LIANE HANSEN, host:
When the Super Bowl gets under way later today, one person watching will have more than just a passing interest in the two coaches. Writer Tom Callahan explains.
Mr. TOM CALLAHAN (Author): Of the more than 90 million people expected to view Super Bowl XLII today, the most interested spectator may be Ernie Accorsi, who will be watching from a grandstand seat in Glendale, Arizona.
As the general manager of the Cleveland Browns and then the New York Giants, Accorsi hired both Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin to be head coaches in the National Football League. Now Belichick's undefeated Patriots and Coughlin's unexpected Giants are pitted against each other in the big game.
The Giants were unexpected - that is, by everyone but Accorsi, who at the end of last season signed off on a 35-year NFL career by telling the New York players, you're good kids. Stay together. Trust each other, and be good teammates to one another. I believe there's a championship in this room.
Back in his office a few minutes later, I asked Ernie, do you really believe that? Absolutely, he said. Thanks to Accorsi, I was embedded with the Giants all of last season, a problematic 8-8 year, to write a book called "The GM." To the players, I was a stranger in the clubhouse, a mystery man. The tight end, Jeremy Shockey, asked me, are you the Tom Callahan who owns Callahan Auto Parts? Yep, I said. That's me.
You can't know any of us at a glance, said Eli Manning, the quarterback. Eli and I were sitting alone in front of the lockers when in walked Plaxico Burress, a case in point. He's a sleepy-eyed receiver who, as Manning said, is smarter than what he shows and cares a lot more than you think. In a whisper, Eli went on to say, this will sound bad, but I couldn't find my playbook a while back and picked up Plax's book off his stool to check out a formation or something.
In the meetings, the coaches kind of look at him and wonder if he's taking it in or not. Is he half asleep? Is he daydreaming? When Manning opened Plax's book, he couldn't believe his eyes. In the margins, in beautiful handwriting, it said, I go here. I'm the hot receiver there. Perfect penmanship. You just can't tell a guy at a glance.
And yet, of course, he could see something in Eli the first time he scouted him. Until about five weeks ago, Ernie seemed to be the only one who could see it. On the evidence of a losing performance against Auburn and at the cost of what it amounted to three Pro Bowlers sent to San Diego, of course he staked his whole reputation on Peyton Manning's little brother Eli, the number one overall pick from Ole Miss.
Ernie handed me his yellow scouting report, which read in part, he's never going to be a fast runner. Remember how his father, Archie, ran? In that department, Eli doesn't have the best genes. Of course I've never timed Mom Olivia in the 40. But Eli has a feel for the pocket, a feel for the game. He throws the ball, takes a hit, and gets right back up. His courage and poise, and that quality you can't define. Call it magic.
That's the word that will be rolling around in Ernie's head at kickoff.
HANSEN: Tom Callahan is the author of "The GM: The Inside Story of a Dream Job and the Nightmares that Go With It."
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