INDIANAPOLIS – Joe Schoen realized his long-held goal of becoming an NFL general manager when he assumed the daunting task of leading the Giants' football operations on January 21.
Schoen has been put in charge of revitalizing a franchise that has endured five consecutive losing seasons, is overseeing an overhaul of the front office and coaching staff, must cut tens of millions of dollars from the payroll before the NFL's new league year starts in two weeks, is restructuring the roster and is preparing for free agency and an NFL Draft in which he currently holds two of the top seven selections.
It's not just a full plate of challenges, it's an entire banquet. But 40 days after the Giants announced the job was his, Schoen couldn't be happier.
"I love my job," Schoen said here during a break between interviewing draft-eligible players at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I don't know how anybody could do this, the amount of hours, even Dabes' (Brian Daboll) as the head coach and his coaching staff, my personnel staff from (assistant general manager) Brandon Brown, (director of player personnel) Tim (McDonnell), (director of college scouting) Chris Pettit, all the scouts, the amount of time we put in. If you don't love this job, there's no way you could do it because there's really not much time to do anything else, especially between now and the draft. I love the job. I love the people I'm working with. I love the organization. It's been a really positive experience thus far."
Two days after his Jan. 26 introductory news conference, Schoen sat in his new office and said confronting his lengthy to-do list was like "drinking water from a fire hydrant." The challenges are still gushing, but the situation is much more manageable.
"I think getting Brandon Brown in here helped, along with the head coach and then the coaching staff," Schoen said. "I'm a lot more at ease because now I kind of know what I'm looking for. Now that the staff is in place - you didn't know if we were going to be a 3-4 or 4-3 (defense) – what are you going to do? Having talked to the defensive coaches and what they're looking for and now they've got their free agent list, they've got their college list. Now things are kind of back to normal. When I was sitting up there in the office by myself, there was nobody in any of those offices. You get a little bit panicked at times. Now that everybody's in place, we've got a really good staff. The personnel staff did a good job through free agency meetings and college draft meetings, and I'm much more at ease now."
Schoen, who spent the previous five years as the Buffalo Bills' assistant general manager, is a list-maker who wants a record of everything he hopes to accomplish each day documented in one form or another.
"It's longer," he said of the record in his new job. "A lot of to-do lists and if you don't keep lists, you're going to forget stuff. The calendar on my phone, I'm constantly typing stuff in there, typing reminders to myself to make sure we're doing things and checking them off hopefully as often as I can."
Schoen's most significant decision was hiring Daboll as the Giants' new head coach. Daboll spent the previous four seasons as the Bills' offensive coordinator and the familiarity between the two men has created a seamless working transition in their first month together with the Giants.
"It really has been, and our process in terms of giving the coaches a list of players to look at in free agency and the draft, we're kind of aligned in how much work we're going to have them do and they are going to have a say when it comes to free agency and the draft," Schoen said. "Ultimately, Brian and I will come together at the end and make the best decision for the organization."
Among the most noteworthy choices will be determining which players will be released or traded as they reshape the roster with both competitive and financial goals in mind. Schoen has said he wants to slice $40 million from the payroll, which will inevitably result in painful decisions regarding players who have been productive and popular.
"There's a lot of 'if then' scenarios, where if this happens, then we can do this, but if that doesn't happen, then we have to go this way," Schoen said. "A lot of contingency plans – there's plan A, B, C, D, E, F, all the way down because some of the stuff is out of your control. You're trying to do what's best for the organization short term and long term.
"I'll be meeting with some of the agents of our current players that are here. They also have college prospects but mainly speaking to guys on our current roster. We've still got two weeks to try to figure everything out and this is the start of the process."
Schoen has attended numerous combines during his a 20-year NFL career. But this combine is different, simply because he sits in the big chair.
"A lot more people pulling at you, whether it's agents that want to speak with you or an interview like this that I haven't had to do in the past," Schoen said. "But you're still evaluating the players. You're trying to get to know them as people. You're trying to see how they perform on the field as well, so that part of it – the scouting aspect of it, the medical aspect, which are the real priorities, are still the same."
Though some players decline to work out and Schoen's responsibilities have changed, the combine remains one of his favorite events.
"I love the combine," he said. "I would like for all the players to perform because it's hard in the spring with everything going on to get to every university to see these kids perform. If they all work out here, then it keeps you from if Ohio State and USC are going the same day, you don't have to make a decision on which prospects you're going to see. Not to mention the most important part is the medical, which everybody participates in here, so we're able to get that, which is why the combine was originally created."
Like most in his profession, Schoen is an early riser who usually arrives as Giants headquarters when it's still dark.
"1925 Giants Drive - I spend more time there than anywhere," he said. "I'm a morning workout guy and I prefer to get there early and work out. The rest of the day too much stuff comes up where you're not able to get in there and get a workout or you're trying to work out and people are emailing. The earlier I get there, the less my phone's beeping with emails and stuff like that."
But if he does choose to make a brief getaway, he has somewhere to go.
"My wife looked at one house and we've got that," Schoen said. "But I have not been back to Buffalo. My son had a basketball game on January 22nd, the day after I was hired, and I haven't been back yet. Hopefully, I can get back in March sometime and see my dogs. I miss them. I've seen my family, but I've got two dogs and I haven't seen them, so it would be good to get back to Buffalo at some point."
Although he is completely immersed in his job, Schoen said it's still a bit surreal that he's in his present position.
"It still hasn't hit me that I'm the general manager of the New York Giants," he said. "I've just been head down every day where next thing you know it's 9:30, 10 o'clock at night. I really haven't come up for air. It's what I'm used to doing. It's the offseason. It's free agency and the draft. Having worked with Daboll before, things seem very normal.
"If you didn't love it, you couldn't do it. I love it. I'm passionate about it. The Mara family, the Tisch family, the fans, I don't want to let anybody down and I want to do the best I can. So if that's what it takes to get us back to where we want to go, then I'll do it."
View photos from Giants Media Day as GM Joe Schoen and Coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media from the NFL Combine.