Giants’ Draft History: Young Changed Team’s Philosophy, Standards and Fortunes
John Fennelly , Lead Writer
GM Pulled Floundering Franchise Out of NFL Purgatory
The New York Giants are one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. They have a rich and colorful history stacked with legendary moments created by legendary players. In the 1950′s they helped put the fledgling NFL on a par with baseball, producing some of the game’s most celebrated personalities.
Then, in 1964, things changed. Age and poor planning sank the Giants to the bottom of the standings. Between 1964-1978 the once-proud franchise won only 74 games. To top things off, the co-owners – Wellington Mara and his nephew Tim – were engrossed in a bitter feud that furthered the team’s demise.
In stepped in NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. His suggestion to hire Baltimore Colts executive George Young was agreed upon by both parties. It was the best decision, perhaps, in New York sports history.
Young would run the Giants from 1979 through 1997. His tenure would produce two Super Bowl championship teams and return the Giants back to prominence. His successors, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese have built on Young’s strong foundation.
George Young was a fair, but tough manager. He made mistakes like most humans are prone to do, but he set the Giants on a course to succeed far into the future. His personnel decisions may be the best any GM has ever made.
It was Young who brought in Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Other great football minds would follow. It is a who’s who of NFL coaches: Charlie Weis, Mike Nolan, John Fox, Jim Fassel, Dan Reeves, Romeo Crennel, Al Groh, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin. He is also responsible for hiring Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese.
The list of players Young drafted and signed is even more impressive. Phil Simms is the franchise’s all-time leading passer. Amani Toomer surpassed all the club’s career receiving records and Tiki Barber became the greatest offensive player in Giants’ history.
Defensive end Michael Strahan is headed to the Hall of Fame. Mark Bavaro was a legendary tight end and a fan favorite.
The list of others is astounding: Leonard Marshall, Mark Haynes, David Meggett, Gary Reasons, Rodney Hampton, Rob Carpenter, Jim Burt, Bart Oates, Joe Morris, Carl Banks, Jumbo Elliott, Jeff Hostetler, Sean Landeta, Keith Hamilton, Brian Williams, Terry Kinard, Karl Nelson, Mark Collins, Pepper Johnson and Jesse Armstead.
Young’s coup d’etat came in the 1981 NFL Draft when he chose LB Lawrence Taylor with the second overall selection. I need not tell you how that worked out….
On this, the eve of the draft, the Giants and their fans should take a moment to thank Mr. Young for his contributions to the franchise and the league. Young passed away in 2001, but his legacy clearly lives on.
Some of my favorite Young-isms….
“I never draft anyone too smart….If he’s smart, he can find something to do other than to play this dumb game.”
Young, weighed over 300 lbs in his prime: “I never draft a fat guy because I’m a fat guy and I know what it’s like to get into shape.”