EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Thirty-five years ago yesterday, Bill Parcells coached the Giants to a 39-20 rout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI for their first NFL championship in three decades. Four years later, the Giants won another Super Bowl, and four months after that, Parcells resigned.
He later coached the New England Patriots, the Jets and the Dallas Cowboys and spent three seasons as the Miami Dolphins' executive vice president of football operations. Despite those dalliances with other organizations, Parcells remains a revered figure in Giants history. He was a member of the franchise's inaugural Ring of Honor class in 2010 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame three years later.
Parcells has been gone from the organization for a long time, but he's still helping the team he cheered for growing up in Bergen Country, N.J. One of his many proteges is Joe Schoen, who spent the first three of a nine-year stint with the Dolphins working for Parcells as a national scout. When the Giants contacted Schoen about becoming their new general manager, one of the people he contacted for advice was Parcells.
"He told me it's the best job in the league," Schoen said today at his introductory news conference in the field house at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "That was some of the advice he gave me when I talked to him. I could go on and on about coach. I know why he was such a good coach, because he understood personnel and he understood the X's and O's and he was a great teacher.
"I got him probably on the back nine of his career. He was a constant teacher, always talking to me. I've said this several times, he would say, 'You know what Tom Landry used to tell me, Joe?' I'm just a young scout and you're on the edge of your seat, like, 'Tom Landry told Bill Parcells and he's getting ready to tell me.' All the stories he has, he understood personnel. Philosophically, maybe he's a little bit different. He hasn't evolved to where maybe the game is today. But I learned a lot from him just how to build a roster, what to look for in different positions, what to look for in head coaches. You better know what you want on your roster because coaches are going to come and go. It's just the volatility of the industry. I love coach to death. He's been awesome to me. He still calls me every now and then. I can pick up my phone and call him and he'll answer. He's not afraid to call on a Monday after a game and give his two cents on the roster and what we need when I was in Buffalo, so a ton of respect for coach and I love him to death."
Parcells telling Schoen that the Giants job is the NFL's best resonated with team president John Mara.
"It does, because a lot of you out there think it's one of the poorest jobs in the league and I get that from the turnover we've had recently," Mara said. "But I think Bill knows that we treat people the right way and I think he knows how badly we want to win. I think that's what was behind that statement. There was no shortage of interest in this job, let me put it that way."
Speaking of that turnover…though Schoen will be the Giants' fifth general manager since 1979, he will be the third person in the position since 2017, when Jerry Reese was dismissed and soon replaced by Dave Gettleman (after assistant Kevin Abrams served as the interim G.M.). And they are about to hire their fifth head coach since 2015.
"I'm dying to get off this train," Mara said. "I hate being in the position that we're in right now. I want continuity. I want somebody who's going to be in the building for a long period of time. I don't want to do another one of these press conferences for many, many years. Yes, that is a big consideration."
View photos from Joe Schoen's first days on the job as the new general manager of the Giants.
Mara and Schoen each spoke on numerous subjects during informal conversations with reporters following the news conference:
*Mara on whether he expects a quick turnaround:
"I expect us to be a heck of lot better than four wins next year," he said. "But I haven't given him any specific number that he has to achieve. Get the right coach, build the right program and let's see some progress at the end of the season."
*Schoen on running back Saquon Barkley, who is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie contract:
"He was in the locker room yesterday, so I got to have a good conversation with him," Schoen said. "I'm excited about Saquon. When he came out as a rare talent – I know he's had some injuries and that comes with that position, but we talked a little about where you may need to upgrade. I think if you upgrade the offensive line, that's going to help (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) and it's going to help Saquon."
*And how do you upgrade the offensive line?
"You've got to get better players," Schoen said. "That's the best way to fix it. I know that they've had some injuries and not to oversimplify it, but we've got to look wherever we can, whether it's free agency – again, we probably won't have a lot of (financial) resources there, but that's where the pro department makes their money. Whether it's VSB (veteran salary benefit) deals, finding guys through the draft, whoever the O-Line coach is, it would help if they have a proven track record of developing players. We're going to have to find a way. That's what we're here for. We've got to find solutions. We can all talk about what the problems are, but our job is to find solutions."
*Schoen on whether he will pick up Jones' fifth-year option or "make him earn it":
"We're going to talk about that when the head coach gets in here and the offensive staff," Schoen said. "We're going to evaluate him as a group. I haven't talked to the training staff, strength staff, a lot of the support staff on the players yet. We're going to get together as a group. Once we get more information, we'll make that. We have until May, so we'll take our time on that one."
*Mara on why he reached out to former Miami coach Brian Flores, who will interview tomorrow for the Giants head coach position:
"I reached out to him because he was on all the candidates that we interviewed for general manager, he was on each of their lists," Mara said. "I see he's been interviewing elsewhere, I just wanted to let him know that before you make a decision, just know that we have interest in you. Make whatever decision you feel like you need to make for you and your family, but just know that we do have interest in you. Once I get the general manager search done, we will be back to you, so that was the purpose of that call."
*Schoen, who ended a five-year tenure in Buffalo when he joined the Giants, on watching the Bills' excruciating overtime loss in Kansas City in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game Sunday. Had they won, the Bills would be hosting Cincinnati this week in the conference championship game.
"I had texted my wife with 13 seconds left (after the Bills took their last lead)," Schoen said. "I should've known better. I get to come home. I told (Bills general manager) Brandon (Beane), 'Make sure you save me four tickets in your suite. Make sure it's full of beer.' I didn't text him that, but I told him previously in the week before I left, I said, 'Hey, if we win and the AFC Championship is in Buffalo, I'm coming.' They were awesome and were like, 'Hey, if we go further, we want you in L.A. (for the Super Bowl), if that ever happened,' and all that stuff. My mind kind of turned to that like, 'Holy cow, we're going to be in an AFC Championship game again,' and unfortunately that happened."
*Mara said when Schoen flew to New Jersey for his face-to-face interview, he was sitting in a middle seat in the last row of the plane, right up against the bathroom. So…what was Schoen thinking?
"I'm rolling up my sleeves, put me wherever you want to put me. I'm going to interview for the New York Giants. I'll ride on the wing if you need me to. I didn't care where they put me, that's not me. I'll sit wherever."