The New York Giants have been fortunate when it comes to general managers. Since 1979, when NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle stepped in to mediate the long-standing feud between Giants owners Wellington Mara and his nephew, Tim, the Giants have had just three GMs: George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese.
Young was handpicked by Rozelle to run the NFL’s flagship franchise, which had been floundering for the better part of 15 seasons and had not qualified for the postseason since 1963. Confidence in the club was at an all-time low after the infamous “fumble” game. Fans were burning tickets and calling for the Maras to sell the team. The clincher was a banner that was flown over the stadium by a private plane that read, “15 Years of Lousy Football…We’ve Had Enough.”
Young who had a long, successful track record with the Colts and Dolphins, would turn the Giants into contenders, winning two Super Bowls. He ran the Giants’ draft from 1979 through 1995 or so, giving way to Accorsi officially in 1998. Accorsi and Young had known each other since their Baltimore days. He ran the Giants until 2007 when he handed the reins to Reese, who had been working in the Giants’ organization as a scout and personnel director since 1994.
You can debate all day long which of the three has been the most successful. Since Young and Accorsi operated in a different financial climate, meaning limited free agency, I’ll just map out the facts and give my opinion of each man and their job performance.
George Young 1979-1997
Coaches: Ray Perkins (1979-82), Bill Parcells (1983-90), Ray Handley (1991-92), Dan Reeves (1993-96), Jim Fassel (1997).
Draft Hits: QB Phil Simms, CB Mark Haynes, LB Lawrence Taylor, OL Billy Ard, RB Joe Morris, S Terry Kinard, DE Leonard Marshall, OT Karl Nelson, CB Perry Williams, LB Carl Banks, OL Williams Roberts, QB Jeff Hostetler, LB Gary Reasons, TE Mark Bavaro, CB Mark Collins, DT Erik Howard, LB Pepper Johnson, OT Doug Riesenberg, WR Mark Ingram, WR Stephen Baker, OT Jumbo Elliott, C Brian Williams, G Bob Krach, S Greg Jackson, RB David Meggett, TE Howard Cross, DB Myron Guyton, RB Rodney Hampton, WR Ed McCaffrey, LB Corey Miller, CB Phillippi Sparks, DL Keith Hamilton, DE Michael Strahan, LB Jesse Armstead, DB Jason Sehorn, FB Charles Way, WR Amani Toomer, OL Roman Oben, WR Ike Hilliard, RB Tiki Barber, P Brad Maynard and S Sam Garnes.
Draft Misses: DT Myron Lapka, WR Danny Pittman, TE Dave Young, RB Butch Woolfolk, OL Gerry Raymond, RB George Adams, DE Eric Dorsey, DB Adrian White, DE Greg Mark, QB Dave Brown, FB Jarrod Bunch, LB Kanavis McGhee, TE Derek Brown, WR Thomas Lewis, RB Tyrone Wheatley and DL Cedric Jones.
Best moves: Hiring and sticking with Parcells after Perkins left to coach Alabama in 1982…taking Simms, a little-known QB out of small Morehead State, with the 7th overall selection of his first draft as GM…finding Bavaro in the 4th round in 1985….gambling on Strahan, who came from a small college in Texas in the 2nd round.
Worst moves: Bypassing Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Romeo Crennel to hire Handley as head coach after Parcells left in 1990…burning a first round pick to take Duke QB Dave Brown in the 1992 NFL Supplemental Draft.
Luckiest move: Risking losing Taylor in the 1981 draft by not swapping picks with New Orleans, who had the top selection. The Giants, drafting second overall, gave off vibes they were interested in South Carolina RB George Rogers, the Heisman Trophy winner. They actually wanted Taylor and the Saints took the bait and grabbed Rogers. The rest you know…
Grade: A. He made some the franchise’s most seminal moves in Simms, Parcells, Taylor and Strahan. Not everyone hits a homer every time up at the plate, but Young pulled the Giants out of the dungeons of the NFL and restored pride and success to an organization that had lost their way.
Ernie Accorsi 1998-2007
Coaches: Jim Fassel (1998-2003), Tom Coughlin (2004-2007)
Draft hits: S Shaun Williams, OT Luke Petitgout, TE Dan Campbell, DT Cornelius Griffin, CB Will Allen, TE Jeremy Shockey, DE Osi Umenyiora, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, OL David Diehl, WR David Tyree, QB Eli Manning (via trade), OL Chris Snee, S Gibril Wilson, CB Corey Webster, DL Justin Tuck, RB Brandon Jacobs, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Barry Cofield.
Draft misses: WR Brian Alford, RB Joe Montgomery, RB Ron Dayne, WR Tim Carter, OT Jeff Hatch, DT William Joseph, WR Sinorice Moss, LB Gerris Wilkinson
Best moves…listening to Wellington Mara and hiring Tom Coughlin as the head coach in 2004…rolling the dice and trading up for Manning in the 2004 draft…hiring Reese as his successor…also can give him credit for many of the draft hits in Young’s final years, such as Toomer and Barber.
Grade: B+: Accorsi will be best known for his draft day trade for Eli Manning, and he should be. That trade gave the Giants a franchise quarterback and a player to hang their hats on for the next 15 years. He had some draft clunkers, just like any other GM has, but for the most part he did an excellent job. Not sure how much input Reese had in Ernie’s final years, but we think it’s quite a bit.
Accorsi did make some significant free agent signings along the way such as QB Kerry Collins, punter Jeff Feagles, C Shaun O’Hara, LB Antonio Pierce, OT Kareem McKenzie, LB Micheal Barrow, PK Jay Feely, WR Plaxico Burress and DT Fred Robbins.
Jerry Reese (2007-present)
Coaches: Tom Coughlin (2007-15), Ben McAdoo (2016-present)
Draft hits: WR Steve Smith, LS Zak DeOssie, TE Kevin Boss, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Mario Manningham, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Linval Joseph, OL Justin Pugh, DT Johnathan Hankins, LB Devon Kennard, WR Odell Beckham, Jr., C Weston Richburg, S Landon Collins
Draft misses: LB Clint Sintim, WR Ramses Barden, TE Travis Beckum, DT Marvin Austin, CB Jayron Hosley, DE Damontre Moore, WR Jerrel Jernigan, TE Adrien Robinson, RB Andre Williams
Unluckiest moves due to injuries….S Kenny Phillips, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Chad Jones, RB David Wilson
Grade: B: Reese probably should have been fired along with Coughlin after the 2015 season. He has as many misses as he does hits and three losing seasons in a row usually get you shown the door. But the Giants are keeping their faith in him and after an 11-5 finish in 2016, it looks like his job is safe for now. Reese has nailed it in free agency over the years, however, a talent stream that his predecessors did not have full access to.
Some of the names that Reese has brought in have become Giant staples: LB Kawika Mitchell, LB Michael Boley, S Antrel Rolle, P Steve Weatherford, WR Victor Cruz, LB Mark Herzlich, S Stevie Brown and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just to name a few.