Jerry Reese did a bundle in his first season as General Manager of the New York Football Giants.
First off, all eight of his draft picks made the cut out of training camp.
Second, many of them were able to contribute immediately. A group that included CB Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith, C Zak DeOssie, TE Kevin Boss, DT Jay Alford and RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
All of these players saw an abundance of action and went on to earn well-deserved Super Bowl rings.
These were not the only marks Reese made on this roster. In the offseason, he traded for postseason star K Lawrence Tynes and signed ferocious LB Kawika Mitchell.
Not only did Reese win the Super Bowl in his first year as GM, he became the first African-American to achieve this feat.
It all runs right off the back of this humble man from a small town in Tennessee.
Michael Eisen, who covers the Giants for internet readers caught up with Reese on Feb. 8:
Q: Winning the Super Bowl is a great start, but for you is it just a start?
Reese: “Yes, it was a start. It is every general manager’s dream and every organization’s dream to win Super Bowls and for it to happen so quickly has really been like a storybook or fairy tale, or however you want to say that.
First of all, you have to go back and look at our team that Ernie (Accorsi) left us. We inherited a really good team that Ernie left us. We did what we could in free agency. Number one, we signed (Shaun) O’Hara - that was a major signing. People don’t talk about that, but that was a big signing for us, to keep O’Hara.
We signed Kawika Mitchell and he did a tremendous job for us with his play, and we got some guys off the waiver wire: Madison Hedgecock and Domenik Hixon, who really contributed in a big way. Even Reuben Droughns, when we traded for him. Reuben ended up scoring six touchdowns and playing on special teams for us and contributing some other stuff for us, so he was a strong contributor for us as well. We did some things, obviously we did enough, and plus the draft. And we did OK in the draft.”
Q: Normally by now you would have met with the coaches to discuss your players. How much has the long postseason run changed your offseason schedule?
Reese: “The first thing you do after your season is over is evaluate your own players. This late into the year and playing so deep into the season, and playing 24 games, it pushes everything back. Now we are scrambling trying to get our players evaluated and we are scrambling trying to get ready for our draft meetings. Right now, it is a scramble working late hours, trying to get everything prepared to move forward. Last year was good, but it is a new year now, we are starting on a new year already.”
Q: How does it affect preparing for the draft when you have so little time to evaluate your own roster?
Reese: “I think everybody knows our roster pretty well, but we want to sit down and discuss it and make sure we are on the same page. That is important to us, to make sure we are on the same page as the staff here with our players. Some people may have a little bit different opinion about players, so we want to make sure that we are on the same page and that we discussed each and every one of our players and move forward appropriately.”
Q: At what point do you turn your attention to some of the Giants’ free agents?
Reese: “That is part of the process. We have to sit down and talk and discuss what we want to do. Those guys are definitely the first guys in the conversation, the guys that are our free agents and how we are going to handle those.
We have Gibril (Wilson), we have (Reggie) Torbor, (and) we have (Kawika) Mitchell). There has to be some quick discussion so we can make some decisions quickly on how we want to handle those situations. We have to put our heads together as a staff and do that."
Q: Is it tough to cut ties with players that helped you win the Super Bowl?
Reese: “That is the nature of the business. You always want to improve your roster; you don’t want to lay dead with your roster.
We won the Super Bowl and this team was a tremendous team together, but if there are places where you think you can improve your roster, that is what my job is. It is what they hired me to do and we will take a professional stance on that. If we feel like we can get better at positions, we will.
That is just the part that is sometimes kind of tough, because you get around some players who have been here for a while, or maybe some players who have been here for a short time, but they were all here together to win a Super Bowl and you have a close connection with players.
Still, on the professional side, you have to do what is best for your team to improve your team, so if there is a way we can improve the team we will definitely try to improve the team.”
Q: Is it harder to make those decisions because this team won the Super Bowl?
Reese: “It is harder. It is hard whether you win the Super Bowl or not, that makes it harder. But no matter if you win a Super Bowl or not, when it is time to move on in a different direction for players, especially if they have been in your building for a while, it is very difficult to do. I think most players understand that it is the nature of the business and it is not personal, it is just business.”
Q: Will you be as involved in these draft meetings as you have been in the past?
Reese: "Yes. But we hired Marc Ross (as Director of College Scouting). Marc is very competent and I think he will take us to a whole different level in the draft room, so we are looking forward to the draft meetings. I will sit in on all the draft meetings and we will try to get those guys lined up.
First, we will get them lined up on the board so we can see who we like going into the combine, and then we will evaluate what they do at the combine. Obviously, we evaluate guys in the spring workouts, and we will try to pick them in April.”
Q: The Giants’ first selection will be the 31st in the first round? How does drafting so low affect your plans?
Reese: "Obviously, there are a lot of good players off the board when you start to pick, but just because we are 31 doesn’t mean we will be picking at 31. There are always situations where you might have an opportunity to move up and pick a player. We are not stuck in that spot. We can move up or move back, so you never know what can happen.
There are a lot of things, a lot of scenarios, that can unfold on draft day. If we have to stick at 31, there will be a player there that we like.”
Q: Did anything that happened in the postseason change what your original thoughts are about free agency this offseason?
Reese: “No. I think, again, you kind of evaluate the team as you go through the season. There are some places where we need to - I don’t think a lot of it changed, it was great to win the game, but I think our focus in the offseason is probably going to be the same. There are positions that we need to sure-up a little bit to get a little stronger at.”
Q: Do you always go in with the idea of getting younger?
Reese: "Young is good. Young is good and talented is good. You have to be young and you have to be talented. What has been a good characteristic of some of the players that we have gotten in is just their character that they bring. We have been bringing good character players in and that comes into play.
When things get tough, we don’t have a lot of people yapping and fracturing the team. We have a strong sense of team here and that goes a long way. When you have all 53 guys pulling in the same direction it is much easier to win a football game.”
Q: Is it safe to say you want to keep the coaching staff together?
Reese: “Yes. Our coaching staff has done a tremendous job. But we have had several requests for some of our coaches to interview at different places. We would like to keep the coaching staff intact, but that is the nature of the beast.
You win the Super Bowl and your coaches are hot commodities. If we have to replace some coaches, we will do that. It is all about making adjustments in the National Football League, you have to adjust with your coaching staff sometimes, and you have to adjust with your players. It is all about making adjustments and trying to maintain some stability at the same time.”
Q: What can you say about the job that Tom Coughlin did this season?
Reese: "The first time we sat down together, Tom and I had a long, heartfelt meeting and we talked about everything.
What we came out of the meeting with is that there needed to be some changes made. I have said this to several people, Tom said there were some things about him that he could change, and he showed that he was the leader of the team. We talk about being a team and he was the leader of the team. He set the pace, I should say, he set the pace for being part of the team. He made some changes and our players recognized it right away and the players bought into being a team.
We have so many selfless guys. We have one Pro Bowler on a Super Bowl championship team. You win championships with David Tyrees, you win championships with David Diehls. Those kinds of guys, those guys just come to work and say, ‘Coach, what do you want me to do?’ You win with those kinds of people.
It was a team effort. It was a total team effort from our front office, from our support staff, everybody in this building, it was a complete team effort, to our equipment manager, our video people, everybody, all our personnel staff, it was a complete team effort to get to this point and we got rewarded for it.”
(Thanks to Michael Eisen, Jerry Reese, Pat Hanlon and the World Champion Giants)
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