John Mara discouragingly met the media on the defensive Wednesday, acting like he doesn’t intend to make meaningful change in one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional organizations.
He lazily blamed the media for creating the “perception” that his family members have “undue influence” in the football operation and vehemently denied that characterization.
“Well that perception has been created by you and others,” Mara pushed back.
Contradicting Mara’s claim, his brother Chris Mara, the Giants’ senior VP of player personnel, sat in with co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch on Wednesday’s first two GM interviews with the Buffalo Bills’ Joe Schoen and the Arizona Cardinals’ Adrian Wilson.
“Chris is in those interviews ‘cause he’s part of ownership and I value his opinion,” said John Mara. “I value his skills and I want him in there. At the end of the day, I’ll listen to him, but it will be Steve and myself making the final decision.”
Mara made the same statement (“He does not have any authority here,” only the GM and head coach) about personnel influence for his brother Chris and nephew Tim McDonnell, the Giants’ co-director of player personnel.
But Mara couched his statement about Chris: “… other than the fact that I will go to him on occasion and ask him about players.”
He also called McDonnell “probably the most respected guy we have in this building.”
And while that is true, and McDonnell is highly regarded, Wednesday’s takeaway was that the family will remain steadfastly in charge, involved and less accountable for this franchise’s futility than anyone else in the building, starting with Mara himself.
They’re digging in their heels when they should be changing their shoes for hiking boots.
Give credit to Mara at least for speaking Wednesday and admitting “I haven’t given [fans] any reason to believe” he’ll get it right this time.
Co-owner Steve Tisch did not talk and has no plans to do so, outside of Monday’s statement that it’s an “understatement” to say he is “disappointed.”
Tisch should have to answer for coach Joe Judge’s firing in particular, because sources say Mara was the one who initially wanted to give the coach a third year, but Tisch pushed to blow it up after failing to achieve a full reset two years ago.
Mara knew that firing Judge after two years saddled by 19-46 GM Dave Gettleman — despite hiring him for a long-term rebuild — was not only moving the goalposts on his coach. It was ripping them down.
But Mara conceded in part on Wednesday because, according to sources, many of the GM candidates were wary of not being able to pick their own head coach. Mara admitted as much.
“I just feel given where we are right now, on the verge of bringing in a new general manager, we have to give that person the flexibility to bring in the head coach that he wants,” he said. “And I think that was a large part of the decision here in making a change.”
That said, it was ridiculous for Mara to claim that this is the most embarrassed he’s ever been for his franchise.
“Honestly I would have to say yes, yes it is,” Mara said. “I kept thinking during the season that we had hit rock bottom and then each week it got a little worse.”
The Josh Brown scandal, the Eli Manning benching for Geno Smith, the hiring of Gettleman, the summer of DeAndre Baker, the rampant quitting by defensive players in 2017 and 2019. And this is the low point?
This was dumping dirt on Judge’s grave, even as Mara called him a “good person” who has “a really good head coach inside” him.
“Where we are at the moment … certainly, certainly that is not all due to him,” Mara said, in his only acknowledgment of Gettleman’s pathetic track record at ownership’s direction.
People in the coaching community reacted to Judge’s firing by saying look at the Giants, there they go again with their M.O., making promises, firing everyone within two years and starting over to repeat the cycle.
Mara dodged questions about Gettleman’s forced retirement (read: firing) but slipped in an acknowledgment that the Giants’ last GM hiring process was rushed and disastrous.
Ya think? The Giants interviewed only four candidates to replace the fired Jerry Reese in December 2017: three from inside the ‘family’ and Louis Riddick. And they hired Gettleman to run it back with Manning.
“I don’t want to rush anything,” Mara said. “I’ve made that mistake in the past… I think looking back on our process, I wish it had been a little more extensive and we had seen more people and maybe taken our time a little bit more with it. And we’re gonna try not to make that mistake this time.”
Mara granted that he “wasn’t thrilled” with Judge’s Chicago press conference and that the quarterback sneaks in Sunday’s season finale “weren’t my favorite play calls in the world.” But he said neither instance dealt Judge the convincing blow.
“We just got to a point where I thought we had dug ourselves a hole so deep that I didn’t see a clear path to getting out of it unless we completely blew it up and started all over again with a new general manager and head coach,” he said.
Unfortunately, when Mara was asked if he, Chris Mara and his family need to take a step back from the football operation to fix it, Mara indicated that wasn’t in the cards.
“Well what we need to do is hire the right general manager to oversee the football operations, and that’s what this process is about,” Mara said. “I mean you make it sound like we’re having undue influence on the football operations here.”
These are all discouraging signals for prospective GM and head coaching candidates, many of whom already are wary of the Giants’ lack of salary cap space for 2022.
Mara also balked later when asked if his new GM will have full autonomy to pick a coach.
“He will lead the search for a head coach, but those decisions always are subject to final approval by ownership,” Mara said.
And that is how a “perception” of a family’s lack of accountability is created. By reality.
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