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Beating the Odds

The Worst Hiring Decision in NFL History

It goes without saying that a single hiring decision can affect an organization for years. No one needs to remind fans of the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
That’s because either one of those teams could have wound up with superstar coach Bill Belichick — and only one of them did.
The story comes in a new book “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,” by Ian O’Connor.
In 1991, the Giants needed a new coach. Bill Parcels had retired, having led them to championships in Super Bowl XXV and Super Bowl XXI.
At the time, Belichick worked for the Giants, an invisible gem, a superstar hiding in plain sight. He wanted the head coaching job, according to O’Connor’s book. But George Young, the Giants’ general manager at the time, did not want Belichick. Here are the reasons for that fateful choice. “This is an ex-lacrosse player,” O’Connor relates Young’s thinking. “He’s a disheveled-looking mess most of the time.”
Young was right about the way Belichick dressed and about Belichick’s lacrosse background. But his decision on whom to hire could not have been more wrong.
Under Belichick, the Patriots have made it to eight Super Bowls, winning five. They could get there again this season.
Meanwhile, the Giants — who did win two Super Bowls since letting Belichick get away — have lost their first two games this season and have made the playoffs only once in the last six years.
As for Handley, the man the Giants hired instead of Belichick, he lasted two seasons as a coach in the NFL. He won 14 games and lost 18. And remember that Young hired him in part because he made a better appearance than Belichick did.
It’s easy, of course, to criticize hiring decisions once they have been made. But it’s also useful to know that for every hiring decision, there is an invisible gem being overlooked. The Patriots found one. The Giants lost one. And the rest is history.


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