to by fans as the Wilderness Years, passed away on Wednesday. He was 79.

Perkins coached the Giants from 1979-82 and compiled a 23-34 regular-season record. In 1981, he led the team to its first postseason berth since 1963. That Giants team upset defending NFC champion Philadelphia in the NFC Wild Card Game before losing in the divisional round to a San Francisco 49ers team that went on to win Super Bowl XVI.

Perkins led the Giants to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth in 1981, the first time the team had gone to the playoffs since 1963.

“Ray was George Young’s first hire as general manager in 1979,” said John Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer. “I remember George saying, ‘He will make it very uncomfortable for our players to lose.’ Ray did a good job for us and got us into the playoffs in 1981 for the first time in many years. During the 1982 season, which was shortened due to a players strike, he announced he was leaving at the end of the year to go to Alabama, which he described as his dream job. He left behind a team that had Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and Harry Carson, among others and this was the nucleus of the group that would go on to great success in the 1980’s and win two Super Bowls. I always wondered whether he later regretted that decision. But he certainly left our team in much better shape than he found it in, including having Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on his staff.”

Current Giants coach Joe Judge offered his “thoughts and prayers” to Perkins’ family during Judge’s videoconference with the media Wednesday.

Judge shared this about his personal interactions with Perkins:

“The first time I met Coach Perkins, I was actually working at Southern Miss. for a spring and he was at a junior college down the road. He came up and watched us practice one day and we just spent some time talking. I had just come from Alabama, he had been at Alabama obviously through his time. We shared some stories about Tuscaloosa,” Judge said. “But he spent a lot of time with me that day actually talking about being a young coach and really working with players and developing the players. That was the biggest thing that he really shared with me, and that’s a message that’s been echoed to me by a lot of people I’ve been around that have been very successful.

“The development of the players is what he really hammered me with, and that really came after a spring practice and watching a lot of young guys out there trying to plug guys around and find the right spot for them. He was just sharing some wisdom along ‘hey listen, give everybody an opportunity to improve and don’t make your mind up too early from what you think someone can do.’ “

Big Blue View sends its condolences to the Perkins family.