The man who helped resurrect the Giants franchise and built their first two Super Bowl champions will finally take his long-overdue place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The late George Young, the general manager of the Giants in the 1980s and '90s, was selected to the Hall's special "Centennial Class" of 2020 on Wednesday morning. He was chosen by a "blue ribbon" panel as one of three "contributors" in what will be a monster, 20-person class when he's officially inducted later this year.
"George Young's career is the very definition of a Hall of Famer," said former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, who was Young's assistant and later his successor. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of George or something I learned from him. The only bittersweet part is that he's not here."
"He certainly is a very deserving Hall of Famer," added Giants co-owner John Mara. "I only wish he could be around to enjoy this moment. It's long overdue."
Young's omission from the Hall has long been a sore spot inside the Giants organization and for anyone familiar with the great Giants teams of the 1980s. It was Young, of course, who helped save the Giants from what became a hideous, 17-year stretch of not making the playoffs (1964-1980). That era was not only known for losing, but for a Mara family feud between Wellington Mara, who ran football operations, and his nephew Tim.
After the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" in 1978, when Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbled in the final seconds as he was simply trying to run out the clock and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards recovered the ball and returned it for a game-winning touchdown, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle got involved and strongly recommended Young to the Giants. He was eventually hired by the Maras, given control of football operations, and three years later the Giants were back in the playoffs.
"He took our organization from being in last place and not having a lot of respect around the league, to being a Super Bowl Champion," Mara said. "He made every football department in our organization more professional. He changed the reputation and level of respect that our team had for the better. He improved us in so many different ways."
Young's tenure as GM lasted 19 years, from 1979-1997. The Giants reached the playoffs eight times in those years, went 155-139-2 and won two Super Bowl champions. He brought the Giants Phil Simms (his first draft pick with the team in 1979), Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Bill Parcells, and so many franchise legends. He also was named the NFL Executive of the Year a record five times -- 1984, 1986, 1990, 1993, and 1997.
Quite simply, he was the architect of some of the greatest seasons in Giants history.
Young's contributions went beyond the Giants, too. He also served on the NFL Competition Committee and worked in the league office after his declining health led to his retirement from the Giants. And before he got to the Giants, the former high school history teacher was an assistant coach and scout with the Baltimore Colts (1968-74) and then became the director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins (1975-78). All in all, he spent more than 30 years contributing to the NFL before his death in 2001.
Young will be joined former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Steve Sabol of NFL Films as the contributors in this class. They'll be joined by two coaches and 10 players selected by the panel, which was tasked with choosing a group of people from the first 75 years of the NFL who had been previously overlooked by voters. The regular selection committee will choose five "modern era" players to fill out the class at their annual meeting on Feb. 1.
Accorsi once recalled that Young used to say "Only players should be in the Hall of Fame." But those that know him know Young would've been honored by becoming the 21st Giant enshrined in Canton.
"I think this would have meant a lot to George because he always had a great appreciation for the history of the game and he had so much respect for people who were enshrined in the Hall," Mara said "I think this would have meant the world to him, even though he may not have admitted to that."
"He would make light of it to a point," Accorsi added. "But he would be very, very happy and fulfilled for this. This would have been something he cherished, because the game meant so much to him."