Quiet Storm

While eternally grateful to Ernie Accorsi for his mentorship, not to mention the recommendation that aided his hiring, Jerry Reese has still been anxious to pave his own path as the new general manager of the Giants.

That mindset was apparent during the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February when he was asked to react to the unflattering comments Tiki Barber had made about Tom Coughlin on the day Barber was hired by NBC.

"I don't want to talk about Tiki," Reese said. "That's old news, nothing to make conversation about. Tiki was a great player for us and we love him. But Tom [Coughlin] is our coach. Tiki is retired and we're not going to talk about him anymore. That's yesterday's news. That's over."

So it's out with the old and in with the new. Meanwhile, the Giants are still deciding who the new player personnel director will be.

"You know the commercial that talks about being ‘up to your eyeballs?' Well, that's how I felt for the first few weeks [on the job]," Reese said. "I'm still doing both jobs, double duty for me. This is the time of the year when you are going to be busy, so I expected it. Being the player personnel director, in and of itself, is a demanding job. There are a lot of detail-oriented things to do. And then you get pulled in many different directions as the GM. All you can do is stay on schedule the best you can."

Barber's verbal barb is not all Reese has declared old news in the two months since he began implementing his blueprint.

Luke Petitgout, LaVar Arrington, Carlos Emmons and Chad Morton have been cut.

"That's the crappy part of the business, especially when it comes to guys like Luke, who have been with your team for a long time," Reese said. "It's a business decision and it's something we all [teams] need to do. Luke will be fine [he signed with Tampa Bay].

"And you don't want to say anything bad about your players. LaVar gave us his all, but it was time for us to move forward."

Jay Feely [Dolphins], Visanthe Shiancoe [Vikings] and Frank Walker [Packers] have been allowed to pursue free agency. And Tim Carter was traded to the Browns for halfback Reuben Droughns, who will share time with Brandon Jacobs after Barber's retirement.

"In this day and age, you always need two running backs," Reese said. "We still look for Brandon to carry 20 times."

What Reese hasn't been able to do is enhance the team in the way Accorsi loved to – through free agency. Only a handful of free agents have actually visited Giants Stadium since the start of free agency on March 2. And with the possible exception of running back Dominick Rhodes, the former Colt, none seemed really close to signing. And Rhodes wound up with the Raiders.

The Giants also displayed interest in left tackle Leonard Davis, but he signed with the Cowboys. Cornerback Roderick Hood, LBs Joey Porter, Adalius Thomas, Tully Banta-Cain and Donnie Edwards, WR Kevin Curtis and S Michael Lewis were also on the radar before falling off the screen to other teams.

Reese does not appear overly upset at these early setbacks since there's a prevailing theory that they may not be setbacks at all. The free agent market, although saturated as always, did not appear as strong once prime players like LB Lance Briggs and CB Nate Clements, whom the Giants would have pursued strongly, were assigned franchise tags.

"We'll do as much as we can in free agency," Reese promised in Indianapolis. "Wherever the money goes, wherever it takes us, is where we'll go. We had a plan going into free agency. We had a couple of groups of players come in for visits. We plan to be active. We'll do what's best for the Giants, whether they be top-level free agents or others."

The free agent disappointments have been replaced with an effort to reinforce what they already have. Reese re-signed C Shaun O'Hara to a five-year, $19 million deal and then exercised a costly buy-back on Eli Manning's salary that will keep the fourth-year quarterback under contract at least until 2009.

If the Giants hadn't done this – and it cost them a combined $8 million in bonuses to do – Manning could have become a free agent after this season, something the team didn't want to risk despite his up-and-down performance.

"I feel good about Eli. I feel he's our QB of the future," Reese said. "He's not where he wants to be right now, but I expect he'll make a big step in his third [full] season. We'll put the right people around him and he will be a good player. Things will slow down even more and he'll do the things we expect him to do. We are not looking anywhere else."

And now Reese prepares for his first draft as GM, a process that really will begin to define his impact. He will add a new crop of players to stand next to Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Sinorice Moss, Gerris Wilkinson and Guy Whimper, drafted during the last two years to help carry the Giants into the new stadium they will occupy in a few years.

"Like all drafts, there are good players and we'll get our share," Reese said. "You just need to find the right ones for your team."

It seems like he's already learned the most important lesson of all.

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