Giants' Young still has the zest

October 16, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

It was an emotional moment for New York Giants general manager George Young when he gave Lawrence Taylor a farewell hug at the Monday night halftime ceremony for retiring Taylor's No. 56.

"I was moved very much by it," Young said. "I miss seeing him play. It was a pleasure watching him. There's not that many truly great players. There's a lot of excellent players, but not many truly great players who really have an impact and change the game."

Taylor was the cornerstone of the franchise that won two Super Bowls under former coach Bill Parcells. Now, Young is trying to put together another Super Bowl team in an era of free agency.

Getting a team back to the top after it loses the core of a championship team is not an easy feat. Young, though, said he is looking forward to the challenge.

After being hospitalized for the second straight year during the off-season by exhaustion, Young got serious about losing weight. He is blunt: He doesn't say he was overweight; he says he was fat.

He now has lost so much that some friends were wondering if there was something wrong with him.

"People see me on TV, and they think I'm sick because I've lost weight. I'm serious," he said.

Young is 64, but he has lost none of his zest for the job.

"I'm very fortunate; I have good genes," he said. "I'll match my blood pressure or all those chemical things with anybody. I have no complaints. I don't have anything wrong with me."

Now that free agency and the salary cap have turned football into a 365-day season, Young decided to hire former Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns executive Ernie Accorsi as his assistant last summer.

That started speculation that Young was grooming his successor. Or that the Giants had told him to name an assistant.

"I read all that stuff," Young said. "I told them [sportswriters] in the beginning that it was initiated by me and not anybody else but me. Things have gotten a little more complicated, and I'd like to have a little more help."

Young said he doesn't even think about retiring.

"I can't predict what I'm going to do," he said. "In this business, you don't necessarily retire -- they retire you. I'm not cocky about that."

When NFL players were suing for free agency two years ago, they made it public that Young had gotten a five-year deal that paid him $1 million a year.

Young said it was somewhat misleading because much of the money is deferred, but he's added that most of the people in pro sports are overpaid, including him.

Young also recalls that when he left City College to join the Colts in 1968, he got a raise from $13,000 to $14,000 and a $1,000 bonus.

When he was named Giants GM in 1979, they offered him $75,000, and he accepted.

"I wanted a five-year deal. I was more concerned about the five-year deal so I'd have time to do the job. I was more concerned about the length of my contract," said Young, who was making $36,000 in Miami as a scout when the Giants hired him.

It took Young three years to get the Giants to the playoffs and eight to win a Super Bowl. They won a second one after the 1990 season.

With Taylor and quarterback Phil Simms gone, Young is trying to get his team back on top the same way he did it the first time -- relying on the draft, even though free agency is another tool now.

"You can improve your team a little faster, but I don't think you're going to be able to buy a championship," he said. "It's still going to be personnel decisions and your coach that are going to help you."

All the other team executives on the New York sports scene who were there when Young was hired in 1979 have departed. He also has been named NFL Executive of the Year an unprecedented four times.

"I've survived, that's all," he said. "I've stayed a step and a half in front of the posse. They closed to a step a couple of years ago, but I'm back to a step and a half in front. They may get me yet. If they do, that's fine. I'll just move back to Baltimore."

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