The GM Hunt is On

At this time next year, Ernie Accorsi might be in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or maybe Detroit, but he won't be thinking at all about the Bengals, Steelers or Lions.

No, Accorsi will be sitting in the seats behind first or third base, keeping score, enjoying a cross-country baseball trip that he's put off for so many years. "I'm going to drive across the country and go to all the baseball parks I haven't seen,'' Accorsi said, anxiously awaiting the release of the 2007 baseball schedule.

At this time next year, Accorsi will not concern himself with the day-to-day affairs of the New York Giants, won't agonize over a sprained ankle here or a strained hamstring there. Once this season comes to an end, whether the Giants cash in on the soaring expectations or bottom out in utter disappointment, Accorsi will retire as the team's general manager.

"I have no concern about staying active and entertained,'' Accorsi said during training camp at the University at Albany. "I've worked longer than I wanted to work.''

He's worked in the NFL since 1970, when he was hired as the public relations director of the Baltimore Colts, and he's been with the Giants since 1994, initially as an assistant to general manager George Young. Accorsi took over the reins in 1998 when Young, his good buddy, retired from the Giants and went on to accept a high-level job in the NFL office.

Had the Giants following the 2000 season won Super Bowl XXXV instead of losing to the Ravens 34-7, Accorsi said, "I would have been long gone, within a year I would have retired.'' He'll turn 65 in October and would have retired at the conclusion of the 2005 season if not for the deaths of Giants co-owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, losses that convinced Accorsi the time was not right to add another change to a period of already-difficult transition.

In his last 15 years as a general manager with the Browns and Giants, Accorsi has put together eight playoff teams, including six division champions. The grand prize has continually eluded him, though, but he is convinced with the 2004 draft-day trade for Eli Manning and the superior talent surrounding the young quarterback, the Giants are primed for excellence now and in the near future.

"I do feel from a football standpoint it's the worst time to be leaving this team because I do believe this is going to be an awful good team for the rest of this decade,'' Accorsi said. "I can sit here and feel this immense pressure that you want to go out with a good year; if I do that it's going to drive me nuts. I'm really at pretty good peace, you did everything you can do, now try to just let it play out.''

No matter how it plays out, Accorsi will give way to a successor and the scramble to replace him figures to be interesting. After all, these changes don't happen often. The Giants have had only two general managers (Young and Accorsi) since 1979.

"That will be a huge decision and at the appropriate time we'll deal with it,'' said John Mara, the Giants president and chief executive officer, who will make the call along with Steve Tisch, the team's chairman and executive vice president.

Four in-house candidates will likely receive strong consideration. Kevin Abrams, in his fifth year as the assistant general manager, is the salary cap specialist who handles the bulk of the contract negotiations. Jerry Reese, a former scout who is in his fourth year as the director of player personnel, oversees the evaluation and drafting of college players. Dave Gettleman, the director of pro personnel, is in his 21st season in the NFL (ninth with the Giants) and is responsible for gathering information on veterans to add via free agency. During the season, he scouts the upcoming opponent.

The fourth person in the picture has a famous last name and appears directly after Accorsi in the team's media guide: Chris Mara, the second-oldest of the late Wellington Mara's four sons. He served as a scout for the Giants for 14 years – including both their Super Bowl teams – before leaving for eight years to operate an independent football scouting service. In 2001, he added to his résumé as the president and general manager of the New Jersey Gladiators of the Arena League before returning to the Giants three years ago to fill a newly-created position of vice president of player evaluation.

Chris Mara has the credentials for the job and no doubt could have gone elsewhere and already become a GM in the NFL, but the Giants are in his blood. Will his surname hurt his chances? It might be awkward for older brother John to vote yes or no on his candidacy. Also, it remains to be seen if Steve Tisch would favor adding another member of the Mara family into a high-level front office position.

Accorsi, of course, has his opinions, but he won't share them for public consumption. "I will give my recommendation and that's it, it's their decision.'' he said.

Three years ago, after Reese oversaw his first draft with the Giants, Accorsi called him "a rising star'' and raved about his performance. "I just think he's a brilliant young man,'' Accorsi said at the time.

Jim Fassel, the head coach when Reese ran his first draft, also came away overly impressed. "Jerry Reese is made for that leadership role,'' Fassel said after the 2003 draft. "He has a command about him in the room with the scouts. He shows all of the qualities of a guy you're looking for, all of 'em.''

Reese, a former defensive back who is in the University of Tennessee-Martin Hall of Fame, is already the highest-ranking black front office official in Giants history.

If the Giants do not stay in-house, they will have to wait until after the season before they are allowed to contact employees of other teams. John Mara in the late '60s and the entire decade of the '70s observed how the team languished as his father at times remained too loyal to those inside the Giants organization.

"That was certainly one of the things that led to our problems, we stayed too much from within,'' Mara said. "At the end of the day we'll have a couple of qualified people in house and there will be some qualified people from outside also, we'll just have to make the right decision.''

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