In more than a decade almost nothing has changed in the smallish office of Giants general manager George Young. The walls arc pictureless, the wooden furniture worn, the desk covered with correspondence, the bookshelves crammed with three-ring binders of player data. There is no computer. In the next year or so, we will find out if this is the office of a wise old owl or a dinosaur.
The Giants' rabid fans are watching the 67-year-old Young—and his director of player personnel, 66-year-old Tom Boisture—to see if their old-fashioned approach to building a team will work. In the NFL's five-year history of unfettered free agency, no team has thumbed its nose at the free market as blatantly as the Giants have. Only one starter—free safety Tito Wooten—is not signed through 1998. This is a team that, even after Sunday's 20-17 win over the Cowboys, is 14-24 since the start of the '95 season.
"This is not a perfect science," says Young. "On the one hand sometimes you sign a guy to a big, long-term deal and he coasts. That's a worry. But on the other hand I feel you need continuity. Our guys are getting better as they play. You've got to have patience with them, and the unfortunate thing is that free agency has sapped us of patience. Fans want instant success. That means free agents, and I think that means Band-Aids, not solutions."
But what happens when the guys you sign to long-term deals aren't the right guys? Look at quarterback Dave Brown, who agreed to a four-year, $13 million contract in 1996. He's likable off the field and full of moxie on it, but Brown had the second-lowest rating among starting quarterbacks last year; he's 23rd this season. "I know what's going on here," Brown said last week. "I'm probably the first guy to go if [the offense] doesn't work out."
Maybe second. Boisture could well be first out the door if ownership, as some Giant insiders think, tinkers with the scouting department. Although the club did well in the April draft, selecting Florida wideout Ike Hilliard and Virginia running back Tiki Barber with its first two picks, those selections can't negate the lemons the team has taken with high draft picks in the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1996, fullback Jarrod Bunch, tight end Derek Brown, wideout Thomas Lewis, running back Tyrone Wheatley and defensive end Cedric Jones came in the first round. The list doesn't include Dave Brown, who was a first-round supplemental pick in '92. Through the end of last season, none of the last 64 players the Giants had taken in the draft had been to a Pro Bowl.
Who's Got the Voodoo Doll?
Since the start of training camp, 11 Dolphins have undergone surgery and three others have broken bones. This summer the Dolphins' mascot tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and now sports a knee brace. In September offensive line coach Larry Beightol had arthroscopic knee surgery. Last week came the news that kicker Olindo Mare had strained a hamstring while doing stretching exercises on his bedroom floor before retiring for the night. Miami had to sign Joe Nedney for insurance, though Mare did kick the game-winning field goal in a 17-14 win over the Chiefs on Sunday. "Great year," coach Jimmy Johnson said. "My kicker gets hurt getting ready for bed."
Stat of the Week
On seven attempts running the QB Wedge, the Vikings' name for a quarterback sneak, Brad Johnson is averaging 7.9 yards per carry this season.
The Party's Over
Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, considered a genius three years ago when the team took its magic-carpet ride to the Super Bowl, is feeling the heat. San Diego has overspent on free agents ($3.2 million a year for Marco Coleman in '96, for example), traded future first-round picks for questionable prospects (most recently wideout Bryan Still, a second-round selection in '96) and dumped worthy players with attitude problems who have enjoyed success elsewhere (such as running back Natrone Means). "In this job," Beathard said last week, "you make some good moves, some bad moves and take some big risks. What's happened here is no different than [what went on in] Washington. I don't plan to change my approach."