George Young: HS teacher to Giants’ Super Bowls architect

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (AP) – At a time when NFL teams were choosing general managers from former players, coaches and staff executives, George Young was ahead of his time with the New York Giants.

Young was a Renaissance man. He fulfilled all the prerequisites and so much more in a career that earned the former high school teacher, coach and later NFL senior executive a place in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

The massive 6-3, 350-pound former defensive tackle had several education degrees. He never played in the NFL, but he became a general manager who ultimately turned the Giants from a laughable team into a champion.

“I think he was the quintessential general manager of professional football,” said current Giants part-owner John Mara. “He started at the bottom of the ladder as an assistant coach who worked his way up the ranks. He was a pure footballer who liked to evaluate players, liked to evaluate people. He was a constant reader and you could chat with him on many topics.

“But basically he really was the quintessential general manager.”

Young was a visionary with a sense of humor that took a long time to figure out. The good-humored grumbler liked to answer his media phone calls with, “Why is this bothering me?” But he would answer all questions. He also played Moneyball long before analytics became popular in sports.

Taking over one of the founding member teams of the NFL in 1979, Young transformed a franchise that had not made the playoffs since 1963 into a two-time Super Bowl champion for the next 19 years.

Ernie Accorsi, who took over from Young as Giants general manager, recalls Young saying the Cowboys were light years ahead of scouting teams in the late 1970s. One of the first Young hires in 1980 was Tom Boisture, director of New England Scouting.

Boisture had been a scout for Patriots general manager Bucko Kilroy, who was Cowboys general manager from 1965 to 1970. He used a system of numbers and letters to assess players that prevented reaching a draft pick.

Not only has Scouting been modernized, but the whole organization has been modernized too. The staff has been changed.

Young even had help around the house, said his nephew Mike Connor, who lived with Young and his wife, Lovey, for a time in the 1980s. When away for weekend games , Young asked Lovey to make six to eight football DVDs so George could get to work when he got home.

“It was something because my aunt wasn’t known for her digital tech skills,” Connor joked. “That being said, she actually received classroom training from someone to operate old DVD recorders. She would have three or four every weekend.

It worked.

The Giants, who would draft Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Morris and Carl Banks, only needed three seasons to qualify for the playoffs. They made the playoffs eight times during Young’s tenure. They won three NFC East and Super Bowls titles in the 1986 and 90 seasons with training from Bill Parcells.

Five-time NFL Executive of the Year, Young was selected in the Hall’s Class of 2020, one of 20 members chosen in conjunction with the league’s centennial. He was one of three contributors chosen from a list of 10 finalists by a special panel of Hall of Fame members, coaches, football executives and prominent football historians.

Young was posthumously recognized in April by the Hall and will be included in the induction festivities on August 7-8.

“No one cared more about football than George Young. He loved it and lived it his whole life,” Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said after Young’s death in 2001.

George Bernard Young was born September 22, 1930. His mother ran a bakery. Her father ran a bar. Young was a Little All-America at Bucknell and was drafted by the Dallas Texans in 1952. He thought he was on the NFL team.

Coach Jimmy Phelan cut him off late, saying he was afraid of losing him to the military during the Korean War. Young insisted the military wouldn’t take him because he was legally blind. He joked, he once retrieved a helmet he thought was a fumble.

Young returned to Baltimore and taught history and political science for the next 15 years at Calvert Hall College High School and later at Baltimore City College, also a high school.

Even a test call from the Steelers couldn’t get him back to football. Young wanted to teach.

BUT Young returned to the NFL in 1968, joining the Colts. Over the next six years, he worked as a scout, O-line coach (winning Super Bowl in January 1971), offensive coordinator, and director of player personnel.

Young was on track to become the next general manager when a trade changed everything in 1972. In July, Robert Irsay bought the Los Angeles Rams and then handed the franchise over to Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom for his team. Irsay hired Joe Thomas as his general manager and Young returned to coaching from the Colts’ line – only to be fired at the end of training camp in 1974. The move came after Atlanta coach, Marion Campbell, reinserted her starters in an exhibition game and that Baltimore quarterback Bert Jones, the second pick in the draft the previous year, was sacked on four consecutive games, said Accorsi, who headed relations. public Colts. department. Young was fired the next day.

“So George is out on the street and (Dolphins coach and general manager Don) Shula hires him to spot opponents for $ 100 a game to keep him alive. That’s what saved his career, ”said Accorsi.

Shula hired Young as director of player personnel in 1975 and he joined the Giants in 79.

At the time, he was seen as the compromise candidate that NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle proposed to the team’s conflicting owners, Wellington and his nephew, Tim Mara.

John Mara said Young was actually suggested to Wellington by Hall of Fame member Frank Gifford and teammate Tom Scott. Wellington Mara researched and liked Young. He also knew he could never suggest it because Tim Mara would reject him.

So Wellington Mara asked Rozelle to make the suggestion.

The result: The Giants found a way to win with George Young, a guy who never looked for the spotlight. He was content to wear his members-only sports coat, drive his Buick, and make sure things were done right.

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