New York Giants co-owner John Mara strongly rebutted charges of nepotism and his family having too heavy of a hand in the inner workings of the front office during a virtual news conference on Tuesday.
Mara was alternately testy about questions regarding the role of family members, particularly Chris Mara in the front office and remorseful about the poor decision-making of the past few years.
Let’s go through the takeaways from a post-season press conference that comes amidst a fourth head-coaching search and second general manager search since Tom Coughlin was let go in 2015.
The family business
Chris Mara, John Mara’s brother is the team’s senior vice president of player personnel. Tim McDonnell, John Mara’s nephew, is the team’s co-director of player personnel. Mara grew angry when asked about the roles of family members in the front office and denied that the family exerts “undue influence” over personnel decisions.
“That perception has been created by you [the media] and others and the reality is that in terms of my brother, my brother spends most of his time doing evaluation of college players. His grades go into our system and he participates in the draft,” Mara said.
“All personnel decisions in this building, and this has always been the case, have been made by the general manager and the head coach.
“Chris is a very skilled evaluator, but he does not have any authority here other than the fact that I will go to him on occasion and ask him about players.
Mara also defended McDonnell, who began with the team as a pro scout seven years ago.
“Tim is probably the most respected guy we have in this building,” Mara said. “Coaches, front office staff, the general manager go to him and ask his advice on players because he is a good evaluator. He’s worked his way up from the bottom and he’s earned his stripes. He does not have any authority here.”
Mara then reiterated that personnel decisions are the bailiwick of the coach and GM.
“The personnel decisions have always been made and will always be made by the general manager and the head coach,” he said. “If they agree on a draft pick, on a UFA, then I’m gonna OK it 99.9 percent of the time. The only time I will raise an issue about it is if there is a conduct issue.”
There is, of course, a perception that family members would hold more sway over decisions than non-family members. Mara does not believe that is reality.
”I do not think it [opinions of family members] holds any more sway. That has not been my experience,” Mara said. “I listen to them. There are many voices in this building, but the only two voices at the end of the day that matter are the head coach and the general manager. They make the final determination.
“They [family members] do not have undo influence on the final decisions that are made here. They absolutely do not.”
Eyebrows were raised, of course, when it was learned that Chris Mara, along with John Mara and Steve Tisch, was taking part in the process of interviewing GM candidates — a GM who would theoretically be higher on the organizational chart than Chris Mara once hired.
I'll be the one to say it. It bothers me that Chris Mara, who works in the front office a new GM will allegedly run, is part of the GM interview process.— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) January 12, 2022
“What we need to do is hire the right general manager to oversee the football operations and that’s what this process is about,” John Mara said. “You make it sound like we’re having undue influence on the football operations here.
“I’ve said this repeatedly, for whatever reason you guys keep asking me about it, it’s the general manager and the head coach that are the most important people in this building in terms of making personnel decisions. Chris is in those interviews because he’s part of ownership and I value his opinion; I value his skills and I want him in there. At the end of the day, I’ll listen to him, but it will be Steve Tisch and myself who make the final decision.”
Valentine’s View: Mara might be right here. Sort of. None of us are in the building with the Giants front office executives and none of us can speak directly to the dynamics within. I think, though, that John has a blind spot to the perception, to what it looks like when family members occupy chairs that could have even the smallest influence on personnel decisions. It doesn’t look good.
That is no disrespect to Chris Mara or to McDonnell. Chris Mara could possibly have gone on to be a GM of a different NFL franchise had he wanted to. McDonnell may be a terrific personnel evaluator.
Reality is, though, having family members in positions to have any real impact doesn’t look right from the outside. I would guess it may give some of the GM candidates pause, as well.
About the frustrated fan base
One thing Mara does understand is the frustration of the fan base. He knows why he gets scorned on Twitter. He saw the people with bags over their heads and clown makeup on their faces at Sunday’s season finale. He knows that as the Giants undertake yet another re-start that many have no faith in his — or Tisch’s — ability to get it right this time.
“Well, I haven’t given them any reason to believe that. It’s up to Steve and me to make the right choices going forward to earn back their trust,” Mara said. “That is not going to be an overnight process. That’s going to take some time, but it starts with getting the general manager pick done correctly and then with hiring the right head coach.”
After five consecutive double-digit loss seasons, Mara admitted this is as embarrassed as he has ever been about the state of the franchise.
“Honestly, I would have to say yes. Yes, it is,” Mara said. “I kept thinking during the season that we had hit rock bottom and then each week it got a little worse. Honestly, I’m not proud of saying this, but if I’m going to be 100 percent honest, I would have to say the answer is yes.”
Casting a wider net
Mara and Tisch were heavily criticized for not conducting a wider search before hiring Gettleman to succeed Jerry Reese.
Mara admitted Wednesday that the Giants may have been hasty in their hiring of Gettleman, and perhaps Joe Judge, as well.
“We haven’t necessarily made the right choices,” Mara said. “I think looking back on our process, I wish it had been a little more extensive, that we had seen more people and maybe taken our time a little bit more with it. We’re going to try not to make that mistake this time.”
Mara believes he and Tisch can make the right choice this time.
“I don’t expect a lot of people to believe that given what’s happened over the last few years and I’m going to have to earn their trust again,” he said. “But I feel very good about the group of candidates for the general manager position that we have scheduled right now. I think any one of a number of them would make an excellent general manager, so I am confident that we have the resources to make the right choice here.”
Why Joe Judge got fired
Mara said that it is “gut-wrenching” every time he has to tell someone to turn in their key card and pack their belongings.
“There is nothing more painful to me than making that long walk down the hallway to tell somebody, particularly a good person like Joe (Judge), that we’re making a change,” Mara said.
Mara said there was no “final straw” that lead to the decision to move on from a third straight head coach after two years. It wasn’t the back-to-back quarterback sneaks, though he admitted “those weren’t my favorite play calls in the world.” It wasn’t the 11-minute rant, though he said he “wasn’t thrilled” with that.
“It was just a culmination of things. We just got to a point where I thought we had dug ourselves a hole so deep that I didn’t see a clear path to getting out of it unless we completely blew it up and started all over again with a new general manager and a new head coach,” Mara said. “I still think that there is a really good head coach inside of Joe Judge. I just felt like given where we are right now on the verge of bringing in a new general manager, we have to give that person the flexibility to bring in the head coach that he wants. I think that was a large part of the decision here in making a change. I just felt like we really needed to just start from the ground up again.”
About the new GM
Mara was asked if he thought given all the losing, the constant turnover and the poor state of the roster that the Giants’ GM remained a desirable one.
“All I can tell you is based on the number of inquiries that I have had from prospective candidates; we’re not going to be able to interview even 20 percent of all them. This is a very desirable job,” Mara said. “We happen to have a lot of draft capital coming up. I think this is an organization that people want to work for, so I’ve been heartened by the fact that so many people have expressed an interest and including people who are very talented and who have a legitimate shot at getting the job. We haven’t been turned down by anybody yet.”
Mara said the new GM would “lead the search for head coach,” but that “those decisions always are subject to final approval by ownership.”
He added that decisions on the futures of quarterback Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley or any other player would be left to the head coach and GM.
A final note: Mara said the GM and head coach would not be brought in as a package deal.
“I want to go through a complete process here, interview as many people as possible,” Mara said. “I don’t want to rush into anything – we made that mistake in the past. I want to make sure we get to see as many candidates as possible, ideally.”