Joe Schoen could see cornfields across the road from where he grew up, and now the son of Indiana is general manager of the New York Giants. The destination isn't far-fetched if you know his journey.
"So there's always this interest as a kid of New York City and how big it was and how amazing the city was," Schoen told former Giants center Shaun O'Hara in his first interview since being hired last Friday. "Growing up, seeing Coach [Bill] Parcells, I was probably 4 or 5 and my dad would take me down to the Notre Dame spring football games – the Blue-Gold game – and I met Mark Bavaro when I was probably 4 years old. My mom is still trying to find that picture, but from then on, I was a Giants fan because of Mark Bavaro and he played at Notre Dame and then, again, Coach Parcells and the success they had."
Prior to serving as general manager Brandon Beane's right-hand man as they built the Buffalo Bills into a powerhouse in the AFC, Schoen spent five seasons as a national scout for the Miami Dolphins. In the first three of those years, he worked under Parcells, then the team's executive vice president of football operations.
Their influence, among others, shaped Schoen's vision for building the Giants' roster.
"To me, I know 'culture' is thrown around a lot, but [it's about finding] guys that will fit our culture," Schoen said. "Guys that are smart, tough, dependable – it's going to start there. Guys that are talented that have really good habits. I think you're going to have your best chance for success with those type of players. So, ultimately, I think building through the draft, I believe in that - drafting, developing, and signing your own, I think that's very important if you want to sustain success. I believe in supplementing the roster with free agency and going outside the building, but I don't really like getting into signing the biggest fish out there and spending a lot of money. I won't say we'll never do that, but I would prefer to draft, develop, sign our own. I just think the margin for error is much smaller because you know exactly what you're paying for. You know how the guy works on a daily basis. You know how he fits your culture. That's kind of how I foresee us doing it here with the Giants."
View photos from Joe Schoen's first days on the job as the new general manager of the Giants.
Wednesday's introductory press conference capped off a whirlwind few weeks for the 42-year-old. It started with the Giants submitting the initial consent form for the then-assistant general manager of the Bills, who were in the middle of a playoff run. The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, asked for an interview.
"You're trying to do your daily duties with the Buffalo Bills while also trying to prepare for the Giants and Bears," Schoen said. "Then as soon as I got the job, I drove over here the next day. So, it's really been a whirlwind. Ever since I've been here, it's been great meeting everybody. It's been a lot of fun. I'm definitely staying busy."
It didn't leave much time for sleep.
"I think it was Bill Polian, I had read his book that he actually had a notepad next to his bed," Schoen said of the six-time NFL Executive the Year and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Believe it or not, the last couple nights I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about things I need to do. I probably need to take a pen and paper home and put it next to my bed shortly."
Those notes could be keys to getting the Giants back on the winning track. He helped Buffalo end its own drought, guiding the team to playoff appearances in four out of his five seasons. Before he arrived with Beane in 2017, the Bills hadn't made it to the postseason since 1999.
Schoen can lean on that experience.
"They had a drought, but we also had some leaders on the team that we invested in, and I think were very integral," Schoen said. "Kyle Williams played for a long time at defensive tackle, Lorenzo Alexander, a couple years later Lee Smith – we invested in some guys that had leadership qualities, that were veteran players, that could help us carry our message throughout the locker room while also developing some of those draft picks and young guys. To me, that's going to be a concerted effort, try to find out who those leaders are currently in the locker room but also if we do have to go outside of the locker room, what are those guys going to add in terms of leadership and carrying whoever is the head coach's message through the locker room."
With the head coach search ongoing, Schoen said what he is looking for is a partnership, first and foremost. He also doesn't mind if the person has previous head coach experience or not, as along as they have a track record of developing players.
Success in that department will be especially important this year. Schoen admitted the Giants will need to get "creative" to improve their "cap health" heading into free agency; however, they are fit as a fiddle in draft capital, a haul that includes the fifth and seventh overall selections. Beane and Schoen put the Bills on an upwards trajectory with how they handled a similar situation in Buffalo and drafted Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
"I'm excited about it," Schoen said. "I echoed that to our staff, about we really have a chance through the draft to affect the 2022 roster over the next three months."