EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Listening to interim general manager Kevin Abrams speak Thursday at an impromptu press conference on the sideline of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center’s fieldhouse as the New York Giants simultaneously practiced was captivating. Here was one of former general manager Jerry Reese’s top lieutenants speaking with confidence, clarity and a sense of realism while discussing his role and a team that crashed and burned in extraordinary fashion this season.
It made you wonder: Can Abrams really land the general manager gig left vacant by the recent firing of Reese?
The doubt in whether he stands a realistic chance is more about what the franchise desires than what he brings to the table. Co-owner John Mara claimed the need for “wholesale changes” after firing Reese and coach Ben McAdoo last week. If that truly is the case, it might work against Abrams and former Giants pro personnel director Dave Gettleman, who also had success as the Carolina Panthers' general manager.
Both want the job and have the respect of the Giants’ owners. Abrams was frank about his desire to step into the big boy shoes. “I think everyone would want this job,” he said.
He will get an interview before the end of the season. That is what he has been told so far. And anyone who receives an opportunity to sit across from the bosses -- in this case, Mara and Steve Tisch -- has a chance. They could be blown away by a vision that is similar to or vastly different from what the Giants have been employing for decades.
Abrams, a Canadian who worked for the league before joining the Giants, brings that type of public intrigue, even though he’s been with the team for almost 20 years. He’s been the franchise’s assistant general manager for 16 years, serving as the primary contract negotiator in addition to being involved in personnel for the draft and free agency.
Abrams says he has the Giants in “healthy” shape with regard to the salary cap, to the point that they shouldn’t have any restrictions this offseason or the near future. That should help his case, along with the relationships he’s built over the years.
Two agents who have represented more than a handful of Giants over the past 10 years told ESPN that they’ve had very few conversations with Reese. Most of their interactions have been with Abrams. That was a role he handled for the Giants organization.
But Abrams is more than that. He’s qualified for a general manager job. There is little doubt about that. He interviewed in a search held by former Giants general manager and current consultant Ernie Accorsi for the Detroit Lions position two years ago.
Accorsi also happens to be heading this Giants search.
“My role has been more than just doing the cap [salary cap] stuff. I wasn’t raised to be a cap guy,” Abrams said. “It was just the opportunity that was given to me, and I was grateful of the opportunity. And the Giants do a great job with everyone, not just me. But we’re all encouraged to grow professionally, and like everyone else, I was getting a lot of opportunities to do that and I try to take advantage of them whenever I could. And a lot of that included being involved with our personnel departments.”
More so than most teams, the Giants have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. It’s hard to pinpoint which players Abrams, vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross or senior vice president of player evaluation (and owner) Chris Mara are responsible for in the draft and/or free agency. It’s possible Abrams is the best evaluator in the building. It’s also possible (but unlikely) he’s the worst.
Speaking with him, he certainly comes off as one of the smartest. And speaking with people in the Giants organization, he has the strong relationships (personnel, football and business side) inside the building to be successful in the job.
“Great,” interim coach Steve Spagnuolo said of his interactions with Abrams. “I’ve known Kevin a long time, and Kevin and I stayed in touch even when I left here. He’s a tremendously intelligent -- I value intelligence and have a great deal of respect for it, and Kevin is one of those guys that’s really smart and the other thing. I was talking to him the other day -- [the thing] is, he has a really good knack of seeing the big picture. Sometimes as coaches you can get those blinders on, but he does a good job of seeing the whole thing. There are times when I can’t see the -- what’s the saying? -- seeing the forest through the trees. Then you need somebody to open it up for you.
“Kevin can, so I’m glad he’s here. He’s been a great help.”
Abrams said his role hasn’t changed much since being named interim general manager, aside from Reese not being down the hallway to make final decisions. There is not a ton he can do in the final four weeks of the season, anyway.
The biggest move the Giants can make is at quarterback. Abrams noted he was aware of the original Eli Manning demotion but didn’t seem to indicate he was a major player in the move. He could be more involved with another quarterback move down the stretch, even if most of the organization is saying it’s ultimately Spagnuolo’s decision who will start. It was just several weeks ago the Giants were planning on getting rookie Davis Webb some starts.
“I think we’d like all of our young guys to get a chance down the stretch. Davis, in particular," said Abrams. "Because of the position, it’s just hard to do. ... Spags and I talk about it all the time, John’s talked about it on plenty of occasions, and we know what we want to accomplish. It’s just not easy to do it necessarily.
“It’s an ongoing conversation, and hopefully we get an opportunity to put him out there. But it’s got to be done the right way.”
Ownership will surely be watching. If Abrams handles it well, it would only further cement him as a serious candidate for the job.