It took 15 years of lousy football to convince the Giants to undergo their last massive organizational shakeup. And even then it took some extraordinary circumstances - an ownership family feud, the Miracle at the Meadowlands, a nudge from the NFL commissioner.
In the nearly 39 years since that overhaul, when the late George Young was hired as the Giants general manager in 1979, the line succession from him to Ernie Accorsi to Jerry Reese has been smooth, even though in those four decades, the Giants have lost nearly as much as they've won (16 trips to the playoffs, 15 - and likely soon to be 16 - losing seasons). The Giants owners simply do not like the idea of changing general managers.
But it's possible that their aversion to that is about to change.
There is simply no more hiding for Jerry Reese, their GM since 2007, a partial architect of two Super Bowl champions and four (and maybe five) losing seasons in the last six years. This incredibly disappointing 1-6 season has shined a bright light on his recent failures. And as a result, this may finally be the season where John Mara and Steve Tisch decide it's time to clean house, starting with him.
That fact will loom over Reese on Tuesday, when he finally emerges from his bunker and speaks to the media - something he does only five times per calendar year (not including during the three days of the NFL draft). He has a lot to answer for, including his failure to fix the Giants' offensive line mess, or add a play-maker at running back last offseason. And he'll have to answer for his record, which includes the Giants missing the playoffs five times in the last six seasons and seven times in the last nine years, barring a miracle finish this time around.
And remember, just two years ago, at the end of a 6-10 season, and as Tom Coughlin was nudged out of the door, Mara made it clear that Reese's job was on the line next.
"Jerry knows this is on him," Mara said. "He can't hide from the record."
Mara will find it hard to hide from those words, too.
All it takes is a look at the record, which is always the bottom line. Reese in his 11th season as the Giants GM, and his teams have been to the playoffs just four times. One of them was last year when the Giants went 11-5, largely on the strength of their defense, which Reese spent more than $200 million of his owners' money to rebuild.
But even that isn't necessarily something that works in his favor, because it was years of draft failures that forced the Giants to go on that wild spending spree. And because of that, they didn't have the salary cap flexibility to address other needs in free agency this past offseason, and they won't exactly be flush with cap space in 2018 either.
They should've had enough cap room, though, to address the offensive line, but Reese stubbornly refused to do it, even though everyone knew it would be a problem based on the mess the line was last year. He made no attempt to sign free agent Andrew Whitworth, who took $15 million from the Los Angeles Rams and is playing like a Pro Bowl left tackle. He did not appear to make any move to trade up in the draft for the Garett Bolles, the best tackle prospect available who went three spots before the Giants picked to the Denver Broncos.
Then again, Reese rarely trades in the draft, which has caused the Giants to miss out on too many coveted players (like LB Leonard Floyd and OT Jack Conklin in 2016) when teams leap-frog over them (as the Chiefs did in the third round in 2017 to take RB Kareem Hunt one spot before the Giants took QB Davis Webb). All around the league GMs actively trade down too, to accumulate as many picks as possible.
The Giants, though, have had more than seven picks in the seven-round draft just three times in Reese's 11 season. Twice they had eight picks. In 2009, they had nine.
That makes the misses stand out even more - especially those in the first three rounds like DT Marvin Austin (second round, 2011), WR Jerrel Jernigan (third, 2011), CB Jayron Hosley (third, 2012), DE Damontre Moore (third, 2013), and DE Owa Odighizuwa (third, 2015). And it makes the injuries that derailed the careers of top picks like S Kenny Phillips (2008), WR Hakeem Nicks (2009), CB Prince Amukamara (2011) and RB David Wilson (2012) especially painful.
It all paints a picture of a team and a GM who have not been successful in building through the draft.
Despite that, the Giants have been right to be patient. Constant turnover is no way to build a winning organization. And nothing upends the plan like changing a GM, which means an overhaul of everything - the scouts, the player personnel department, very often the coaching staff. Whatever long-term plan has been in place immediately gets scrapped. It causes a radical change to the whole philosophy with the way the team's business is done.
And with a franchise quarterback that has only two years remaining on what will likely be his last contract with the team, and with the Giants likely headed for a top draft pick where they just might draft their next franchise quarterback, flipping the tables inside the organization just two months before the offseason begins is an incredible risk to take.
Big decisions are looming. And the Giants may be forced to lean on someone from outside the organization to make them.
But they might have no choice, because whatever plan Reese has had has failed for far too long. The draft failures led to the need to spend big money, which led to their restraint in spending on key positions, which in turn led to 1-6. This season isn't just a small sample size, either. In their 5 ½ seasons since they rode a 9-7 team to the Super Bowl XLVI championship, Reese's Giants are 40-47. This likely will be their third season in the last four with double-digit losses.
Almost incredibly, twice in the last five years, under two different coaches, they've opened a season 1-6.
As Mara so eloquently said, there's no hiding from that, no matter how deep the bunker is inside the Giants' offices. Patience may be a virtue, but the record is the record. Two Super Bowl titles rightfully bought Reese plenty of time. But as the Giants look towards the future and at their recent messy past, it will be very hard for ownership to justify the status quo.