Stayin' Put

For the past year or so, whenever Ernie Accorsi was asked how much longer he'd remain on the job as the general manager of the Giants he would hint that he was "on the back nine'' of his career. He really didn't want to talk about it that much, but privately he was seriously mulling retirement after the 2005 season.

Back in the summer, when he drove away from the University at Albany at the end of training camp – always a cherished day for him – Accorsi figured it was the last such trip he'd ever make. He entered this season believing this would be his final one guiding an NFL team.

If Accorsi was expecting to clean out his desk and empty out his office at Giants Stadium, among the memorabilia he might have carted away was a new Executive of the Year award. He won that honor after the Giants advanced to the Super Bowl following the 2000 season and nearing the stretch run this season, there was every indication he was a strong candidate this year as well. That's what happens when a front office executive strikes gold in free agency, strikes it rich in the NFL Draft, builds a winning team and secures the stability of the franchise for years to come.

Hold off on calling the moving company, as Accorsi in his eighth season as the Giants general manager isn't going anywhere. The Giants never officially acknowledge contracts for their top executives so there was no major announcement in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but the team let it be known that Accorsi will remain at least through the 2006 season.

Why the reversal after the 64-year-old Accorsi made strong inferences about retiring following this season? "I wasn't 100 percent but I was reasonably sure,'' he said of leaving.

Two elements came together to change his mind. He sweated out last year's blockbuster trade for Eli Manning and the fruits of that labor are already evident, as the Giants were 7-3 after 10 games and tied with the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East. Ever the sports historian, he thought of Don Mattingly and Stan Musial, two stars who retired a year before their team won the World Series. If the Giants are going to rise to great heights next season, Accorsi wasn't going to be on the outside looking in.

"Except for our two superstars, Tiki [Barber] and [Michael] Strahan, this team is in its 20s, pretty much,'' Accorsi said. "I think we're going to be good.''

Stronger than the desire to finally attain a championship (he previously missed out as the general manager of the Colts and Browns) was the feeling he needed to help see the Giants through this ongoing transition. Losing co-owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch in a three-week span leaves an irreplaceable void. Accorsi is certain that with John Mara running the team and the involvement of Tisch's sons Jonathan and Steven the Giants are in good hands. Still, he felt "it wasn't right'' to leave.

Not long after the October 25th death of his father, John Mara approached Accorsi with a request: Please stay.

Accorsi is working on a contract that expires in February and will sign a new one sometime soon. He likely will retire following the 2006 season.

"I know my father wanted him back,'' John Mara said. "I think we have something good going here, I'm very happy with the organization we have in place, particularly at the football end, I didn't want to see it break up at this point.''

Much of the happiness Mara feels about the future of the team leads back to Accorsi's vision and his actions. Rarely does a team hit the jackpot the way the Giants gained numerous prizes in free agency. Accorsi signed receiver Plaxico Burress, linebacker Antonio Pierce, right tackle Kareem McKenzie and kicker Jay Feely. Pierce is likely the Most Valuable Player on defense and Burress could give Barber a run for his money as the offensive MVP. Giving up this year's first-round pick for Manning did not prevent Accorsi from making some noise in the 2005 NFL Draft with cornerback Corey Webster, defensive end Justin Tuck and running back Brandon Jacobs. All three appear capable of handling expanded roles in the near future. Plus, 10 of the 11 offensive starters are signed through the 2008 season, ensuring continuity in the years to come.

There are more subtle moves that have also paid off. The Giants might not have been able to beat the Eagles 27-17 if not for Accorsi improving the depth on the offensive line. For the first time all season, the Giants were forced to play for an extended period without two starters along their line. In the past, digging into their reserves was a recipe for disaster. In the present, the presence of Bob Whitfield and Jason Whittle on the field helped rather than hurt.

Left tackle Luke Petitgout went down with a knee injury late in the second quarter and Whitfield, the 14-year veteran and former star with the Falcons, entered and finished out the game at left tackle. Whitfield nullified rookie defensive end Trent Cole, who had zipped around Petitgout for a first-half sack. When center Shaun O'Hara sprained an ankle with 6:47 left in the third quarter, Whittle stepped in and had no trouble getting the ball to Manning for the remainder of the game.

"They're veteran football players,'' coach Tom Coughlin said. "They were ready. They could go into the game and they could perform at a high level. Both guys went in the game and really contributed. The depth is something we sought coming out of camp and I feel strongly about it.''

Accorsi hopes the magic touch continues for the remainder of the season, which now, officially, will not be his final one with the Giants. "I know the golf course superintendents on the east coast will breath a sign of relief, much less damage to their courses,'' Mara said of Accorsi's remaining on the job.

The back nine can wait. There's more football left for Accorsi.

The Giants Beat Top Stories