New York Giants co-owner John Mara has been around long enough to know that the right way to build a franchise is not by throwing millions of dollars around like Super Bowl confetti but doing so through the draft.
He should know as much, especially after seeing a large spending spree in 2016 to help christen the Ben McAdoo era fail to bear the type of fruit the organization was seeking.
So why did Mara and fellow co-owner Steve Tisch sign off on yet a similar type of spending spree rather than staying the course with rebuilding through the draft?
Mara praised the Giants' second-year head coach for his thoroughness in vetting everyone he considered bringing into the program.
“I think the word I would use is ‘thorough,’” Mara said when asked to discuss Judge’s recruiting abilities.
“Even before guys came into the building, he did a lot of background checks with former colleagues of his, other coaches around the league, or college coaches that he has a relationship with. So he knew a lot about these players before they walked in the building.”
Once the Giants got the players into the building, Judge then devoted a significant amount of time to sit in front of them and get to know them, something Mara said was significant given the team's investments into receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.
“Joe went to dinner with (Golladay) the night before and then had him in his office the next day for an extended period of time, and really got to know him. We had a number of people in the building sit with these players—specifically with Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson. So, you know, we got a pretty good understanding of what they're about, and that that to me was, was a big advantage.”
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Still, the same could be said of the previous spending spree which took place pre-pandemic. In 2016, free-agent visits were more frequent, especially with the first wave of free agents who ended up landing big-money contracts.
So again, what makes this spree different than the previous one?
The answer, once again, is Judge, who in his first year as a head coach at any level, showed Mara something that McAdoo, in retrospect, did not.
“We only won six games, but I just sense that just a different feeling from the players,” Mara said. “They believe in his message, and in his program—you could see that in the team meetings, you could see that on the practice field, you could see that in their effort. So now, now is the time to just start winning some more games.”
For Mara, it’s never been a matter of spending money. But he does have one criterion that the Judge was willing to indulge: the vetting process.
“Whenever we go into a free agency period is—and I tell our people, this, I don't care how much money we spend,” he said. “Just to make sure it's the right guys that we're bringing into the building.”
That’s where Judge’s thoroughness in wanting to sit before a guy in person comes into play, Mara added.
“For our people to have that much access to them and to do the research that we did on them was so vitally important. And it made it quite frankly, an easy decision.”