Monday, May 23, 2022

Mike Lupica: Joe Schoen’s success with the Giants comes down to hiring the right coach

General managers matter, in any sport. One of the great general managers we’ve ever had around here, in any sport, was George Young, who came from Miami and changed the course of history with the Giants. Later, the guy who assisted him for a long time in Jersey, Ernie Accorsi, changed the course of Giants history himself, by making his draft day trade for Eli Manning.

But the Giants don’t win two more Super Bowls with Eli if they don’t have the right coach. That coach was Tom Coughlin. Wellington Mara was the one who finally said yes on Coughlin, after John Mara and Accorsi had really been the ones hiring him. You know what happened after that with Coughlin, even when he went up against Bill Belichick in two Super Bowl games as big as any championship games the Giants ever played.

And as great a football man as George Young was, look at what the Giants did for him when they had somebody other than Bill Parcells coaching the team.

The Giants hired a new general manager in Joe Schoen on Friday, and it looks as if he has a terrific resume. But guess what? They all have terrific resumes. The other eight guys John Mara and Steve Tisch talked to, they had crackerjack resumes, too. So did the other two finalists for the job. They all sound terrific on their way through the door, and the owners always say the same things about them.

The Jets were sure they had a winner when they hired a Joe of their own, in Joe Douglas. He had a resume, you bet. He was with the Eagles when the Eagles won a Super Bowl. And for now, the Jets are where they are, and might still not have found the right coach in Robert Saleh.

General managers matter in football. They’re still the undercard. Coaches are the main event. Now it will be up to Schoen to see if he can hire his own Parcells, his own Coughlin. If he can’t, then Schoen’s resume, principally with the Buffalo Bills, could end up being folded into a paper airplane.

I’ve known Accorsi a long time. He is one of the best and smartest people I have ever met, in any sport. And he has always said the same thing.

“It’s a coach’s game.”

It will absolutely be an essential partnership between Schoen and whomever he hires, when he does hire the next Giants coach, hopefully not gushing afterward, and sounding as giddy as a high school boy, about how well the guy interviewed. And it won’t always be an easy partnership, because it sure never was with George and Parcells. Nobody ever wins anything without players. Still a coach’s game in the end.

Is it a quarterback’s game, too? You bet. We still don’t know if the Giants are ever going to have one of those in Daniel Jones. Just look at the guys who were still playing this weekend. Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Two of the best to ever play the game. Patrick Mahomes, who has been to the last two Super Bowls. Josh Allen. Matthew Stafford.

But even though Brady won without Belichick a year ago, do you really think Brady goes to nine Super Bowls with just anybody coaching him in Foxboro? Come on. Go back as far as you want to. Terry Bradshaw needed Chuck Noll. Both Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath needed Weeb Ewbank. Bart Starr needed Vince Lombardi. Joe Montana needed Bill Walsh.

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Eli needed Coughlin. Phil Simms needed Parcells. But when Simms got hurt one year, Parcells was a great enough coach – and never forget he is one of the greatest of them all – to beat the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler as his quarterback.

Joe Schoen needs to get this hire right. If you don’t think coaches matter, look how things have gone with the Giants with coaches not named Coughlin. Ben McAdoo. Pat Shurmur. Joe Judge. Saleh may turn out to be the goods with the Jets, but for now he’s just the guy at MetLife Stadium who lost the same 13 games this season that Judge lost with the Giants. Saleh just has to hope that the guy who hired him, Douglas, is about to pad the resume here, so we don’t have to keep hearing what he did when he was working somewhere else.

Of course the draft matters in pro football. Of course scouting matters. and trades. And the right free agents. But after you’ve drafted and made trades and spent money on free agents, if you don’t put the right coach with the players, you mostly end up watching somebody else’s coach hold up the Lombardi Trophy.

Coaching isn’t the only piece. Doug Pederson, currently looking to get back into the game, beat Belichick in a Super Bowl when Brady fumbled at the end of Eagles vs. Patriots, when the whole world was sure Brady was going to take the Patriots down the field and win the big game again.

But ask yourself another question about coaches: Do you think it was just some sort of happy accident in Washington that Joe Gibbs won Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks?

Here is part of what Schoen said on Friday upon being named Dave Gettleman’s replacement:

“My immediate focus is to hire a head coach, with who I will work in lockstep with to create a collaborative environment for our football operations,” Schoen said. “We will cast a wide net, it can be former head coaches, first-time head coaches but, more importantly, it has to be a person who possesses the ability to lead an organization and the ability to motivate and develop players. Our goal is to build a roster that will be competitive, have depth, and most importantly, win football games.”

It all sounded exactly right. It always sounds exactly right when the honeymoon is just getting started. Now come the only two words that matter in sports, in moments like these:

We’ll see.

About this there is no dispute: Schoen takes on one of the biggest jobs in Giants history, for an organization, and that absolutely means from the top down, that has completely lost its way. It is not just one thing. It is almost everything that has happened over the past several years. He becomes as important to the Giants as Gene Michael was when he took over the running of the Yankees in the early 1990s when George Steinbrenner had set a world’s record and became the owner suspended from the sport for a second time. He becomes as important as Dave Checketts was when he took over the running of the Knicks, and changed the course of history at the Garden by getting the right coach in Pat Riley.

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We know how much George Young meant to the Giants. Hall of Fame executive, George was, on merit. It was mostly because of what he did in Jersey.

Once he had the right coach.

Once he got with Parcells.

NOTHING NOBLE ABOUT KYRIE, TURNS OUT THE KNICKS AREN’T ANY GOOD & ROOTING FOR RAFA …

By the way?

In the last 50 years, the Jets and Giants had 30 head coaches.

Three have won Super Bowls.

I don’t think Kyrie Irving stands on some high moral ground when it comes to the subject of vaccination.

I don’t think his opinions on this subject – if you can follow them once he starts wandering all over the gym explaining himself all over again – are noble or lofty.

Or as profound as he seems to think they are.

I think he’s just being selfish here, and wildly misinformed.

And not much of a teammate, whatever his teammates say in public.

I don’t care what kind of gift he has for basketball, or how much fun he is to watch.

I think his opinions on this subject are as chuckleheaded as Aaron Rodgers’s are, or Novak Djokovic’s.

The Knicks just don’t appear to be very good, do they?

Know something else?

When Julius Randle made the comments about Knicks fans and booing that he did not long ago (and before he apologized), you know what he might very well have been doing?

Punching his ticket out of town.

Yeah, I guess the Lakers being this badly put together, and being older than the Hollywood sign, must be Frank Vogel’s fault.

If you haven’t read an author from Iceland named Ragnar Jonasson, you ought to.

Guy’s a rock star.

In the craziness of the moment last weekend, with the Cowboys trying to get one more play run against the 49ers, give Tony Romo all the credit in the world for knowing that the ball wasn’t going to get snapped until the ref touched it.

I was ready for the reboot of the original “Law and Order” as soon as I found out that Sam Waterston was still going to be playing Jack McCoy.

I haven’t missed Antonio Brown nearly as much as I thought I was going to.

Tom Brady.

Forty-four.

And-a-half.

Trying to play himself to the last week of January again.

I hope Nadal wins the Australian.

finally today:

My Pops, Bene Lupica, turns 98 this week.

I’ve told you about him plenty of times before, and the amazing American life he’s led, and the things he’s done and things he’s seen in his own American century.

He was born when Calvin Coolidge was President, he was a bombardier in B24s during World War II at the age of 20.

He ran off to join the Army Air Force because he wanted to make it a better and safer world.

Sometimes these days he wonders about our world.

But here is the sense of wonder I have about him:

He still thinks today is going to be the best day he ever had.

* * *

“The Horsewoman,” by James Patterson and Mike Lupica, makes its debut this week at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction.

Nation World News Desk
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