I lived at 520 E. 72nd St. and Duhon lived with Scott Eaton at 420 E. 72nd, maybe 200 yards away, and they couldn't come that far. These were two of my teammates, they knew I got busted up, they knew I spent time in the hospital, they knew I was stretched out, and here they were 200 yards away with this frozen turkey that was probably completely thawed out by now, and it was, you know, come get your turkey.
That was typical behavior on the Giants. I was supposed to make a personal appearance once with a linebacker named Ken Avery. He lived on 84th and he said I'll pick you up at about quarter of nine. We were supposed to be there about 9:30. I was out on the street early, just in case. Quarter of nine passed, then nine, then 9:15, then 9:30.I finally caught a cab and got there about 10 o'clock. He never did show up. I saw him two days later and he said, "Oh, yeah, I decided not to go."
One night during training just about the whole team was out together at a place called the Surfside. I was talking to Avery. He was having his problems, because the coaches were trying to change his style. He was telling me that all he wanted to do was go out there and hit people, and I was saying that's what you have to do if you're a defensive player. You let your emotions go, so that you really go in there and punish somebody. On offense, you can't do that. There has to be some restraint. It takes a certain mental discipline to be an offensive player. But on defense, you just read the play and go in and knock the hell out of somebody. Avery said, "Yeah, but they keep telling me this ain't what they want me to do." I said, "You're gonna have to play your game, you can't play it somebody else's way."
About this time Fran Tarkenton came over and sat down and he started saying something about getting this team together, we gotta do this and we gotta do that. I said, "Well, O.K., that's beautiful, but you gotta get rid of these cliques around here." And he said, "There aren't any cliques on this team."
I said, "Fran, who are you trying to kid? Look, every team has its cliques, sure, but the way they're set up around here they're tearing the team apart." It's one thing to have friends—one group does what it wants to do, another does what it wants—but it's no good when one group shuts another out the way they did with the Giants. Tarkenton kept arguing that there weren't any cliques, and I said, "Don't be an ass. You know there are cliques, and they're tearing the team apart."
He got teed off and he left, and I went back to talking to Avery. But apparently Fran said something to Tucker as he went out, and Tucker came over and said, "What are you talking to this kid about?" I said, "Hey, nobody asked you over here. I'm sitting here talking with Ken. Nobody said a word to you about anything." He said, "I heard what you were saying. You were talking about cliques and that I'm bad for this club." I said, "I don't think I mentioned your name. Besides, Ken and I were talking about something else." I turned to Avery and said, "Hey, Ken, tell Tucker what we were talking about."
Ready for this? Avery said, "We were talking about cliques."
O.K., that's it. That's why nobody trusted anybody. That was what was tearing that team apart. I was trying to help Avery, trying to be nice, and he says, in effect, "The hell with you, I've got to stay in good with this guy."
Despite everything, I played well. The Giants' press guide for the following year, 1969, said, "One of the best trades the Giants made in recent years was the deal that brought Tackle Steve Wright (plus Linebacker Tommy Joe Crutcher) from the Green Bay Packers. Wright was a tower of strength, etc." You better believe none of that stuff appeared in the 1970 book.
Allie Sherman was a good football coach, as far as strategy and tactics were concerned. He just didn't handle people very well. I think his smallness, his slight build, were a hang-up with him. It was common knowledge that if Allie got mad at you and started chewing you out, you could stand your ground and back him into a wall. Everybody knew that, so it cost him respect from the players. They stepped on his inferiority complex, and this was his biggest problem.