Accorsi's top-drawer resume won't make Giants job easier

January 11, 1998|By John Steadman

Now, it's Ernie Accorsi moving to center stage, there in the middle of the spotlight. Not to dance, sing, blow a trumpet or otherwise entertain, but to perform in a more pressurized and specialized capacity. He has assumed control as general manager of one of the high-profile and most demanding of all sports franchises -- the New York Giants. He's fully equipped to handle what's required but, to be forewarned, it won't be easy.

The Giants under George Young, the general manager who departs for a position as the senior vice president of football operations in the NFL office, established an almost 20-year reputation for success that promises to be difficult to replicate. But Accorsi has the ability, in his own way, to create a similar stamp of approval for the product that is placed on the field.

The season just past, in which the Giants vaulted from last to first, doesn't make it any easier for Accorsi. Expectations have already asserted themselves. The Giants also have two quarterbacks of still questionable talents and the belief is that what happened to the team in 1997 has no linkage to what may transpire in the upcoming year. On the positive side for Accorsi and the Giants, there's a smart new coach in Jim Fassel and a core of young players.

Ominously, they face a high-octane schedule that includes the Packers, Chiefs, Broncos, Bucs and Falcons, along with their regular division rivals. There's a belief that the Giants are going to have to do more improving and have the same degree of good fortune if they're to play back to the form of this past season. Can it happen?

With extreme consideration for the man who preceded him and demonstrating the epitome of humility, Accorsi quietly and modestly explained his position: "Hopefully, I'll do things with the dignity and in ways that this franchise has always done things. And I hope someday I can pass this organization on to someone in the same condition that George presented it to me."

Accorsi, at 56, is 11 years younger than Young, who was not in the best of health in 1994, which gave him a pressing desire to hire an assistant, who turned out to be Accorsi. At the time, he was with the Orioles, where he had been in their front office for only a matter of weeks. After getting Accorsi to agree, Young reacted by saying, "Maybe I'll live a while longer with you around to handle some of the work load." Accorsi has tried to be accommodating.

"When I was having the physical problems in 1994, it was the time to bring in someone to do my job," Young recalled. "Ernie has the apprenticeship to do all the things that I've been doing. He knows who to listen to and who not to listen to. He has been in that situation before. He has that background and had success. When he was in Cleveland, they had success."

Young's present state of health has bounded upward. He feels better since he can't remember when. His current weight is 215 pounds, down from the 300-plus tackle-size he used to carry around. He leaves the Giants with the realization the franchise is in enormously better condition than that in which he found it 19 years ago when he assumed command. Nine times during his administration, the Giants made the playoffs and twice won the Super Bowl.

Last year, it was important to Young that he make his exit from a team that was again on the rise. After his long service and dedication, he didn't want to walk away from what looked like a franchise that had been involved in a train wreck. It was a situation in which he preferred to leave somewhere near the top of his game. Such a hopeful scenario came to reality. Now, Accorsi has to keep the winning theme alive.

His background for operating a team in New York has been met with previous success elsewhere. Earlier, he was a general manager in Baltimore and Cleveland, two places that lost teams, after he left. Neither defection was any reflection on him. In all likelihood, Accorsi would have been brought back to Baltimore if an expansion franchise has been awarded.

At an NFL meeting when he was with the Browns, the revered owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney, talked with him about his earlier Baltimore employment under owners Carroll Rosenbloom and then Bob Irsay. All Rooney could do was shake his head and, in that wry way of his say, "You sure did come up the hard way."

Accorsi, raised in Hershey, Pa., spent his summers watching the Philadelphia Eagles in training camp, played golf as a youngster and, after high school, went off to Wake Forest. He hoped to play golf like Arnold Palmer but wound up playing in a way that was more remindful of Accorsi, which meant he was a better prospect for becoming a sportswriter -- a livelihood he pursued in Charlotte, N.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.

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