Giant Musings From the Past

Guest post from Bruce R.:

Today, Monday, November 19, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of The Miracle at the Meadowlands.  I was there.  While it was a catastrophic event at the time, in the long run it changed the New York Football Giants for the better.  For my sons, nephews, and Giants fans who were not alive then, here’s the larger story:

The next morning, the Giants fired offensive coordinator Bob Gibson who had called the play.  The next week, Morris (the old Jewish guy who sat behind us in Section 122 of Giants Stadium and came to the games with a blond in a fur coat) hired a plane to fly over the stadium with a banner that read “15 Years of Lousy Football.  We’ve Had Enough”.  Giants’ head coach John McVay got axed at the end of the season, only to go on to become the GM of the 49ers during their Super Bowl years.  His grandson Sean McVay now coaches the LA Rams 2.0. GM Andy Robustelli also got fired after the season.  After a power struggle between Wellington Mara and his nephew Tim (for whom a street is named in Jupiter, Florida) led to a stalemate in choosing a new GM, Commissioner Pete Rozelle suggested the name of George Young, a little-known Baltimore Colts executive.

 Young set about hiring a new coach.  Among the serious candidates were Stanford coach Bill Walsh, San Diego Chargers assistant coach Ray Perkins, Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Dan Reeves, Jets Offensive Coordinator John Idzik (whose son famously flopped as Jets General Manager), and Seahawks OC Jerry Rhome.  With two future Hall of Fame coaches in the mix, the Giants opted for Ray Perkins, who Young knew from his days with the Colts.  Perkins hired the Air Force Academy’s head coach, an unknown guy named Duane “Bill” Parcells, to be his linebacker coach.  Parcells quit before the season started.  After a year away from football, he returned as linebacker coach for the Patriots under Head Coach Ron Erhardt for the 1980 season.  Parcells then joined the Giants as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach.  After the 1981 season, Erhardt was fired by the Patriots.  Perkins hired him as offensive coordinator.  When Parcells became Giants’ head coach for the 1982 season, he kept Erhardt as offensive coordinator, a job Earhardt held through the first two Super Bowl wins.Perkins also hired a 27 year old special teams coach named Bill Belichick, who Young later passed over as Parcells’ successor, in favor of Ray Handley (for younger fans, think of Handley as an earlier version of Ben McAdoo).

There are several other interesting bits of trivia related to this event:

The guy who was supposed to carry the ball, Larry Csonka, had a stellar college career at Syracuse, where he played in the same backfield as wingback Tom Coughlin.   

The player who snapped the ball, Jim Clack, was acquiredalong with Ernie Pough from the Steelers for John “Holding, Number 74” Hicks, arguably the worst #1 pick in Giants’ history.  Hicks had been the 3rd pick in the 1974 draft.  In that draft, alone, the Steelers picked 4 Hall of Famers:  Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth.  Clack later pled guilty to a federal drug crime. Nevertheless, his uniform number (#56) has been retired by the Giants.  Speaking of uniform numbers, 41 years later, the Giants selected an offensive tackle high in the first round (Ereck Flowers) and assigned him # 74.  That didn’t work out, either.

The football gods repaid Herman Edwards, who picked up the fumble and ran for a touchdown, by making him head coach of the woeful New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.  

Two guys futilely chased Edwards as he ran away from us toward the west end zone at Giants Stadium.  One was Doug Kotar (#44), who had first displayed his skill in the 1974 Jaycees Classic pre-season game at Palmer Stadium in Princeton (I was there).  The other was Gary Shirk (#87), a former World Football League player (tight end) who had attended Morehead State in Kentucky.  The Giants held the 7th pick in the 1979 NFL draft.  They hoped to pick Jack “The Throwin Samoan” Thompson from Washington State.  Sadly, he was taken by the Bengals with the 3rd pick.  The Giants were left to settle for Phil Simms from Morehead State.  Seventy-five picks later, the 49ers selected Joe Montana.  Also selected that year by the Cardinals was Jeff Rutledge from Alabama, who eventually became one of Simms’ backups for the Giants.

George Young famously said “Always hire a guy you know.”  In 1994, he hired Ernie Accorsi, who had overlapped with Young in Baltimore. Accorsi eventually succeeded Young as GM.  The Giants hired a guy he knew – Jerry Reese – as his successor.  After initial success, Reese took the Giants back to the future (that is, the 1970’s) through a parade of bad draft picks (see Ereck Flowers, above).

One last interesting tidbit.  The George Young Award is presented annually by The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum the person, Jewish or non-Jewish, who “has best exemplified the high ideals that George Young displayed.

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