Ring of Honor Inductee Ernie Accorsi
Conference Call, November 8, 2016
Q: Given how much of a historian you are, what does this induction mean to you, and thinking back to your roots in Hershey, how improbable has this all been?
A: It's not something I ever really thought was possible. The Eagles trained in Hershey my whole life, so I kind of took that for granted as a kid and in those days, with six preseason games, Hershey had a stadium that seated 20,000 people. They played three or four preseason games a year there, so I saw the Giants when I was 10 years-old, in 1951, in a preseason game. To think that I could ever work for them was a pipe dream at that point. I've been around a million stadiums, and have seen those names there, and their immortal players and coaches, and to be up there with that kind of group of people is overwhelming, it's not something I ever dreamed.
Q: In looking back on the trade that you made for Eli Manning, could you have envisioned it would be so franchise-changing as it turned out to be?
A: You hope that, especially at that position. I still feel that it's the most influential position in football, and probably in sports. Maybe the Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era, when the center dominated so much, was just as important. You make that trade, you do something like that, to win championships. Thatís the only reason you make a trade like that, and you're in a position so many times that you have to get a get-by guy, or you have to wait and do the best you can and pick up people to stay competitive. But, the blessing for us, which was not a blessing when we went through it, was the 2003 season. If we wouldn't have gotten to the fourth spot (in the draft), God only knows what we would have had to give up to get up there. There were three quarterbacks up there, so we could have had a shot at one of the other ones besides Eli. If we didn't make the trade, I felt fairly confident that we would have been able to get Ben Roethlisberger, but you never know. When we picked Eli, we picked him to win championships. That's what you hope for and to see it happen, of course, just makes you feel great. I remember my son was a coach, he coached at Virginia and Maryland, and he sat with me at that first Super Bowl and I remember I said, 'Well if he is what we thought he was going to be, he's going to do it right now.' Because you never know, because maybe you're never going to get that position again and he did it. He had some help, but he did it.
Q: How much do you stay in contact with Eli Manning?
A: I don't really. I never was one who bothered players or called them. I always had a great respect for them and obviously was indebted to them. But, even with Michael Strahan, I was pretty close to him. We had some long, drawn-out, contract sessions when we kept him there. But, I always had a pretty good bond with him and when he went to the Hall of Fame, I contacted him, and if I bumped into him. But, I don't stay really in contact with players. I really never had. When I was younger I did because I was closer to their age, but, I don't bother them. Their great relationship and their close bond is with the coach and Iíve always understood that, I always understood that you have to step back and have your satisfaction from within. I will say that after both Super Bowls, Eli and Archie called me and that meant a lot, the next morning they called me, and that was very meaningful for me.
Q: He's the last player that you brought to this team that's still around. Does that have any significance to you?
A: It does. First of all, I'm a Giants fan for life so it doesn't really matter if there were no players. But, when it's the quarterback, it obviously has more impact in your connection. I still get nervous watching the team. It was a lot worse a couple of years ago after I retired. But, I remember the first year when they won the Super Bowl, I couldn't even watch mostly. I did watch the Super Bowl but the Dallas playoff game I couldn't watch. I went to Mass and peeked at scores while I was in Church which was not very smart. I couldn't really watch then, but I still get very nervous. For example, Sunday, when he threw the interception, I switched, I couldn't watch it because I was afraid that they had put themselves in a position to beat us. So, I still have jitters. If my last player was a backup guard, it wouldn't be quite the same.
Q: Are you following today's team closely and if so, what do you think of them?
A: Yeah I do. I think they have a lot of young, exciting players. I think they're really in good shape right now. They came through a period with some close games and clutch wins. I like the team and I think they have a chance to be really an explosive offense and obviously, the defense is much better. I think with what they did on Sunday, the defense in particular, those are the kind of things that happen that take you to another level. To stop a team that kind of had gotten hot the second half and a quarterback that threw for a lot of yards, they just shut them down. There wasn't even a play, they didn't get close. I think they're going to be good, I like them. I don't know Ben McAdoo really well. I got to know him a little bit last week. I sat down with him for a while and I really like him.
Q: You watch a lot of the games now as a fan, do you have any theory as to why the ratings are so low in the NFL?
A: I donít have an answer. If I wasn't watching for some reason, I would tell you why. Of course Iím not a good person to use as a barometer because I worked in this for 45 years. I don't know the answer. I've heard all the things: the election, Red Zone channel, which is very seductive. I even go to Red Zone. If the Giants aren't playing, I usually go to Red Zone. I don't know with that the officiating; we've always had penalties. I can't put my finger on it, no. I don't know what it is. I'm not turned off by it but I don't know what the masses think, I don't understand it. I really don't.
Q: Given the scrutiny in today's game. The explosion of social media, the fish bowl that people live in and work in, in the NFL, are you glad that you worked in the era that you did and would you find it tough being a GM today?
A: Yes (laughs). A resounding yes. Today, every person that you come in contact with is basically a reporter and they're walking around with a camera and you have to be very, very careful. I mean, the first couple of years after I retired, if the team went through a losing streak, people would stop me on the street and verbally attack me, 'what kind of job...,' they weren't even sure I was retired, but, you can't react because anything you say is going to be put on Twitter or whatever they were using. It's going to get out there, you guys are going to read it and somehow you're going to follow up on it. And, you know how many times players have gotten into difficulty by using Twitter. I don't even have that; I don't know what it is. Yes, I would have a lot more trouble today. Look at the difference between what I did during my time where I talked to you guys every day, which I thought was great. George Young did it, I just followed-up on it. Pete Rozelle, when he was Commissioner took every call. That's the way it was and that way, to talk to you guys didn't turn out to be an event. It was just a daily conversation. I liked it better that way. It was a much better situation for me, it was a situation I grew up in and I liked it. I would have trouble today. I remember Carl Peterson, before a game we played with Kansas City in one of my last couple of years said to me, 'Can I come to New York, talk to you about how you deal with the media?' I said, 'Carl, you have one newspaper. You better go talk to someone else in another city. We have 50 media outlets, at least, we don't live on the same planet.' Things were different. But, I enjoyed it. I'm glad I worked when I worked.
Q: You were obviously involved in the hiring of Tom Coughlin, when you look back, how would you describe his tenure?
A: He's had a great career, first of all. I always kept a research notebook on all coaches. Actually, I did for almost every job. Even if it was an equipment job, I always kept a depth chart. I didn't know him as an assistant coach but I saw his first game, this may not have been his first game but one of his first games, against Michigan. I scouted that game and he almost beat them. I always remember how competitive he made them at Boston College. My sonís words, the night before the Bowl game against Virginia. Now, Virginia had a bunch of draft choices, a couple of number ones, Darren Sharper and some of those guys, James Farrior on the field, and BC did not have a lot of high draft choices. They had Glenn Foley as a quarterback, they had Pete Mitchell, who we eventually had (at the Giants). My son told me the night before the game, he was a grad assistant, but he said, 'We're not going to be able to stop Coughlin's passing game.' George Welsh is a Hall of Fame coach, but they hadn't figured it out yet, and they killed Virginia. I had my eye on him all those years and when this came up, John Mara and I assembled a group and we interviewed all four, and you know who they are. I also felt that it was my responsibility to make contact with Nick Saban, which I did. I had worked with Saban and I knew him pretty well. We essentially offered him the job in 1997. So, I called him and it looked like it was going to get complicated again and we had heard rumors that there were some clubs that were talking to Coughlin and thatís when we decided not to wait any more. But, Tom Coughlin has been a winner every place he's coached and we felt he was the guy. I said this at his press conference when we hired him, he's the guy George Young wanted and he's the guy we wanted.
Q: And in retrospect, how do you look at his 12 years as coach?
A: He won two championships. For me, having been through five straight playoffs, three championship games in four years in Cleveland and we never won the championship. I don't like that. It's nice to win every year, to be at the doorstep every year. The business is to win championships, he won two championships. That puts him in the Hall of Fame in my opinion. I donít have a vote but heís a Hall of Fame coach.
EA: I want to say one other thing about this honor. It means a lot to me and it means even more that I'll be up there with George Young. Without George Young, I'd never come to New York. He brought me here and I have a great feeling of respect and gratitude for George and I just wanted to mention that.
Q: How exactly did George bring you here? I donít think we ever knew that story.
A: You guys that knew him, and most of you did, it's so classic George. We were at the bottom rung with Baltimore. He came in '68 and I came in '70 and we hit it off right away. From the first night I was there, I ran into him at a Rustlerís Steakhouse ($1.99 steaks) and we talked that night and became very close. We would talk every night in this old wooden row house that our offices were in and then when I went to Cleveland, we would talk three or four times a week after hours, that's how close we were. So, now, I leave and go to the expansion effort, it fails and the Orioles hire me. So, you all know Joel Bussert, who was close to me and to George. I get a call from Joel, and I'm only with the Orioles about six months, and I knew George had gone through a tough physical period and lost all that weight and Joel said, 'George wanted me to call you to see if you'd be interested in coming up as Assistant General Manager,' I said, 'George didn't call me? Why wouldn't he call me?' he said, 'Well, he asked me to call.' Well, I said, 'I'd be interested in talking to him, I've talked to him 8 million times in the last 25 years, sure.' So, George calls me and I said, 'Why didn't you call me directly, George?' and he said, 'I did not want to ruin your life.'' Either he knew I loved baseball and he figured I'd really be happy in that job forever, and I was happy. But, that was George. It was really pretty much to do contracts and he said, 'I can't make any promises, I don't own this team,' and I understood that. I completely understood that. I didn't know Bob Tisch, I knew Wellington Mara for years. I didn't know John Mara really well at that point so if they didn't like me, I wasn't going to get the job anyway. So, I left and took it and I don't know if I would have left that Orioles job, at my age at that point, if wouldn't have been the Giants and it wouldn't have been George. That's how it happened and I took over little-by-little with the contracts.