Draft-day second-guessers give George Young a giant headache


April 23, 1995|By VITO STELLINO

When George Young was named general manager of the New York Giants in 1979, he said all he wanted was an office with a fence around it and a gate.

It was supposed to be a joke, but Young may now be ready to add some barbed wire to the fence after he found himself the target of a lot of potshots during the off-season.

The hypercritical New York fans and talk shows have decided Young isn't keeping up with the times or handling the salary cap well. He got a lot of flak when his former coach, Bill Parcells, outbid him for David Meggett.

Young's also hearing it about some of his recent first-round draft picks, including Derek Brown, Jarrod Bunch and Eric Moore, none of whom have made anybody forget Lawrence Taylor.

Young finally let loose a week ago at a reporter from the New

York Daily News who brought up his recent drafts.

"Why don't you write what you want to write, that we can't draft? I'm not going to respond to that. Why do I have to make an excuse for our drafts? I'm tired of it. We draft the guys when we draft guys. They don't come injury-proof or anything else. I'm a dummy on the cap and I'm a dummy on the drafts, too," Young said.

It didn't take long for Young to calm down.

"Don't write that in Baltimore, or at least leave out the bleeps," Young said. "He picked a bad day [to call]. I was irritated. It gets tiresome at times."

OK, George, we'll leave out the bleeps, but the outburst was an indication that being an NFL GM these days isn't a day at the beach.

Young has built a couple of Super Bowl championship teams, but he knows his record is only as good as his last victory.

"People saw me after we won the Super Bowls and they don't think I was very excited. I said, 'Don't worry, I'll be dumb next year.' I was correct," Young said. "I learned this living in Baltimore; all the geniuses are from out of town. I'm not a genius. I don't pretend to be. I'm a working stiff trying to do the best I can. I've got a track record. I haven't changed much. Maybe it's a drawback. It doesn't show much growth."

Young figures that criticism goes with the job. He remembers that the fans booed when he made Phil Simms his first draft pick in 1979.

The cameramen even asked then-commissioner Pete Rozelle to announce the pick a second time so they could get the boos on film.

"They went through the whole thing again and they booed more. Pete even started to smile because he knew what was coming, and they said even he was laughing at the Giants' pick," he said.

Despite all that, Young has stood the test of time. When he arrived in New York, all the sports teams had different executives than they do now.

He's still on the job, conducting his 17th draft this weekend and trying to avoid listening to the roar of the crowd.

"You have to look at the draft as a whole, but the writers, fans, TV guys and agents put the emphasis on the first round. Some teams react to the public pressure of 'How can you pass up this guy?' You get into that sometimes. In the other rounds, you're not as affected by the outside influences."

In yesterday's draft, Young's pick on the first round -- running back Tyrone Wheatley -- was a popular one this time with the fans at the Paramount Theatre. They cheered when Wheatley's name was announced.

Now that the Giants have Rodney Hampton, Herschel Walker and Wheatley, the fans may stop complaining about the loss of Meggett.

Maybe Young even can start leaving the gate unlocked.

Negotiating wars

The Carolina Panthers' decision to give up Ki-Jana Carter for quarterback Kerry Collins means that Collins could be a holdout this year.

That's because general manager Bill Polian said last week he doesn't like contracts with voidable years, which are the gimmicks that agents use to get around the rookie salary cap.

The idea is to get a large contract that's spread over several years to get it under the rookie cap and then void it after three or four years and negotiate again.

Leigh Steinberg, the agent for Carter and Collins, negotiated these types of contracts for the last two No. 1 picks, Drew Bledsoe and Dan Wilkinson, after the rookie cap went into effect.

Last year, the first two quarterbacks taken, Heath Shuler, the third pick by Washington, and Trent Dilfer, the sixth pick by Tampa, also got those types of contracts.

Shuler got a $19.2 million, eight-year deal with a $5 million signing bonus that voids after three years. Dilfer got an eight-year, $16.5 million deal with a $4.5 million signing bonus that voids after four years.

Since Collins went on the fifth pick, he figures to get a slightly better deal than Dilfer got.

If Polian really tries to draw a line on the Collins talks, it should be a tough negotiation.

By contrast, the Steinberg negotiations with Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals shouldn't be a major problem.

Last year, Steinberg and Brown negotiated a six-year, $14 million deal for Wilkinson with a $5 million signing bonus that voids after four years.

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