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The Giants’ Way Forward: Before Coaches, They’ll Look at GMs (and Here’s a List of Candidates)

Thoughts on where John Mara and the Giants are headed, and a list of candidates for the GM job, having talked to informed voices around the league

Some things I think about the New York Giants this morning:

• They should not go back to Eli Manning this month. The Giants made the decision as a franchise last week to look at Geno Smith (which should be a very brief look) and rookie Davis Webb. They’re 2-10. Four games left in a lost season. Starting Manning this week against Dallas would be lovely for the fans, but would it do anything to answer questions about the future? No. Play Webb for the last lost month. Get something out of it. This isn’t kicking Manning out the door. No one can know if he’s through in the Meadowlands until the new GM and coach come on board. But sentiment wins nothing in football. The only thing these Giants should be doing is playing for opening day 2018. You know everything about Manning, the NFL’s 22nd-rated quarterback in each of the last two years. You know nothing about Webb.

• Don’t get seduced by Mr.Perfect. The Giants have done that before. I am all in favor of going hard after Stanford coach David Shaw, but the Rams couldn’t get him interested last year, and he told me last year that if you’re going to go after him, you’re going to have to convince his wife that your city is better than Palo Alto. (Not likely, was his point.) And here’s the Nick Saban truth. Before the Giants hired McAdoo in 2016, an intermediary from the Saban camp reached out to a top Giants official. Said Saban might be interested. There was contact between the two sides, and after a couple of days, the word came back: “His wife says she’s not moving from Alabama.” Saban may come back to the NFL one day, and the Giants would be an interesting place for him, and if they could get him, by all means they should. But I get the sense the Giants at the highest level have been through the Saban dance before and won’t be going through it again.

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• Every year I hear the field for GMs and coaches is thin, and every year I laugh. The Packers hired Ron Wolf as GM in late 1991. No competition for him. Green Bay’s been a league power for the quarter-century since. The Steelers hired Chuck Noll as head coach in 1969. No competition for him. The Steelers have been a league power for most of the 48 years since. Pick the right quarterback, and you usually have a chance to be a great coach or GM.

• There’s no hurry on the GM search. There’s a rule in GM searches, by the way, which I didn’t see mentioned Monday. Teams cannot raid staffs of other teams until the season of the prospective GM’s team is over. So if the Giants fall in love with Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, and New England makes the Super Bowl, Caserio can’t be hired untiul Feb. 5, the day after the Super Bowl … which would stunt the search for a coach and perhaps leave the Giants far behind the teams that choose coaches after the season. But, and this is a big but, I do not think that should affect what the Giants do. If they think an executive for one of the best teams this year is The Man, wait for him. A lot of not-famous coaches were not chased by the NFL mob (Noll for one), so I’d much rather be sure of the franchise architect than pursue whoever this year’s Golden Coach is. Giants president/co-owner John Mara said Monday he would use former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi as a resource in his search. Accorsi has been there. He knows that time is on the Giants’ side.

• So here’s who the Giants should look at now … without committing to anyone before they can play the field. Before Christmas, I’d interview John Dorsey, who was fired as Chiefs GM in June. I’d find out what he learned about communication (and his struggles with such) in his four seasons, which were successful on the field. He’s intriguing. I’d talk to Dave Gettleman, the fired Carolina GM who had some good days picking players for the Panthers; he turns 67 in February, so that could be a factor. Dorsey’s highly respected by scouts. A day with him will be a good learning experience. And Accorsi would surely know Marc Ross, the college scouting czar of the Giants.

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• GM candidates … In addition to the names above, I asked four current NFL executives, two of whom have been in the GM market in the last three seasons, about candidates. The three most common names: George Paton, the affable assistant GM for Minnesota who has been an oft-interviewed candidate; rising star Eliot Wolf, Green Bay’s director of football operations and the son of Hall of Famer Ron Wolf; and Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas, who made his bones scouting for the Ravens and is vital to Philly’s recent success. “I’m an unabashed fan of George Paton,’’ said one club exec who interviewed him. “Gets along great with everybody and is a great scout.” Among the veteran GMs/assistant GMs/scouts who will be strong candidates: ex-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, now assistant in Atlanta; Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough, a vital cog in assembling the Card roster; Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz; senior director of college and pro personnel Will McClay of Dallas; Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin; Seattle’s co-director of pro personnel, Scott Fitterer; and, of course, Caserio of the Patriots. He’s Bill Belichick’s right-hand guy, and a capable one. One wild card: Louis Riddick of ESPN, a former NFL player and eloquent scouting voice.

What does it all mean? I think six or eight of those men have a chance to be excellent general managers. And this will be a plum job, a great job. In the last four decades, there have been three Giants’ general managers. George Young lorded over two Super Bowl winners, as did Jerry Reese. Accorsi presided over a consistent winner and an NFC champion. The GM will have the resources to succeed. That’s why so many men will be aggressively pursuing this job.

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• And the coach? Line up the usual suspects. But it’s silly to forecast anything about the future coach because he will be chosen by the new GM, with consultation from Mara. If you don’t know who the GM will be, then you can’t know who the candidates will be.

• The new GM and coach cannot be as media-averse as Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo were. This is New York/New Jersey. The general manager of the pro football team cannot hide for 363 of the 365 days a year. Reese talked twice a year. That’s absurd. McAdoo treated press sessions like root-canal appointments without Novocain. By all accounts, Reese is a very good man. McAdoo too. No one complains when you’re winning and you’re awful with the press. Reese kept getting a pass because the Giants won Super Bowls in his first and fifth seasons as GM. But this is year 11. You can make whatever rules you want, but you’re 2-10, your team is getting killed all over town, and your coach looks like some rube incapable of explaining why he’s benching the quarterback. Still Reese was invisible. The GM can’t be hiding like this with the building on fire.

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The Giants are usually more than patient. I think that’s a good trait. Reese worked for the organization for 23 years and was a great contributor to a long run of very good football. But Mara did the right thing in cleaning house. The 2-10 record was one thing. The roster, even given so many injuries, just didn’t have the depth it should have had. This had turned into a team of mercenaries.

Reese oversaw 11 drafts. The five from 2009 to 2013 should have produced a core of home-grown players with five to nine years of experience on the current roster. But of the 38 players chosen in those five drafts, only two (Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Pugh) remain on the roster today. The Odell Beckham Jr.-led class of 2014 was a good one, but Reese simply had too many wasted picks, and had to try to make up for them with an over-reliance on free-agency.

“We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control,” Mara said on Monday. “I just feel like we needed a complete overhaul.”

He’s right. The new GM should have the power to change as much as he wants, including the quarterback.

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