(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Rich McKay interview, fast-forward to 10:20 of the following attachment: Ep 50: NFL Rule Changes, Falcons HOF, and The 2020 Season With Rich McKay | Spreaker)
Atlanta president and CEO Rich McKay has no connection with the New York Giants. He never worked there. He never played there. And he has no intention of ever going there. Nevertheless, he readily admits to being a Giants’ fan this summer.
If only for a day.
That would be Saturday, Aug. 8, when former Giants’ GM George Young is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor candidate for the Centennial Class of 2020. Young is one of three contributor inductees (Paul Tagliabue and Steve Sabol are the others), and McKay, who once worked with Young on the NFL’s competition committee is delighted his former mentor finally is where he belongs.
“I am really jacked,” he said on a recent “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com. “I didn’t like George. I loved George. I considered George a friend, a mentor. He was a special guy for me. I have so many memories of George, but what I loved about George was … incredible how his path got him to be, in my mind, one of those founding fathers of the NFL.
“And you say: How is that possible? He wasn’t there for the first 100 years. No, but he was there at a critical time of the league. And he did so much for the game.”
A five-time Executive of the Year, Young was one of the most influential GMs in recent NFL history. Hired in 1979 to broker peace between the warring Maras – owners Wellington and nephew Tim -- Young did for the Giants what Hall-of-Famer Ron Wolf did for another bedrock franchise, the Green Bay Packers.
He put it back on the map.
For 17 consecutive seasons, Big Blue failed to reach the playoffs – including 15 where it didn’t break .500. Fans burned tickets. There was the Miracle in the Meadowlands. And there was a fly-over by a plane carrying a banner that read: “15 YEARS OF LOUSY FOOTBALL – WE”VE HAD ENOUGH!”
But when Young arrived, he restored order -- bringing peace to the Mara family, hiring Bill Parcells as head coach and returning winning football to East Rutherford, N.J.. Where the Giants had gone 17 years without making the playoffs, they qualified for the postseason six of eight non-strike years from 1981-90 – all on George Young’s watch.
He hired Parcells. He groomed Ernie Accorsi as his successor. He hired Jerry Reese as a scout. And he drafted great players, with 119 from 1979-95 making the team – including stars like Hall-of-Famers Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, tight end Mark Bavaro, quarterback Phil Simms, running back Joe Morris, defensive lineman Leonard Marshall and linebacker Carl Banks.
In short, he brought stability and success to a franchise that badly needed both.
Young had been a contributor finalist for years since the category began in 2015 but could never cross the finish line. Don’t ask me why. It made no sense. In fact, at one recent meeting to vote on candidates, one of two consultants there was incredulous that Young wasn’t already enshrined – saying he and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue should’ve been the first two choices.
Well, now are entering Canton together, as members of the Centennial Class.
“(George Young) was so impactful to us and so impactful to the game,” said McKay. “So I’m a George Young guy. I think when people dedicate as much as he dedicated to the game – whether that’s the Tex Schramms or the George Youngs – and they have the impact that they have (they should be rewarded) … even though people don’t know it.
“Joe Fan sitting somewhere, watching a game at a bar in Arkansas has no idea who George Young is. But you know what? That game that he’s enjoying? It’s a better game because of George.”