Maybe it’s the shadows and the ghosts that lurk around the corridors of 1925 Giants Drive. New York can get to a lot of folks. It can turn smart coaches dumb and make successful managers look like they’ve never filled out a lineup card before.
Every New York team has had its share of coaches and managers who maybe have not done their best work here, for whatever reason.
But there does seem to be something about the Giants …
Look, some guys were impervious, and maybe that’s the thing. Maybe the gold standard around the Giants is just that high. Nobody has ever seemed to understand the rare pressures and expectations around Big Blue better than Bill Parcells, after all. Not only wasn’t he swallowed up by his 3-12-1 debut season, but it seemed to inform and enlighten the rest of his time here.
Tom Coughlin? He was too stubborn (correctly, often) to care whether he was working in New York or Newfoundland. His way was his way. That worked fine. The late Dan Reeves, who had some nice early speed here before the talent gap on his roster caught up to him, was nevertheless as professional during his last day on the job here as he was on the first.
Maybe it was Allie Sherman who started this. Remember, poor Allie was really the first coach or manager in New York who regularly heard vitriol from the fans. Nobody ever thought to chant at Wes Westrum or Fuzzy Levane. But “Goooooood-byyyyye, Alllieeeee” became a song of the faithful in the 1960s. And it affected the coach.
“Toward the end, my family worried that I heard that damned song in my head while I was at home, having dinner,” Sherman told me once. “I know I caught myself talking to myself an awful lot toward the end.”
The gig affects some people … well, differently. There was, of course, Ray Handley, who may have been the most ill-equipped person ever asked to be a manager or a coach in New York, who walked out of press conferences, who once said to a roomful of his bosses and underlings: “They’re killing me now. How much more can they kill me?” The next day, he was on the back page of this newspaper, a gas gauge superimposed on his head, the needle on “E” for empty.
Hey, he asked.
There was Bill Arnsparger, a winner everywhere he ever coached, sitting at 0-7 with the 1976 Giants and calling a team meeting at which he polled every player individually: “What’s wrong with the team?” Then he admitted to doing so publicly. Then he was dismissed, mercifully.
There was Ben McAdoo, who sometimes made Handley look like JFK as a public speaker, who once rambled on for 10 minutes about how he’d communicated his message to his team and they were a united front, and 10 minutes later in the locker room someone asked Eli Apple about that message and Apple, genuinely puzzled, said, “What message?”
There was Alex Webster, an affable and well-liked player and coach who often chain-smoked on the sidelines and by end of his tenure, in 1973, actually said in a press gathering: “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job.”
There is, of course, Joe Judge, who last Sunday delivered an uninterrupted 11-minute soliloquy that was equal parts fascinating, pathetic, entertaining, uncomfortable, hilarious and downright weird, a filibuster that was probably aimed at his bosses, but was surely heard by his players, a monologue that added a little spice and pepper to what would otherwise have been an onerous, monotonous, grisly week.
Maybe Judge’s odd public moment can have the same impact the late Jim Fassel’s did back in 2000, when he metaphorically shoved his chips into the middle of the table, when lots of people wondered if he was having a genuine breakdown on live TV, and then the Giants made a run all the way to the Super Bowl.
For now, that’s the outlier.
For now, Judge merely joins a host of otherwise good men for whom the title of “head coach, New York Giants” may have sounded a lot better in theory than it was in practice.
The great Lou Carnesecca turned 97 this week. The first time I met him we shook hands, I mentioned I’d attended one of his camps and said, helpfully, “I wasn’t a very good player.” To which he smiled, winked and said, “You really didn’t have to add that. If you were, I’d remember you.”
The Giants’ writers awarded Leonard Williams their Good Guy Award this week, which is good. They also added Ernie Accorsi to George Young in the award’s official name, which is even better. There was a time when football GMs didn’t pretend they were the smartest guys in the room (even if, in those two cases, they actually were).
The fact it would have been ludicrous doesn’t make it any less hilarious to think about how George Steinbrenner would’ve reacted to the Mets poaching hitting coach Eric Chavez away from the Yankees as they did this week.
Tracey Ullman has long been a comedic treasure, and reminded us of that across every minute of every episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” this season.
Whack Back at Vac
Edmond Dicambio: All fans, especially New York fans from all sports, will cheer when you do good and boo when you don’t. I don’t understand when players object to this treatment.
Vac: It’s a fair point, but so is this, I think: Very few of us know what it’s like to be booed in the workplace. No matter your paycheck, that has to be an awfully unique experience.
Ed Shapiro: If you are going to quote the esteemed Dr. Peter Venkman about the cohabitation arrangements of dogs and cats leading to the apocalypse, being analogous to Giants and Jets fans, at least get it right — “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … MASS HYSTERIA!”
Vac: I throw myself on the mercy of the court.
@zachkruk1: Please don’t compare Knicks fans to Mets fans. If they’re still booing Julius Randle after he averages a triple-double for a month and half, then we can start with the comparisons.
@MikeVacc: Ah, yes. We call that a “Beltran” around these parts.
Tony Giametta: Joe Judge’s postgames are a better watch than his team’s don’t-bother-to-watch games. There is nothing worse than non-competitive games, and the Giants have provided their fans with more than enough this season. No matter how he feels the culture is changing, there is no fight on this team on Sundays.
Vac: Judge says he gets about a dozen emails every day. I get a lot more than that. And 99 percent of them look just like this one.