The calls were made throughout this summer, Giants general manager Joe Schoen scrolling through his contacts and connecting with the GMs around the NFL he is closest to, some of whom he considers friends.
“Hey, anything early on you would have done differently? What do I need to prepare for?”
These were the questions Schoen presented to individuals who are now his peers, as he is in his first year as the general manager of the Giants.
“Just trying to figure out so I have some idea what’s in front of me,” Schoen told The Post recently. “I’ve got a pretty good idea because Brandon was so good to me in Buffalo.”
Even the best tutoring from Brandon Beane, Schoen’s boss for the past five years with the Bills, could not prepare Schoen for everything he will encounter as a first-time top executive. One of the key pieces of advice Schoen received from more experienced contemporaries around the league centered on what he described as the “feeling-out process” novice general managers undergo with what often is a newly hired head coach.
Take the time to forge this relationship, Schoen was told. It will be worth it in the end.
“A lot of the GMs I’ve talked to, I asked them, ‘How was that when you did not know this guy at all, you’d never worked with him,’ ” Schoen said, “and they were like, ‘Yeah, the courting process.’ Some of the GMs I talked to are still going through it.”
Here is where Schoen believes he is already ahead of the game. There is a reason why new Giants head coach Brian Daboll was always going to be difficult to overtake in the hiring process. Schoen and Daboll got to know each other with the Dolphins in 2011, Schoen as a national scout and Daboll as the offensive coordinator. For the past four seasons with the Bills, Schoen was the assistant general manager and Daboll ran the offense.
All that time together resulted in a better understanding of how they view the game, how one another operates behind closed doors, how they mix business and personal time and how they relate to their families and their players. Thus, they took a shared vision into how they plan to reshape a Giants franchise that has hit the skids the past five years.
Schoen and Daboll do not have to learn each other’s language.
“When the combine was coming up, we would have probably had to spend an hour in a meeting talking about, ‘Here’s how the process is going to be, how we’re going to interview guys, here’s how draft meetings are going to go ,’ ” Schoen said. “Training camp’s approach, how are we gonna do things? What I’ve learned having worked with Daboll, ‘Hey are we gonna do this the way we did it in Buffalo? Are we gonna do it how we did it in Miami?’ And there’s a lot of synergy there, we’re on the same page with a lot of that stuff. That part’s been easy.”
Most or all of the other parts will not be easy. The Giants were 4-13 last season. Schoen is a first-time general manager. Daboll is a first-time head coach. Mistakes and missteps will occur.
“I told Daboll, a year from now he’s gonna be a better head coach and I’m gonna be a better general manager,” Schoen said. “To me the biggest thing is there’s no manual for this job. There’s issues that arise on a daily basis that you just can’t plan for and it’s good having a guy like Daboll that I can rely on and we’re in synch, there’s a lot of synergy between the two staffs that we come together, we talk about whatever the issues are and then figure out what the best path is to solve the problem, if it’s a problem or whatever it may be. That’s probably the biggest thing, every day is a new day and there’s a lot of things you can’t prepare for.”
This new power duo is undefeated heading into their first training camp with the Giants; full-roster reporting day is Tuesday. Adversity is always lurking around every corner and the first loss has yet to be sustained. The Schoen-Daboll bond will be tested.
“It’s been a good five, six months here and we’ll see when we get into the heat of the season when the real bullets are flying,” Schoen said. “Again, we’ve been through that before so I think that will help us too when we’re going through it.”