A player, a coach and a GM walk into a ring...
On Nov.14, Justin Tuck, Tom Coughlin and Ernie Accorsi will be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor. Their inclusion will bring the total number of people memorialized by the franchise to 42 with Accorsi becoming the Ring’s second general manager after George Young.
“You guys that knew him, and most of you did, it's so classic George. We were at the bottom rung with Baltimore. He came in '68 and I came in '70 and we hit it off right away. From the first night I was there, I ran into him at a Rustler’s Steakhouse ($1.99 steaks) and we talked that night and became very close. We would talk every night in this old wooden row house that our offices were in and then when I went to Cleveland, we would talk three or four times a week after hours, that's how close we were. So, now, I leave and go to the expansion effort, it fails and the Orioles hire me. So, you all know Joel Bussert, who was close to me and to George. I get a call from Joel, and I'm only with the Orioles about six months, and I knew George had gone through a tough physical period and lost all that weight and Joel said, 'George wanted me to call you to see if you'd be interested in coming up as Assistant General Manager,' I said, 'George didn't call me? Why wouldn't he call me?' he said, 'Well, he asked me to call.' Well, I said, 'I'd be interested in talking to him, I've talked to him 8 million times in the last 25 years, sure.' So, George calls me and I said, 'Why didn't you call me directly, George?' and he said, 'I did not want to ruin your life.'' Either he knew I loved baseball and he figured I'd really be happy in that job forever, and I was happy. But, that was George. It was really pretty much to do contracts and he said, 'I can't make any promises, I don't own this team,' and I understood that. I completely understood that. I didn't know Bob Tisch, I knew Wellington Mara for years. I didn't know John Mara really well at that point so if they didn't like me, I wasn't going to get the job anyway. So, I left and took it and I don't know if I would have left that Orioles job, at my age at that point, if wouldn't have been the Giants and it wouldn't have been George. That's how it happened and I took over little-by-little with the contracts.”
“I want to say one other thing about this honor. It means a lot to me and it means even more that I'll be up there with George Young. Without George Young, I'd never come to New York. He brought me here and I have a great feeling of respect and gratitude for George and I just wanted to mention that.”
Accorsi was the architect of the 2007 championship team and was instrumental in bringing his fellow inductees to the Meadowlands. In 2004, he hired Tom Coughlin as the team’s coach and, a year later, Accorsi drafted Tuck in the third round, 74th overall. Accorsi was effusive in his praise for Coughlin, stating that the coach deserves to be in the hall of fame while also recalling Coughlin’s genesis and winning legacy.
“He's had a great career, first of all. I always kept a research notebook on all coaches. Actually, I did for almost every job. Even if it was an equipment job, I always kept a depth chart. I didn't know him as an assistant coach but I saw his first game, this may not have been his first game but one of his first games, against Michigan. I scouted that game and he almost beat them. I always remember how competitive he made them at Boston College. My son’s words, the night before the Bowl game against Virginia. Now, Virginia had a bunch of draft choices, a couple of number ones, Darren Sharper and some of those guys, James Farrior on the field, and BC did not have a lot of high draft choices. They had Glenn Foley as a quarterback, they had Pete Mitchell, who we eventually had (at the Giants). My son told me the night before the game, he was a grad assistant, but he said, 'We're not going to be able to stop Coughlin's passing game.' George Welsh is a Hall of Fame coach, but they hadn't figured it out yet, and they killed Virginia. I had my eye on him all those years and when this came up, John Mara and I assembled a group and we interviewed all four, and you know who they are. I also felt that it was my responsibility to make contact with Nick Saban, which I did. I had worked with Saban and I knew him pretty well. We essentially offered him the job in 1997. So, I called him and it looked like it was going to get complicated again and we had heard rumors that there were some clubs that were talking to Coughlin and that’s when we decided not to wait any more. But, Tom Coughlin has been a winner every place he's coached and we felt he was the guy. I said this at his press conference when we hired him, he's the guy George Young wanted and he's the guy we wanted.”
“He won two championships. For me, having been through five straight playoffs, three championship games in four years in Cleveland and we never won the championship. I don't like that. It's nice to win every year, to be at the doorstep every year. The business is to win championships, he won two championships. That puts him in the Hall of Fame in my opinion. I don’t have a vote but he’s a Hall of Fame coach.”
Accorsi’s coup de grace came when he drafted and traded Philip Rivers (alongside 3 draft picks) for Eli Manning, a move that still reverberates today.
“You hope that, especially at that position. I still feel that it's the most influential position in football, and probably in sports. Maybe the Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era, when the center dominated so much, was just as important. You make that trade, you do something like that, to win championships. That’s the only reason you make a trade like that, and you're in a position so many times that you have to get a get-by guy, or you have to wait and do the best you can and pick up people to stay competitive. But, the blessing for us, which was not a blessing when we went through it, was the 2003 season. If we wouldn't have gotten to the fourth spot (in the draft), God only knows what we would have had to give up to get up there. There were three quarterbacks up there, so we could have had a shot at one of the other ones besides Eli. If we didn't make the trade, I felt fairly confident that we would have been able to get Ben Roethlisberger, but you never know. When we picked Eli, we picked him to win championships. That's what you hope for and to see it happen, of course, just makes you feel great. I remember my son was a coach, he coached at Virginia and Maryland, and he sat with me at that first Super Bowl and I remember I said, 'Well if he is what we thought he was going to be, he's going to do it right now.' Because you never know, because maybe you're never going to get that position again and he did it. He had some help, but he did it.”
Despite retiring in 2007, Accorsi is still involved in the game with his last role being a permanent Special Adviser to the Detroit Lions. He is still a fan of the Giants and watches their games as often as he can.
“Yeah I do. I think they have a lot of young, exciting players. I think they're really in good shape right now. They came through a period with some close games and clutch wins. I like the team and I think they have a chance to be really an explosive offense and obviously, the defense is much better. I think with what they did on Sunday, the defense in particular, those are the kind of things that happen that take you to another level. To stop a team that kind of had gotten hot the second half and a quarterback that threw for a lot of yards, they just shut them down. There wasn't even a play, they didn't get close. I think they're going to be good, I like them. I don't know Ben McAdoo really well. I got to know him a little bit last week. I sat down with him for a while and I really like him.”