EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There is a feeling of unbalanced blame around the New York Giants this week. Why, when everyone seems to agree that the roster wasn't good enough to win, is coach Tom Coughlin the one who's leaving while general manager Jerry Reese gets to stay?
"Listen, we've had three losing years in a row, and a lot of that is due to some personnel decisions that have been made," Giants owner John Mara said Tuesday. "But I still believe that Jerry Reese is the right guy to lead us going forward. Why do I believe that? Jerry put together two Super Bowl-winning teams. I would venture to say, if we were to poll all of you in this room two years ago about who the top general managers in the league are, every one of you would have him on your list. So now, two years later, after another bad season, do we want to throw all of that out? I still think he's capable of putting a great team together, and he's going to get that opportunity. I still have full confidence in him."
It's a pretty major stretch to credit Reese with the 2007 Super Bowl championship team, as he became the GM that year and most of the key pieces were put in place by his predecessor, Ernie Accorsi. And the 2011 team that won it again was a 9-7 team that took off when a lot of those remaining championship pieces woke up at just the right time late in the season. So Mara's inflating Reese's accomplishments a little bit.
But that's just the opinion of one sportswriter who probably wouldn't have answered Mara's theoretical 2014 poll the way he suggests. You can disagree with me on Reese; Mara does, and it's his team. So let's stick to the issue of why the Giants' GM position isn't fungible and the coaching one is.
The Giants have changed GMs twice in the past 37 years. George Young got the job in 1979, ceded it in 1998 to Accorsi, who held it until Reese took over in 2007. Accorsi worked for the Giants for three years before getting the big job. Reese worked for the Giants for 13 years before becoming the GM. The Giants' GMs come from within the family, from within the organizational structure. It's not a position they view as one they seek to change.
"I think that's part of our philosophy," Mara said. "If you still believe that the person has what it takes to build a winning team, you have to stay with him. You have to ride through the highs and lows and give him a chance. And he's going to have that opportunity."
He's going to have to do better with it. If you're going to credit Reese with the two Super Bowl titles, you also have to point out that the Giants have made the playoffs in only three of his nine seasons as GM. The Giants are 85-62 in those nine seasons (counting postseason games), but just 67-52 since the first two. Once the roster started reflecting Reese's drafts, the team began its slide into mediocrity.
"We have lost some credibility as an organization," Mara said.
That's the worst thing for an owner of a team like this, and it can't be allowed to linger. Mara said he has spoken with Reese and that Reese knows this is on him. Reese seemed a little less convinced Tuesday.
"The roster is up to me, and I take full responsibility for everything that's happened," Reese said in one breath. Then in the next: "Nobody has a perfect roster. But you have to manufacture wins in different ways. You've got to play the hand you're dealt, and you've got to win with it. We lost too many close games we had a chance to win."
That's something that would have been better for Reese to say in his head and not out loud on a day when the coach was heading out the door and he wasn't. But more important than what Reese said in a news conference is what he and the Giants can do from this point forward. He has a a ton of cap room and a second straight top-10 draft pick. He has the support of ownership. He'll get a say in picking the next coach.
There aren't a lot more safety nets for Reese here. The Giants have gotten rid of a coordinator, another coordinator and a head coach the past three offseasons. Eventually, if you keep going 6-10, the fact that your team hates to fire the GM isn't going to save you anymore.