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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

With Giants in Super Bowl, GM Reese has his answer for the critics

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Jerry Reese, already a Super Bowl-winning GM, can really hush his critics with a second title. (Getty Images)  
Jerry Reese, already a Super Bowl-winning GM, can really hush his critics with a second title. (Getty Images)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- To those who were there, it was more like an interrogation than an interview session. All those surrounding New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese needed to do was stick a blindfold on him and throw a little truth serum into his veins and that's exactly what it might have been. Reese was said to be more defensive than his nasty front four, although he denied that this week.

The heat was coming because the moves were not.

"That comes with the territory," Reese said. "It is what it is."

As the Philadelphia Eagles assembled the supposed "Dream Team" last summer, plucking several high-priced free agents, Reese sat back and didn't do a lot. That didn't sit well in New York.

Fans want names. The media seems to crave them as well.

Forget that the past two Super Bowl winners lived by the motto of drafting well and spending little. All Giants fans saw was Reese basically sitting idle as the hated Eagles put together an all-star team.

"How many big, sexy moves did the Green Bay Packers make last year?" Reese said that day. "I don't remember a lot. Who won before? Pittsburgh. How many big sexy moves did they have? You develop players. The ones making the splash, the big sexy moves, I don't know if that always works.

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"You make solid football decisions. You get good continuity on your team. You play as a team. You give yourself a chance to win. I don't know if all the big, sexy moves are the right way to go."

Take a look at the scoreboard: Eagles and their big, sexy moves are at home, while Reese and the Giants are readying to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

Winning, by the way, is pretty damn sexy.

I asked Reese on Thursday about the interrogation and his being defensive, and he got defensive about being defensive.

"That's not true," Reese said. "I wasn't on the defensive. I wasn't making a statement. I was just giving an update. I wasn't defensive about it. Defensive is not a good word to use."

There really was no reason for him to be defensive. He was right. The Giants took heat for allowing receiver Steve Smith, who was coming off an injury, and tight Kevin Boss to leave via free agency. It didn't help that their top free-agent pickup was center David Baas.

Meanwhile, the Eagles, the dreaded team across New Jersey in Philadelphia, were spending money like they printed it.

"There's different ways to skin a cat," Reese said. "We signed a center, we signed a guard, we signed a punter. That wasn't really sexy, especially from a fan standpoint. Fans are fans and they like to see names and look like you're stacking the deck. But we had good players already. We needed to make the moves and fill the holes that were there."

Reese is a scout through and through. When he joined the Giants under Ernie Accorsi, he was known for standing by his convictions. He comes across as a fighter.

"I'm tougher than I look," he once said.

In his five years as the team's general manager, working with coach Tom Coughlin, he has won a lot of battles. In his first season, the Giants won the Super Bowl with a strong rookie class playing a big part. Four years later, the Giants are doing it with a mix of veterans and young players. Most of them are homegrown.

That's the right way to build a team that can stay a contender. The Packers and Steelers have proven that over the years.

But when Reese failed to sign Smith or Plaxico Buress, Giants fans wondered who would be the No. 2 receiver behind Hakeem Nicks. Victor Cruz has filled in nicely, don't you think? He was homegrown.

Kevin Boothe, who was a high-priority re-signing, has been a pleasant surprise along the offensive line. He will start Sunday at left guard. And when Boss left, Jake Ballard, a second-year player, stepped in and played well.

Reese was right. He didn't need the sexy signings. That's the way for the fans and media.

It's not the right way.

Here we are six months after the summertime interrogation and Reese can scream that he was right. But that's not him. He doesn't seem real comfortable in the spotlight.

During our little meeting with him Thursday, five minutes in he called over Giants public-relations man Peter Jean-Baptiste and asked him if he needed to be somewhere in a couple of minutes.

I told Reese that sounded like an out somebody would use on a bad blind date.

"GMs should be in the background," Reese said. "I don't think there are any movie-star GMs in the National Football League."

If the Giants win Sunday, Giants fans might think so -- and owe him a big apology.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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