A decade ago, the New York Giants broke racial barriers and dipped into the growing world of diversity hiring when they tabbed Jerry Reese as their general manager and senior vice president of football operations, making him only the third black GM in NFL history.
Reese had served as the team's director of player personnel the previous four years and was considered a favorite in-house candidate to replace Ernie Accorsi, who held the post almost flawlessly for nine seasons before retiring.
Not only would filling Accorsi shoes be a formidable task, but surviving the quick hook as an African-American in a position of NFL leadership in the media boiling pot of the world, and representing a rare brotherhood of NFL executives, came with extreme pressure.
Reese hit the ground running and produced a legendary 2007 Draft class that helped power the Giants to an improbable Super Bowl XLII victory.
Rookie Kevin Boss and Steve Smith became reliable targets for Eli Manning. Boss led the team in TD catches and Smith went on to set a single-season team record with 107 receptions a year later.
The pick that made Reese a star and solidified his status as a rising executive with a supreme eye for talent was selecting Ahmad Bradshaw with the 250th pick. Bradshaw teamed with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward to create a fearsome backfield called “Earth, Wind and Fire.” Bradshaw gained 6,272 yards from scrimmage and scored 45 total touchdowns through six seasons in his productive Giants career.
Despite an 11-5 record in 2016-17 and aside from the Eli Manning fiasco, the lack of killer picks over the past couple of drafts and a 2-10 record this season is what former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer says ultimately did Reese in.
The Giants have also fired general manager Jerry Reese. MORE: https://t.co/pBF059Wxw3
Reese spent a ton of money in free agency filling holes in 2016, but everything backfired the following season.
“He spent a ton of money because he needed to because the drafts were bad,” Toomer told The Shadow League. “Yeah we were great, but we spent way more money than we should've for older guys that didn’t come up through the Giants. The Giants usually have homegrown talent. I was a homegrown talent. I think Jerry Reese did a great job, but after that first Draft class, things started thinning out a little bit.”
To Reese's credit, he drafted Evan Ingram this season and Landon Collins in 2015, so he still has an eye for talent, it just hasn't equated in championship results.
Overall, in Reese’s first 10 seasons as head of the franchise’s football operations, the Giants won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI over the mighty Patriots and had an 88-72 regular-season record, including an 8-2 postseason mark. During his tenure, the Giants won two NFC East championships, earned four postseason berths and finished .500 or better seven times.
At the time of Reese’s arrival, the NFL’s only other black general managers were Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome and Houston's Rick Smith. Rod Graves was senior vice president-football operations in Arizona.
While the Rooney Rule and other diversity initiatives have increased the number of African-American head coaches since Reese’s arrival, the increase in executive positions for Blacks has moved much slower. But thanks to guys like Reese who have proved themselves more than capable of overseeing the complex operations of a winning franchise, the 2017-18 season boasted an all-time high of six minority general managers, including Reese. Smith in Houston, Newsome in Baltimore, Sashi Brown in Cleveland, Reggie McKenzie in Oakland and Doug Whaley in Buffalo are the others.
With Reese out, the number is down to five, but the ideology and philosophy of how general managers are chosen has been changed forever, due to the success of guys such as Reese and Newsome, who are the only African-American GM’s to architect two Super Bowl championship teams and achieved at the highest levels.
With his track record, Reese is sure to get another job. He’s a respected, proven winner and good talent evaluator, who in light of the bad press that the Eli Manning situation received, was forced to go down with the ship.