The last time Joe Schoen took a new job, he arrived in the front office of a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs for 17 seasons. The Bills had become an overlooked outpost and an afterthought of the NFL in January 2017 when they hired Brandon Beane as their general manager. Beane, in one of his first moves, brought Schoen along to be his top assistant.
The Bills have been to the postseason four out of five times since, have won back-to-back division titles and on Sunday will face Kansas City for a chance to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
That’s the kind of turnaround the Giants hope they can execute for themselves.
That’s why they have hired Schoen as their new general manager.
One of the clear favorites to get the job when the process began, the first of nine candidates to receive an interview after Dave Gettleman announced his retirement, and the first of three finalists to meet with the Giants in person, Schoen was offered the job on Friday and accepted.
"Now," he said in the team’s announcement of the decision, "the work begins."
There is plenty to be done. Since winning Super Bowl XLVI 10 years ago, the Giants have appeared in one postseason game and won none. Their past five seasons have been as bad as any stretch in franchise history, as they have lost at least 10 games each year and churned through three head coaches. Once among the league’s marquee franchises, they recently have found themselves among the dregs.
Last job: Assistant GM of the Bills since 2017.
Before: National scout for Miami in 2008 (hired by Bill Parcells). Eventually became director of player personnel.
First NFL job: Ticket office intern with Carolina in 2000, then spent seven seasons there, first as a scouting assistant and then as a regional scout.
College: Played QB and WR at DePauw University.
The Giants hope hiring Schoen is the first step toward rehabilitating a tarnished image and futile football. He will be given immense powers — perhaps more than any other Giants general manager since George Young, who was hired under similarly dire circumstances in 1979 — to oversee the transformation.
"Joe is the kind of exceptional leader we sought to oversee our football operations," co-owner Steve Tisch said in the news release. "We will do whatever it takes to support Joe’s vision and strategic plan for success. We are excited to begin this next chapter with Joe as our general manager."
Schoen, 42, is only the Giants’ fifth GM since 1979 and the first since Young to come from outside the organization.
Young was succeeded in 1998 by his assistant, Ernie Accorsi. Jerry Reese took over in 2007 after working under Accorsi. Gettleman, who had spent more than a decade in the Giants’ front office before leaving to run the Panthers, was brought back as general manager when Reese was fired.
None of the nine candidates for the job had any direct ties to the Giants’ front office, the first signal that this hire would be a sharp departure from business as usual for a franchise that often has promoted from within. Schoen and the two other finalists, 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters and Kansas City executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles, interviewed in person with ownership at the team facility in East Rutherford this week.
"Steve and I were both impressed with all nine candidates," co-owner John Mara said in the team’s announcement. "We came away from this process feeling like all nine will be a general manager in this league at some point. We just felt like Joe was the right fit at the right time for us."
"Throughout our search, Joe impressed us with his ability to communicate a progressive and comprehensive vision for our team," Mara said. "His philosophy and collaborative approach to building a roster and coaching staff align with what we were looking for in a general manager."
He also had a stamp of approval from two Bills whom the Giants regard very highly. The first is the Buffalo ones, where his part in u-turning the organization provided the kind of experience the Giants were hoping to find. The second of the Bills is Parcells. It was the Hall of Fame coach who won two Super Bowls for the Giants who gave Schoen his first break in personnel, hiring him as a scout for the Dolphins in 2008.
Schoen said his first task will be finding a new head coach for the team. He has developed a close relationship with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who will be among the favorites to make the journey downstate with Schoen.
Daboll became the first candidate to meet with the Giants when Schoen and ownership interviewed him on a teleconference Friday night. They will meet similarly with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday.
The rush is to get these brief first interviews done before the end of the divisional round of the playoffs. Without such groundwork, the Giants would be unable to formally interview any candidate on a team that advances to the Super Bowl until after that game on Feb. 13.
If the Bills keep winning, with first interviews out of the way, the Giants would be able to hold second in-person interviews during the week between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. If the Bills lose at any time before then, of course, the Giants would be free to not only interview but hire either Daboll or Frazier.
Mara has insisted that there will be "no package deals" for general managers and head coaches, so the Giants will have other contenders. They already have requested permission to interview Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and have been in touch with former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to express their interest in interviewing him (because Flores was fired, the Giants do not need to request permission to speak with him).
"We will cast a wide net," Schoen said. "It can be former head coaches, first-time head coaches but, more importantly, it has to be a person who possesses the ability to lead an organization and the ability to motivate and develop players."
Schoen added that he wants a head coach he can "work in lockstep with to create a collaborative environment for our football operations."
As for the players, Schoen said: "We will begin to evaluate our roster and prepare for the draft and free agency. Our goal is to build a roster that will be competitive, have depth, and most importantly, win football games."
It’s that last part that has eluded the Giants for too long, just as it had the Bills for a generation. On Sunday, though, one of those teams will be playing in one of the most anticipated postseason games in years. The other will be planning on being there soon.
That, ultimately, is why Schoen is here.
Giants’ coaching candidates
The Bills’ offensive coordinator is the name most often linked to Joe Schoen since the two have worked together in Buffalo for several years, but Daboll isn’t a slam dunk. Yes he has helped shape Josh Allen’s career and may be able to do the same for Daniel Jones but Schoen will look elsewhere as well.
He probably wouldn’t have been considered had someone else gotten the GM job, but Frazier’s experience in Buffalo with Schoen makes him a candidate. He has head coach experience with the Vikings (2010-13) and has shaped the Bills into a top-notch unit. As with all defensive-minded coaches, though, the question of who he brings in as offensive coordinator will be paramount.
The former Dolphins head coach who was fired last week is a New York native who would certainly welcome a homecoming. In three seasons with Miami he went 24-25 without a marquee quarterback. As appealing as his leadership skills are, the Giants have to consider two questions: Do they want to go back to the Bill Belichick tree after failing with Joe Judge? And why did Flores churn through offensive and defensive coordinators before being shown the door by a team that seemed to be heading in the right direction?
Another defensive-minded option, Quinn was the head coach for the Falcons and brought them to the Super Bowl. While his tenure in Atlanta fizzled rather quickly, he has rehabilitated his image in league circles with his work as a defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. He is one of the more sought-after candidates among the eight teams with head coach openings, but he has roots in the area – including a coaching career that had some of its earliest moments at Hofstra – which could make the Giants appealing to him.
While there is no direct connection between Schoen or the Giants and the Kansas City offensive coordinator, Bieniemy has certainly paid his dues and led one of the league’s most consistent – and consistently creative – offenses for the past few years. How much of that is from head coach Andy Reid and how much is Bieniemy is something the Giants can try to figure out from an interview, but for a team that has struggled to score points for as long as they have ignoring one of the architects of the top units would be foolish.