Q&A: New York Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi
From x meadowlander: Ernie, what I would like to know is what YOUR expectations of this Giant team are? What kind of record do you EXPECT this team to have at the end of this season? (Barring Catastrophic Injuries).
Accorsi: It’s very difficult to place a won-lost goal or expectation on the season because so many incredible things can happen during a game (I really don’t have to go much farther than last Friday to provide the most extreme example). But I have expectations for this team because I think we have explosive offensive players now. Some of them are a little unproven, Bennett, Montgomery, Dayne and Dixon, on the pro level. But the talent is there. If we can protect the quarterback and get him in play action situations, we will score.
I am much more confident about the defense this year because of the health of Sehorn and the addition of Griffin and Barrow, in particular. I also think Strahan was stung by the criticism of his season last year and will play with something to prove.
You have to build a team now for a three-four year run. We have started that process. I don’t know what the record will be. I just think we will be headed in the right direction.
Pete from Woodstock and Giant Mike: Ernie, will there be anymore free agent signings after cuts this year to strengthen certain positions, and if so, which positions are you concentrating on? Any truth to rumors of a possible trade or two?
Accorsi: Free agent acquisitions at this point won’t be significant because everyone has 80-plus players and what is left isn’t going to make impact on a team. It’s possible that we could claim someone off the final cut that could contribute depth for us, either in the offensive line or the defensive secondary. We are being very vigilant to a possible trade. I can’t promise one because I have no control over what other clubs might make available. But, although we have been reluctant in the past to give up draft choices, I would trade one for a corner who could come in and play well for us.
RAZE in Poughkeepsie and Steve in Vegas: Given this year’s free agent acquisitions & veteran signings, are the Giants still as well positioned to be bigger players in free agency in 2001 as you thought earlier this year? Which position would you seriously consider upgrading through free agency?
Accorsi: It’s difficult to answer that until I see what the resolution of the 2000 season is, but always we would be on the lookout for defensive corners. They at a premium and you never have enough, especially with teams coming right out on first down with three and four wide receivers.
Milton: Evaluating college talent is a tough job. But as a fan, it’s surprising to me how some players who are so highly regarded (Blair Thomas, Aundray Bruce, etc.) can be such utter disappointments. And also, how a guy like Terrell Davis or Jessie Armstead could slip so far below the radar. As a talent evaluator, what is it that makes the job such guesswork (even after viewing thousands of hours of film, working the players out, interviewing them, and testing them)?
Accorsi: That is a very good question, because you just touched on the mystery of the game. How can absolutely no one be interested in either drafting or even signing Percy Ellsworth after his senior year at Virginia? The only reason we signed Ellsworth was that we lost three or four safeties in the post-draft signing frenzy and he was sitting there with no interest. I had scouted the Virginia-Florida State game (which was Florida State’s first loss in the ACC) the night that Ellsworth intercepted Kannel twice. I said, if we drafted Kannel, we might as well sign the guy who intercepted him twice. Another example, we debated between Jeremiah Parker and an offensive lineman in the seventh round in this past year’s draft. We decided on the speed rusher. A few days later, we signed a big offensive lineman from Michigan named Chris Ziemann, who had to fax us and beg us to sign him. The coaches feel right now, they would not be afraid to start him at right tackle if they had to (in the event we had an injury). We also hit on a tight end from Dartmouth named Adam Young who was cut by his NFL Europe team to make room for two allocated tight ends. You just never know. That’s the intangible element of the game. How could the Steelers cut Unitas?
Giant Great and George from PA: Why was the 1998 draft so unproductive? What is the strength of next years draft that you will concentrate on?
Accorsi: Shaun Williams was played out of position his first two year because he was versatile and we had Percy Ellsworth to play free safety. He has made big plays when he has had the opportunity and will be one of the best safeties in the league this year as soon as he comes back from this toe injury in my opinion. Joe Jurevicius is a weapon who just hasn’t had the chance to play. You have seen what he can do when he makes a play. We need a big year out of him. Brian Alford hasn’t gotten on the field. The coaches have a problem with his drops in practice but if you studied his college film, he had very few drops. He is a little bit of a mystery. Myles and Fricke have made other teams. Fricke has played for Dallas and contributed. Oakland likes Myles. I don’t know if he will make their team. He has ability. I think Williams and Jurevicius will contribute significantly to our season and Alford has a chance. To be totally honest with you, however, that’s not enough. We should have six and possible six players out of this draft (Dhani Jones is out for the season but will be an outstanding player). You have to have more than two.
English Alaister: I would be intrigued to know what, if any, limits the team would place on first round draft selections in terms of position? There has been some lengthy discussion on this board as to the merits of taking safeties, interior linemen, middle and strongside linebackers in the first round. Many people have argued that first round picks should be used only for difference makers. The skill positions on offense, quarterback of course, left tackle (assuming a righty QB) defensive end, cornerback and impact linebackers. However, in your first two drafts as general manager the team selected a safety and then a linemen now playing right tackle. But this draft there seemed to be a movement towards the impact offensive positions early and the use of free agency to fill the offensive line. Is this a trend predicated on the way you believe the NFL is developing (cheap veteran line help but not much offensive talent) or was it merely the way the chips fell? If (and I’m sure we all hope desperately that this will not be the case) the Giants have a top ten draft pick sometime in your tenure are there any positions you would not even look at to start with?
Accorsi: You are probably going to be puzzled by this answer, but over the past 20 years, if you asked me the two positions I would be least likely to select in the first round, it would safety and offensive line. My first draft, the system dictated Shaun Williams. He’s a good player, but I agree with your definition of impact players and safety generally is not one. The second year, I felt we had to have a left tackle. Luke Petitgout is a left tackle. He’s playing right tackle right now because Lomas Brown is playing left. He is having an excellent pre-season. He is more naturally at tackle than guard and is even more natural at left tackle. He is going to be a good player. But generally, I like impact players. Big play players. Quarterback first, if you have the opportunity to pick a great one. I was with Unitas, Bert Jones, and that is why I picked Elway in Baltimore in the face of overwhelming protests from his agent, from him and from the media. After that pass rushers, corners and backs and receivers. The inside linebacker has diminished in glamour because of the proliferation of spread formations. He is taken off the field unless its a run down. One year when I was in Cleveland and the Detroit Lions were playing the run and shoot, our middle linebacker (a very good player named Mike Johnson) didn’t play a down. That is why Brandon Short’s value dropped. But we are using him at strong side linebacker right now.
bw in dc: Why didn’t you get involved in the Kevin Mawae sweepstakes three years ago? Which non-Jints free agent over the last three years do you regret not pursuing? Why did the brass wait until 1999 to finally hire a full-time cap specialist?
Accorsi: We had Brian Williams in the shadow to be quite frank, we had no cap power to pursue a high priced player like that. I hired our cap specialist in my second year on this job. But I wanted the right one and in Kevin Abrams I got the right one. We were $10.6 million over the cap 11 days before the deadline in February. We got under and then signed six free agents, five of them who will start and the sixth is the backup quarterback. As far as regrets, I don’t look back. But the player we should have tried to trade for (he wasn’t a free agent) was Marshall Faulk.
Hbart: Assume that this season is reasonably successful and you feel strongly about the teams chances next season. Would you be inclined to take a Redskins/Snyder type approach of using free agency to fill holes and add depth without much regard for the cost and cap implications? Or would you continue with the approach we’ve seen of emphasizing value in FA acquisitions and looking mainly to the draft for depth?
Accorsi: I am not tied to any restrictions as far as avenues we would take. I basically like building with young veterans but I certainly would bring in an older player to plug a hole as we did this year with Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker. To just summarize, I will do anything I feel I have to do to win and still live with the cap. What has happened with the cap is, most clubs, including us, will pay a future price to win a championship. While you are building, you have to be careful. But once you think you have the team to win, go for it. If you have cap problems in the future because of it, you can relieve the burden by walking in the lobby and looking at a Super Bowl trophy. That is what we are all in this to do. Nothing less.
Mark S: When in the “targeting” phase of the personnel acquisition process (pre-draft, FA signing period, etc.), how much input do you receive from Jim Fassel, John Fox, and Sean Payton? Specifically, does management sit down with key members of the coaching staff and strategize about targeting specific players or specific “types” of players for the current/future offensive/defensive schemes?
Accorsi: Our scouting and personnel staff currently has a great working relationship with the coaches. We meet constantly so that the scouts can get a feel for what the coaches like in a player. But you have to be careful. You have to have a New York Giants philosophy, which has changed in recent years because the game has changed. You can’t just tailor everything to a coach then when the coach leaves you have to revamp your entire team. You have seen that when some of the run and shoot guru’s have left teams with no tight ends or running backs. It’s a blend. What you need the most is harmony between the two elements. We have that.
Kenney in CA: How do you evaluate your scouts? Since it can take years for an NFL player to develop, it seems it could take even longer to grade a scout’s job performance. Do you keep track of who a scout has liked, and how those players perform if they’re picked by other teams? Or do you feel there are too many variables to do be able to do that fairly?
Accorsi: That is a more important job for me than evaluating college players. I scout games and look at a lot of tape and have my opinions, particularly among the top-rated players, but so much of our decisions is based on the full time guys who do it for a living and for 365 days a year. I spend a lot of time evaluating the scouts. For example, if there are some low draft choices or free agents from a particular scout’s area that made it, I will go back and read his reports on that player and question him as well as the cross checker on why we didn’t draft him. This is particularly important in the later rounds. Sometimes earlier, you want a player but you just don’t get him because he is picked right ahead of you. I am very hard on them sometimes and I don’t think they are very happy about that. But the stakes are high. I don’t like to miss on anyone. I had a scout tell me once when I questioned him on a free agent who went to another club and played well, “The day i was there he wasn’t impressive.” My answer to that is, you are responsible for that school 365 days a year and once every four years 366 days.
Joe in massapequa and Eric from BBI: Are there any plans for next year with the aging vets we now have on our line to upgrade through free agency next year and the draft to get younger, meaning really: ( a) Are these guys stopgap moves? and (b) Has the organization come to the conclusion that more emphasis will be spent on free agency than the draft when it comes to improving the quality of the offensive line?
Accorsi: I sort of answered that question earlier, but this is the way I look at our offensive line: two older players (Brown and Parker), two very experienced young players (Ziegler and Stone), three young players with size and a future (Petitgout, Rosenthal, Ziemann). That is a good blend. We will obviously have to replace Brown and Parker shortly and we will do it both ways that you mentioned.
In summary, I would like to make one point to all of you. When I assumed this position, we were coming off of a divisional title. Most of us, however, didn’t think we were that good. We went one more year with essentially that team and found out for sure we weren’t that good. In the past two years we began to reshape this team. The major move was Kerry Collins. In this organization, there is a conviction that we have a big league quarterback we can win with for the first time since Phil Simms. This past off season, we made a lot of changes in the offensive line, skilled positions, and defense. The only thing we didn’t address was depth, which will be next, because we were fortunate to be able to do what we did. There is a buzz of excitement around the club. Now, I don’t expect fans to buy into it until they see results. And, I don’t know how quickly they will come, maybe they will or maybe it will a little while. But we have a chance now.
Most importantly, I appreciate your passion. I have been with three great franchises all with famous fans – the Baltimore (not Indianapolis, by the way) Colts, the Cleveland Browns and the New York Football Giants. I have never experienced a love of the team like Giants’ fans. Our only goal is to win for you.