There are two former general managers who five times were each named NFL Executives of the Year, and one of them is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That would be Bill Polian, named to the Hall in 2015 as part of the first class of NFL contributors.
But the other? Try George Young, who turned the New York Giants from an NFL punching bag into a Super Bowl heavyweight champ and who has all the qualifications … but few of the votes … to reach Canton.
My question: Why?
I wish I knew. I wish somebody knew. Because George Bernard Young belongs in Canton. In fact, he should already be there.
Look, Ron Wolf joined Polian two years ago as part of the first contributor class in Hall-of-Fame history and for good reason: He put the Green Bay Packers back on the map and turned what was once the league’s premier franchise into a model of excellence again.
But George Young did the same thing with the Giants.
For nearly two decades (1964-80) the Giants were the poster boys for dysfunction, as bad off the field as they were on it. There were the warring Maras, with owner Wellington in a family feud with his nephew, Tim. There were poor drafts and lousy seasons, with the Giants failing to reach the playoffs 17 straight seasons, including 15 of those years where they failed to break .500, and fans burning their tickets. There was the Miracle in the Meadowlands, provoking a fly-over from a private plane carrying a banner that read: “15 YEARS OF LOUSY FOOTBALL — WE’VE HAD ENOUGH!”
In essence, Giants they weren’t.
So Wellington Mara, who also had had enough, appealed to then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, asking for help in finding a new head of football operations, and Rozelle recommended Young — who had success in previous stops in Baltimore and Miami. But Young would join the Giants under one condition: That he have total control of the football side of operations.
Mara agreed, Young signed on and the Giants were on their way to recovery.
That was 1979 when the Giants were coming off their third consecutive last-place finish in the NFC East and sixth in the previous seven years. So the mandate for Young was clear: Fix the New York Giants.
And so he did.
He restored order within the franchise by keeping the Maras at peace, and he returned excellence to the football field through the hiring of Hall-of-Famer Bill Parcells after Ray Perkins returned to Alabama. Where the Giants went 17 consecutive years without a playoff appearance, they qualified for the postseason six times in eight non-strike seasons from 1981-90 and won two Super Bowls with Young as GM.
He hired Parcells. He groomed Ernie Accorsi as his successor. He hired Jerry Reese as a scout. He drafted great players, with 119 from 1979-95 making the team, including stars like Hall-of-Famers Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, quarterback Phil Simms, running back Joe Morris, tight end Mark Bavaro, defensive lineman Leonard Marshall and linebacker Carl Banks.
Most of all, he returned stability, consistency, and, above all, credibility to a program that had none for far too many years.
In essence, he did for the Giants what Wolf did for Green Bay: He straightened them out, with the franchise going on to four Super Bowl victories, 15 playoff appearances, eight division championships and 19 winning seasons after Young first appeared on the scene. That’s consistency. And credibility? They’ve had exactly three GMs, including Young, since 1979. And where they had eight last-place finishes in the 15 years prior to his arrival, they’ve had four in the nearly four decades since.
What’s more, they’re the only team since the 1980s to win a Super Bowl in every decade … or since George Young arrived.
“He’s one of the best GMs in the history of the league,” Accorsi once told Hall-of-Fame voter Bob Glauber of Newsday. “We don’t put GMs in the Hall of Fame like they do in baseball. But we should.”
He’s right, of course. So how come it hasn’t happened with George Young? It should. It must. And sooner rather than later.