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Through the Wars : New York Giants Are Riding High After a History of Ups and Downs

October 24, 1989|BOB OATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That Young could wake up from a nightmare ready for instant action--with the name of the next coach on the tip of his tongue--says more about Young than Parcells. In a decidedly insane business, the first responsibility of a fully qualified NFL leader is to keep track of the next coach--to evaluate all the candidates continually. But not many chiefs do.

Young appears to be one of the few who could name a coach a week, if necessary. At the same time, he is an ultraconservative individual who hates to change coaches--even assistant coaches. He doesn't even like to make trades.

In 11 years, Young has never traded a first-round draft choice, and in the last seven years, the Giants have replaced only two assistant coaches.

Clearly, Parcells has a job for life. Or for as long as he wins.

A different kind of coach, Parcells, who came up on the defensive side, spends most of his time working with the defense and visiting with his 47 players.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 25, 1989 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 10 Column 5 Sports Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
New York Giants--The New York Giants' National Football League opponents on Pearl Harbor day, Dec. 7, 1941, were football's Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Washington Redskins, as was reported in Tuesday's editions.

He makes it a point to exchange at least a few words with every Giant every day.

"No NFL coach knows his players more intimately," an aide said.

A lean ex-linebacker, Parcells is apple-cheeked and boyish-faced, with a lot of wavy gray hair. He still smokes cigarettes.

At Wichita State in the 1960s, he made the All-Missouri Valley team.

Known to some as Grumpy, he comes across as a street-smart New Yorker although he's a Jersey guy, born and raised not far from the stadium. He was the oldest of four children whose father was in industrial relations. He is married, has three daughters and still lives in New Jersey.

"Not many people get to do just what they want to do just where they want to do it," he said.

As Parcells sees it, coaches have only two functions.

"My first responsibility is to give (the team) a good offensive and defensive design," he said.

"The one other thing that matters is getting them to do the things that are necessary to win."

How does one prevail over football players?

"Coercion," Parcells said. "Encouragement, praise, criticism, kicks, talking to, reasoning with."

Of the 28 NFL coaches, he is one of only five who have coached a Super Bowl champion, and he gives part of the credit for this to his many friends and advisers. Every day for Parcells is a long, long round of visits, not only with the players but also with his long-distance friends: Houston Oiler General Manager Mike Holovak, Raider owner Al Davis, New Jersey high school coach Mickey Corcoran, and many others.

After observing Parcells for five years, Frank Litsky of the New York Times said: "He's a wise man, I'd say, for a football coach."

WINNING WITH A SCHOOLMASTER

When the phone call came from Don Shula, George Young was writing a paper on Chinese history, the last requirement for his second master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

That was in the late '60s, when Shula was still with the Baltimore Colts and Young was a high school teacher, doubling as a football coach, in the Baltimore school system.

Shula asked Young to break down the films of Colt games and write a synopsis on each.

"I told him, 'OK, sure,' because that's what I was good at, writing a synopsis," said Young, who may be a teacher by profession but is a professional student by preference.

"I had been teaching for 15 years. I was also going to school nights, and planned to stay at it forever, but found that I fit right into the Colt personnel department."

Making a smooth mid-life change of professions, the old schoolmaster has never regretted it.

And he has been in pro football ever since, first with the Colts and Miami Dolphins for 11 years, then, throughout the '80s, with the Giants.

The surge of the Giants in this decade couldn't have developed without Tim Mara, and might not have happened without Bill Parcells and Wellington Mara. But almost certainly, the Giants wouldn't have come this far without George Young.

Or somebody like George Young. Someone as thorough.

"Every decision you make on an NFL team, large or small, is important," he said. "Every kind of decision."

Defining the principal role of a general manager, he said: "My only job is to stockpile good players behind good players."

At work in the Meadowlands, Young somehow combines the aggressiveness of a defensive lineman--which he was at Bucknell--with the twinkling good humor of a self-assured teacher.

He and his wife live in upscale Upper Saddle River, N.J., which is also home to the Parcells family.

Young's roots are in Baltimore, though, where he was one of two sons of a bartender, the owner of a men-only neighborhood bar. In his early summers, he said, he worked for his father often enough to choose the life of a teetotaler.

He also chose teaching early on.

"I had a wonderful high school job," he said, recalling the long years he taught history and political science to the youngsters of Baltimore. "I had homeroom, five classes a day and football in the afternoon--we won the state championship five or six times. At night for 15 years, I went to school myself. It was a great life. "

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