|Co-owner Steve Tisch shares the moment with his now-brilliant GM, Jerry Reese. (Getty Images)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jerry Reese remembers the summer of 2011. The summer when he was an idiot.
A stone, cold idiot. You heard it everywhere. It was whispered by some in the media. Whispered by personnel men around the NFL. Said loudly on New York talk radio. One general manager said to me then: "I hope Jerry knows what he's doing."
The summer of idiocy -- do you remember? It was months ago -- long before he was rightfully hailed as a genius in the afterglow of a Super Bowl win over New England on a beautiful night in Indiana. Reese was criticized for a number of decisions he made this summer. Now, he's a winner. Then, he was dumb. And here we are. Reese has a Super Bowl and the summer of idiocy has passed. Now comes the praise and talk of transformational moments for Reese. But actually nothing changed between now and then. He was always a talent savant and one of the best and brightest. Indeed, a solid argument can be made there is no better general manager in the NFL than Reese. Not a one. None.
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This isn't a second guess or time machine moment. This summer I picked the Giants to win the division and also was called an idiot. (Well, I am an idiot, but not on that.) It was easy to see that even with some of the roster transformations, the Giants were completely loaded. And they had Eli Manning.
There is a lesson here and it's an easy one to understand. Reese had earned more trust than he was shown from people both in and out of football, but there were still questions about his acumen. As with Tom Coughlin, those questions should now cease. "Last year we win 10 games and we don't qualify for the tournament and you're not that smart," Reese said earlier this week. "This time, we win nine games, win a division, less games, and now it seems I'm pretty smart again. It just comes with the territory and that's just part of it. It just is what it is."
But back to when he was an idiot. This past summer he released offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, both of whom were popular in the locker room and among the fan base. Tight end Kevin Boss was even more popular and pretty damn good, and Reese let him go as well.
Perhaps the most interesting decision/non-decision Reese made was not succumb to the pressure of signing Plaxico Burress. He'd go on to the Jets, a team that didn't make the playoffs. Media and fans also wanted Reese to bring back Steve Smith, and when Smith went to the rival Philadelphia Eagles the chatter that Reese didn't know what he was doing grew slightly louder in some corners. Of course, the Eagles didn't make the playoffs either. The Eagles were signing every big name free agent not nailed to a contract while the Giants' signings were far from noteworthy.
Reese made moves like signing a center, resigning a linebacker and offensive lineman, a safety here, a d-lineman there. Reese signed punter Steve Weatherford from the Jets. On his way out the door, special teams guru Mike Westhoff trashed Weatherford, making the Reese signing of him seem even more dubious.
"Everybody has different ways of doing things," Reese said. "We had a good nucleus of guys coming back and we just felt like we needed to make the best football moves. Obviously, they're not sexy moves. We signed a guard, we signed a center and we signed a punter. That's not really sexy, especially from a fan perspective. Fans are fans and they like to see big names and see you look like you're stacking the deck, but we had good players already and we needed to fill the holes we thought were there and we tried to do that."
Reese was adding depth because he knew he already had a good team. He knew what many others couldn't see.
In the end, look what happened. Reese's predecessor, Ernie Accorsi, one of the best in history himself, brought Manning to New York and of course that was huge. But this Super Bowl winning team is Reese's: 44 of the 53 players on the roster were acquired by him.
The Weatherford signing typifies the subtle intelligence of the moves he made this offseason when he was so roundly criticized. Weatherford had three punts inside the 10-yard line against the Patriots, a Super Bowl record. In some ways, he was the Giants' most valuable player. That first deep punt led to Brady being sacked for a safety.
Reese now has two Super Bowls in five years, has no losing seasons and is 8-1 in the postseason. Most of all, he has a young and hungry roster that will be competitive for years.
Not bad for an idiot.