Young's imprint on Giants is everlasting

Today's thriving structure is credited to building he did as GM for 18 years

Super Bowl Xxxv

January 22, 2001|By Bob Glauber | Bob Glauber,NEWSDAY

It has been more than three years since George Young sat alone on the New York Giants' bench, looked up into the empty seats at Giants Stadium and wept.

It was Dec. 13, 1997, a few hours after the Giants beat the Washington Redskins, 30-10, to clinch the NFC East title under rookie head coach Jim Fassel. It was Young's last regular-season game at the stadium, a fitting end to an 18-year career as the team's general manager.

But there was more to his tears than the sadness of his retirement; there was satisfaction in knowing he was leaving the team in capable hands. After all, Fassel was selected as the NFL's Coach of the Year in his rookie season, and the assistant general manager Young appointed in 1994, Ernie Accorsi, had a firm grasp of the responsibilities he would inherit as Young's successor.

Now that the Giants are in position to earn their third Super Bowl victory in 15 seasons, Young can look back and see that his vision was rewarded. Not only have Fassel and Accorsi thrived in their respective roles, but many of the core players for Sunday's game against the Ravens were acquired during Young's tenure.

From Michael Strahan to Jason Sehorn to Ron Stone to Jessie Armstead to Tiki Barber, Young's fingerprints are all over this team.

Young demurs when people suggest the legacy he left behind has flowered into another championship-caliber team.

"I don't want credit for anything," said Young, 70, who is now the NFL's vice president of football operations. "It's silly to be concerned about that. I did my job as best I could and always in the best interests of the franchise. I'm happy they're successful, I'm glad I was a part of it for a while and I'm very proud of what Jim and Ernie have done."

Young came to the Giants in 1979 as a compromise candidate suggested to the team's feuding owners, Wellington Mara and his nephew, Tim, by former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. A former high school teacher from Baltimore who once played for the Dallas Texans, Young was well regarded in NFL circles for his work with the Miami Dolphins as a personnel man and as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts.

Young's arrival came only weeks after the lowest moment in the Giants' storied franchise history: The Fumble, that momentous play burned into memory by Herman Edwards, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive back who returned Joe Pisarcik's botched handoff attempt to Larry Csonka for a last-minute touchdown in the Eagles' 19-17 victory in 1978.

Funny how these things tie so nicely together. In the same week that Edwards became the Jets' head coach, Young gets to behold the continuing success of the franchise he helped resurrect after that heartbreaking play.

"I had a wonderful run with the team, and I think we did some good things while I was there," Young said. "But I'm not into the business of taking a bow for these things."

Yet it is difficult to ignore Young because his contributions are so much a part of the Giants' continuing success. After all, he gave this team Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, and Carl Banks and Joe Morris, and Jeff Hostetler and Rodney Hampton, and Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer. He hired Bill Parcells, who would win two Super Bowl championships. And before he left, he hired Fassel and Accorsi.

Yes, Young made some mistakes along the way, from hiring Ray Handley to drafting Derek Brown and Jarrod Bunch. But the hits outweighed the misses; the fact that this team has had only five losing records in the past 17 seasons is testament to that.

It's also testament to the fact that Young deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even if he pooh-poohs the idea. But if former general manager Jim Finks is in Canton for building the Chicago Bears into Super Bowl champions in 1985 and helping the New Orleans Saints emerge from years of failure, then Young's rescue of the Giants' - which is still going strong after 22 seasons - is worthy of consideration.

"I don't have any interest in that," Young said. "Look, I had a job in this business for 33 years, and that's a gift. I appreciate the respect I've had from my peers, the media's been kind and the fans have been kind. But that[Hall of Fame] stuff doesn't mean anything to me. I'm proud of the things we did that were the right things that weren't always noticed, and for me, that's enough."

NOTES: The Giants will work out at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' facility, which isn't far from their hotel, the Westshore Wyndham. Families will arrive via a charter flight on Thursday but will stay in a separate hotel. ... The Ravens had off last week until Thursday; the Giants were back at practice Wednesday.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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