A Conversation with GM Ernie Accorsi

While Tom Coughlin has gotten just about all the credit for New York's surprising start, Bears debacle notwithstanding, the man responsible for getting Coughlin his players - Ernie Accorsi - has been flying under the radar.

That's exactly where Accorsi, who'd rather a trip to the dentist than talk about himself, wants to be. He took time out recently to discuss the state of the Giants, and his future as well, with TGI. Here's what New York's GM, now in his seventh season, had to say.

Q: How difficult is it watching games on Sunday, especially a rough one like the loss to Chicago?

A: I just had a long talk with (Orlando Magic GM) Pat Williams, who I went to college with. I told him I find watching the games excruciating. He said he feels the same way. They have 82 games. He said he's never listened to a game on the radio and will never watch on TV either; he'll just flip it on to see the score and turn it right off. At home games, he paces around so much if he sees 10 percent of the game it's a lot. That's how I feel. You have absolutely no influence on the outcome of the game at that point and it's murder. I'm starting to get a complex walking into this stadium. We go on the road and beat everybody; then we come in here and it's a death struggle. It should be the opposite. The Bears game was awful; we went from being in control to losing control in a heartbeat. (Bill) Parcells said it best: 'You're in despair after a loss and there's no ecstasy after a win, all you feel is relief.' It's getting even harder for me and it's probably because I don't have all that many games left.

Q: Five out of eight at the break is still better than most thought, right?

A: Even if it's unrealistic, you always want more. Vince Lombardi, who won five championships in seven years, said he never felt he won as many games as he should have, which was all of them. That's how you have to be when you're competing. We're still in a position to compete, but we have a tough schedule coming up and we have to face the fact that we're going to have to do it without a couple key players (Michael Strahan, Keith Washington).

Q: How would you describe your team's season to date?

A: The amazing thing is that you try to win all your home games and break even on the road. That goes for every sport. I think it's amazing that we won those three road games in three very tough places to play. When we beat Washington and Cleveland, I thought this was going to be a good home stadium for us. But those two losses (Detroit, Chicago) have been very disappointing for us. If you look at our last five games, we've had great tremendous wins that have shocked everybody and also horrendous losses. We've been all over the place.

Q: How has it been working with Tom Coughlin?

A: I love Tom. People have said that he wasn't my choice, but that's not true. I don't own the team, but he was my choice. I couldn't fake my working relationship with him; I'm not that good an actor. He's straight and honest; he'll look you right in the eye. The side of him that most people don't see, and he probably doesn't want them to see, is that he has a great sense of humor. You can give him shots and he'll give them right back to you. The one bad part about being at the end of my career is that I won't be able to work with him all that long, because I really enjoy and like him. He's just a straight-shooting, look-you-in-the-eye, honest, hard-working guy. I feel very confident with him going into a game.

Q: How noticeable are the changes since he came aboard?

A: The changes are obvious. For better or for worse, the team takes on the personality of the head coach. It's just going to happen. I've seen it. You become what your coach is. There's no question about it. We're going to become more consistent as his imprint continues to become more obvious on this team.

Q: What was your reaction to some of the early complaining coming from the players?

A: I felt the same way as Mr. Mara, that it was good. I remember George (Young) told me when he hired (Ray) Perkins (in 1979) that he wanted it to be very uncomfortable for them to lose. We didn't hire Coughlin to punish the players. What we needed was discipline and toughness. I call it barracks bitching. When I was in the Army, you needed that. I was a platoon leader and the company commander was glad to hear that the troops were disgruntled. He said if there's not barracks bitching, we're not going to have an Army that'll beat anyone. That's all part of it. This isn't ballroom dancing here; you have to be on edge and agitated to play. Players complained about all the great coaches - they complained about (Don) Shula, they complained about Lombardi, they complained about (Joe) Paterno. I never wavered that Tom was the right guy.

Q: How do you weigh in on the current QB situation?

A: That's his job. I don't react week-to-week. Once the season starts, I let the coach coach. This league is all over the place. You can't react every week. Guys are going to have slumps - Mickey Mantle had slumps. You have to fight your way out of it. I back Tom in whatever he decides to do. He has to feel it; he has to be the one to know whether or not to stay with a guy. I look at the guy's full body of work, not base it on one game. Kurt (Warner) had been playing near flawless. Not spectacular, but his field generalship had been sound, so I don't worry about one game.

Q: When the time comes to make the move, will Tom come to you about it?

A: He bounces a lot of things off me, but that's up to him. It's his decision, not mine. He's not going to come to me and ask permission. He has to do what he wants. If he wants my opinion, I'll give it. But that's his decision.

Q: What exactly is Kurt's contract status?

A: I don't want to go any farther than this: There are mechanisms on both parts where he could stay or leave after this season. That's how we all wanted it. We kind of looked at it as using each other. Now if he took us to the championship game or something like that, he's going to want to stay and we're going to want him to stay. Obviously we're not going to sign him to a six-year extension. But if either party doesn't want the other, they can get out of it. I trust Kurt and I trust his agent (Mark Bartlestein) that if things really worked out here that they'd want to stay.

Q: Is it tough being patient waiting for Eli to get in after all you did to get him?

A: No, I don't think about that. I've seen too many quarterbacks get rushed in. (Ben) Roethlisberger is obviously playing great, but you don't see that too many times. There's no rush to this. It's not about me anyway. If I'm not here when he flourishes, then so be it. I just want to win. Before the Bears game, I couldn't have been happier with how Kurt was playing. I really, honestly don't care who the quarterback is. I know Eli's going to have a great career and it's going to be good for the franchise. Getting him affects me the least, because I won't be here then. I still think it was the right thing; that's all the matters. I don't care that he's not playing now.

Q: The fans and media are now calling for Eli. Can that have an adverse affect on the team?

A: After 34 years, I don't pay any attention to it. One week we're great, the next week we stink. It makes no difference to me. It doesn't influence me and doesn't bother me. I block it out. I understand it's a story; I was a newspaper guy. If I were writing on this beat, I'd be writing it too. But it doesn't affect us. I don't think it'll affect the team all that much, especially when you have such a strong leader like Tom.

Q: Forget Manning, why didn't you trade all your picks for Gibril Wilson?

A: He started the Bears game with five plays out of the first seven. I went back and looked at the grades on him. Usually when you have a diamond in the rough, at least one guy had him graded really high and he turns out to be right. This guy's playing like a first-rounder. All four scouts that saw him and the coach that saw him all had about the same grades on him. People have asked why, and the only reason really is his size (6-0, 197). He's small for a strong safety. He has such great instincts. He's like a heat-seeking missile. There was a play in Minnesota where the guard saw him coming and went out to get him and Gibril just slipped right by him like a snake. He's been terrific.

Q: What else stands out so far?

A: We picked (Chris) Snee at the top of the second round, but he's playing even better than we thought for a rookie. Up until the Bears game, I've been very happy with our offensive line. It's not a power offensive line, but they're very athletic and have played very well. One of the reasons Tiki has made all those long runs is that they stay on their feet. They don't blow anybody off, but they get into the second level, especially (Shaun) O'Hara, and they'll knock someone else away. I like the way the whole new linebacker corps has played, even with the substitution of Nick Greisen in there. Kevin Lewis gives you everything he's got with every ounce of talent that he has. Losing Timmy Carter really hurt, because he was really coming along. You could just see on tape how everybody on defense was tentative around him. I'd have to say the two home losses were the most disappointing. You have to win at home.

Q: You've mentioned a couple times about not being around much longer? Do you have a plan yet?

A: I want to wait and see how it plays out; you want to leave with things going well. I have a general idea, and I'm not going to be around long. It's time to go, as long as they know who they want to come in. Believe me, if we won the Super Bowl, it would be an easy decision. It's only going to be a few more years, at most.

Q: Then what?

A: I'm going to stay right here. I bought a place in Hershey, Pa. That's a perfect location for me. I'll be close to Penn State, close to Philadelphia. I'll be going to Phillies game so I'll still be suffering.

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