Young is used to dealing with ire of fans

November 01, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When George Young made an obscure quarterback from Morehead State named Phil Simms his first draft pick as general manager of the New York Giants in 1979, the fans were in an uproar.

Young simply shrugged when he asked for his reaction to the booing.

"When I took the job, I asked Wellington [Mara, the team's owner] if there was a fence around my office with a gate that locked, and he said yes," Young said at the time.

It's time for Young to check that lock again.

Thirteen years and two Super Bowls later, Giants fans are again in an uproar.

This time the target is second-year coach Ray Handley, who was selected by Young to succeed Bill Parcells, who retired in May 1991.

Except for their records (Handley started out 11-12 and Parcells 7-15-1), it would be difficult to find two coaches more different than Handley and Parcells.

Parcells was a self-described "Jersey guy," a New Jersey native who could walk the walk and talk the talk of the sidewalks of New York. He was a master at bantering with the media, and he was comfortable in the spotlight.

Handley is a native of Nevada, a former Stanford player who almost gave up football for law school a year ago and never has seemed comfortable in the public eye. He has had repeated flare-ups with the media, and one tabloid superimposed a drawing of an empty gas tank on his forehead.

Another difference is that when Parcells took over, the Giants had not won a championship since 1956. Now they've won two since 1986, and the standards are higher. The fans are impatient and have been chanting, "Ray Must Go."

Handley has at least one thing going for him: Young's backing.

As the Giants limp into RFK Stadium to play the Washington Redskins tonight, Young is as unflappable as he was when he selected Simms.

"The sadness of all sports, not just here, is that sometimes I don't thinkwe've risen above the Roman Colosseum," he said. "I think in all of sports, the coach is too much of a target. It's a bad omen for the future of sports. I think in terms of a coaching staff and your organization trying to win, not looking for one guy as a walk-on-water person. I think the Messiah has been here already.

"I don't think we should always be looking for a new Messiah in football. You've got to get a lot of good people working together in your organization. That leads to having a successful franchise, not trying to think you're going to find one guy who's going to save the world."

Young said the Giants are in transition now that Simms, 36, is injured and linebacker Lawrence Tayor, 33, is in his last year.

"We're losing some outstanding players whose skills have diminished," he said. "The name on the back of the uniform is the same, but the person in the uniform is not the same. Then, we have a [new] coach who has to go through this. Any coach who follows a very popular coach has a problem."

The general manager who picks that coach also has problems.

On the back page of the New York Daily News last Sunday was the headline, "Blame George Young for the Handley Mess."

Columnist Mike Lupica, who advocates the return of Parcells, wrote, "George Young is to blame."

It's not surprising that Lupica is a Parcells backer. He was a co-author of Parcells' book.

"I don't dislike Mike Lupica," Young said. "He's in show business. He's never here. He has an agenda. How much time do you think he put into that article? I have only have one agenda. It's for our franchise to be successful as possible."

Young also dismissed Handley's problems with the media.

"No assistant coaching job prepares you to be a head coach in handling the media. He's being hit with all this media stuff and he's not a media expert," Young said.

Young says the only solution is more victories.

"The sadness of sports is if you win, things are overlooked and some rather bad things sometimes are overlooked," he said. "If you lose, everything is microscoped. I'm old enough to understand that. I don't fight it the way younger people will."

He also said that expectations are raised by winning.

"We played in the Super Bowl, believe it or not, on Jan. 27, 1991," Young said. "This is October of 1992. Isn't that something? How about the team that hasn't been anywhere for 20 years or 30 years or 40 years?"

If the Giants don't start winning, he may have to fire Handley.

Young's friends, though, say that's not likely to happen before the end of the season.

Young simply said he evaluates things at the end of each year and he won't even discuss that possibility of firing Handley. "Are you trying to smoke me out?" he said, rebuffing that question.

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