Word started trickling out in NFL circles: The Giants were looking for a new assistant general manager. Pat Kirwan knew someone perfect for the job.
A former Jets scout and executive, a current SiriusXM NFL Radio host and one of the most plugged-in league insiders around, Kirwan had been around long enough to know that his recommendation would not be blown off. He has relationships with Giants brass that run deep, too, so he called them to suggest they consider a rising star he’d been mentoring for nearly two decades.
But he was too late.
Brandon Brown already was on their radar.
"Right away the guy I was talking to said, "Yeah, we know a lot about Brandon,’ " Kirwan told Newsday. "He said, ‘We’ve had discussions about Brandon. We don’t know where it’s going to go from here but rest assured, we know a lot about him and a lot of positives.’ "
Brown eventually landed the job as the right-hand man to new general manager Joe Schoen.
"This is the perfect place for him," Kirwan said. "This guy has what it takes to do this."
If anyone knows how valuable it is to have a strong assistant general manager, it is Schoen. That’s the title he held for five seasons in Buffalo working alongside Brandon Beane. When it came time for Schoen to find his own version of, well, himself, Brown was one of the first people he thought of.
The two men had never worked together before their union in East Rutherford, but Schoen remembered Brown as a candidate for a scouting assistant job with the Dolphins all the way back in 2014. Schoen was working in Miami’s front office and Brown was at Boston College. He didn’t get the job with the Dolphins, but he made an impression on Schoen that almost a decade later led to this opportunity.
"He was very impressive," Schoen said of Brown at the time of their first encounter. "I’ve followed his career since."
Brown, it turns out, was doing the same with Schoen.
"Joe and I have crossed over in the past on the college scouting side," Brown said. "We’ve been at schools together and games together and I think we both had an admiration for how each other worked from a distance.
"When you are in the same room on a school call and you see the kind of questions guys ask and the attention to detail they have, or if you are at a game and you see how guys carry themselves, it’s no different than evaluating a player. You are kind of evaluating the people who are in the room with you. You take note of guys you might want to potentially work with one day, and I think the approach and the vision and the way we handle our business very much aligned. I always had Joe starred as a guy I’d love to have the opportunity to work with one day."
Brown fits in with the melting-pot mentality the Giants are trying to adapt after generations of running the organization in a more linear fashion.
For years, most of their executives and even coaches had been hired from within, planted and raised like crops until they were harvested for the highest-level jobs.
Schoen is the first Giants general manager since 1979 who comes in without any previous ties to the Giants.
And while his head coach, Brian Daboll, worked with him with the Bills and there will be similarities to the way things were done in Buffalo, the new regime is drawing from a host of different — and successful — teams.
Brown arrives having worked in the Eagles’ front office the past five years (including 2017, his first year there, when they won the Super Bowl). Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka comes from Kansas City, where he worked with Patrick Mahomes and under Andy Reid. Defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale is from Baltimore and brings a new philosophy to that side of the ball.
"It’s synergy and collaboration," Brown said of the dynamic. "We have a diversity of thought in decision-making. We can collaborate on the best ways to approach the roster-building process from all the experiences we have all had. It’s not just keeping ideas in a vacuum.
"We’re all working toward the same agenda of what is best for the New York Giants. It’s not what is best for us individually, it’s putting individual thought processes aside and all looking through the same lens saying we have all of these experiences, so how do we maximize them to get the best outcome on the field?"
The Giants believe they are lucky to have added Brown to their front office. They also are aware that they might not have him for long. Despite being only 33 years old, Brown was a candidate for the general manager’s job with the Vikings this offseason. It is only a matter of time before another team has an opening for which Brown will be considered and, if things go well for him, hired.
That, after all, is the eventual goal: Not to be an assistant GM but a general manager. It’s what Schoen spent five years striving toward in Buffalo and it’s what Brown will be hoping for during his time with the Giants.
Said Kirwan: "In three, four, five years, he’s going to be a general manager somewhere."
The Vikings interview, in many ways, was the most significant part of this hiring cycle for Brown, even though it ended with someone else – in this case Kwesi Adofo-Mensah -- getting the job.
"Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome you want when you go into an interview, but you take the positives away from it where it can help you tweak your process at your next destination and get you ready for when the next opportunity comes," Brown said. "The one thing in the NFL is these types of interviews become your walking resume. Rarely do you have to print out a resume and send it to somebody, it’s more about your reputation. These interviews become your reputation, and I felt like I represented myself well."
Helping the Giants find success will be the best resume for him. That, his experiences working with prominent executives such as Chris Ballard, Andrew Berry and Howie Roseman, and his ties to Kirwan and Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher, who have become sage voices in his ear, almost certainly will make him a strong candidate for future openings around the league.
Throw in his blue-collar upbringing in Glen Cove as the son of Jamaican immigrants and a deep love of the sport of football that first manifested itself from watching Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber slash their way to stardom with the Jets and Giants, and he may in fact be a perfect package.
None of which is to say Brown is looking beyond the task at hand — fixing the Giants. Kirwan, who has been mentoring him since Brown was a sophomore cornerback on the St. Anthony’s High School football team and has helped him plot his career course, said Brown is "not ambitious, just calculated, and there is a difference."
That was the case when Brown went to law school rather than take a graduate assistant or low-level scouting job after playing at Fordham. And when, after a year as an intern with the Jets, he went back to the college ranks and worked at Boston College. And when he returned to the league with the Colts and then made the move to the Eagles. And now that he has joined the Giants.
Said Brown: "I want to be here as long as they’ll keep me. I’m hoping they’ll have me long enough that we can turn this thing around and keep winning."
If that can happen, Brown won’t need Kirwan or anyone else to call up and vouch for him for his next job. He’ll already be on everyone else’s radar too.