Young is one of 10 Contributors—individuals other than players or coaches—selected as a finalist by a special panel made up of members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Hall of Famers, coaches, executives, and leading football historians. Three of these Contributors will be selected for induction.
The Giants were in the midst of the darkest period in franchise history when Young came aboard in 1979. The team was in the middle of a 17-year postseason drought after a loss in the 1963 NFL Championship Game with only two winning seasons during that span.
Wellington Mara and his nephew, Tim, were the team’s owners. Their relationship was so contentious they refused to sit together on game day. The team’s futility was best exemplified by the play known in NFL lore as the Miracle at the Meadowlands (aka The Fumble to Giants fans) when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards recovered a Giants fumble for a touchdown for a 19-17 Eagles win at Giants Stadium.
It became abundantly clear the Giants needed a general manager whose sole function was to run the team’s football operations. The Maras couldn’t agree on a candidate and it was up to commissioner Pete Rozelle to mediate. He got them to agree on a candidate neither Wellington nor Tim liked very much at first: Young, who was the Miami Dolphins’ director of player personnel.
Young immediately put his stamp on the Giants. His first draft pick was a little-known quarterback from Morehead State named Phil Simms, who would go on the become the franchise’s greatest quarterback until the arrival of No. 10. Two years later, North Carolina linebacker Lawrence Taylor was selected No. 2 in the 1981 NFL Draft. When head coach Ray Perkins left to succeed Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, Young tapped defensive coordinator Bill Parcells to lead the Giants.
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From 1981-90, the Giants made six playoff appearances with three NFC East titles and victories in Super Bowls XXI and XXV. Taylor and Parcells have since been inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Wellington and Tim Mara.
After Parcells left the Giants after the 1990 season, the team made the playoffs just once in 1993 under Dan Reeves (another Hall of Fame finalist as a contributor). In 1997, Young’s final season with the Giants, he replaced Reeves with Jim Fassel. The Giants won the division that year. After the NFC East was clinched with a win against the Washington Redskins, Young walked onto the field, sat alone on the Giants’ bench, and wept.
“I’ve had a wonderful job here. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve never had a bad day,” Young said at the time.
Young was named NFL Executive of the Year five times (1984, 1986, 1990, 1993, 1997). After he retired from the Giants, he was the first NFL director of football operations under commissioner Paul Tagliabue (who is also a Hall of Fame finalist as a contributor).
Young died on Dec. 8, 2001 at age 71 of a rare neurological condition. Tagliabue called him “one of the finest men our nation has ever produced” at a memorial service for him.
“I think about George every day,” Ernie Accorsi, one of Young’s closest friends and successor as Giants general manager, said. “I remember one time he said to me, ‘Only players should be in the Hall of Fame.’ He wouldn’t have made a big deal about it and he wouldn’t have admitted it, but it would have meant the world to him.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will have 20 members in honor of the NFL’s centennial. This will include five Modern Era players, 10 Seniors (players who have been retired at least 25 years), three Contributors, and two Coaches. The class will be revealed on Saturday, Feb. 1, the day before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.