SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- A little over three weeks ago, I was talking with an NFL personnel director about Jeff Fisher's possible landing spots, and somehow the Giants came into the conversation. So I asked if Fisher would be interested in going there, and the response came swiftly: "Everyone wants the Giants job."
Meanwhile, on John Mara's desk in New Jersey, there sits a pile. And when he gets back on Monday, returning with a second NFC title in five years, he figures he'll take another look at it.
"Our belief never wavered. Tell you what, I've got a stack of letters on my desk (that say) 'Fire Tom Coughlin'. I look forward to responding to them," Mara told me as he made his way out of Candlestick Park. "I held on to them, waiting for the right time to respond. I think this might be the right time."
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But the larger point here can explain just why the New York job is the most coveted in the entire sport, and is widely considered the best in the business of coaching football. The Maras, like the Rooneys in Pittsburgh, have built a monument to consistency. In a league where 11 new coaches were hired in 2009 and just two of them remain employed today, the Giants never really reinvent themselves.
Coming off their third Super Bowl title four years ago, the Giants earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC bracket in the 2008-09 campaign, only to be ushered from the playoffs in the divisional round. They missed the tournament each of the last two seasons. But the Mara and (co-owner) Tisch families stayed the course. And it worked.
"They don't knee-jerk about things, they've been in football a long time," general manager Jerry Reese said. "They know there are peaks and valleys to football seasons, they're such long seasons, and they have confidence in the people they've hired."
The architect of this team then got borderline emotional in adding, "When I first started working for the Giants as a young scout, and everyone was like, 'Wow, you got a job with the Giants?' I really didn't realize what they were talking about. Now I realize why everyone wants to work for the New York Giants. It's an awesome organization. During the lockout, nobody got laid off. They care about their employees. It's a privilege to work there."
You rarely hear much about Mara -- the man who has become the face of the ownership group that his father, Wellington, once headed -- and that's the way he wants it. In that way, John Mara is just like his dad. But everything the team needs from a resources standpoint is there. And Mara cares deeply about winning, as anyone who's been around him on a game day can attest.
On NFL Network
"NFL Replay" will re-air the Giants' victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII on Monday, Jan. 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
It's not easy for an owner to strike that balance -- being that invested while letting others do their jobs and staying in the background. Mara has pulled it off. It's something, again, that his father also did successfully, which goes a long way toward explaining the organization's success.
"They do things the right way," Eli Manning told me. "They treat us well. And they expect us to play hard for them, and that's what we do. (Mara is) just someone who cares so much about the game of football, the whole NFL -- not just the Giants, but the whole NFL -- and his father, what he did for the NFL, I hope all the players here know, and I think most of them do, what the Mara family has meant to this league. John Mara, the whole Mara family, the Tisches, they're great people. It's a pleasure to play for them."
And here's another reason why: It's never about them.
To be sure, during our conversation in the aftermath of the win, Mara wasn't going to shuffle through any personal satisfaction beyond his happiness for the people he stuck by, when the searing media spotlight in New York was begging him to go the other way. This, to him, was about them.
"We're 7-7, after losing four games in a row and no one gave us a chance," Mara said. "It's incredible what they've been able to accomplish over the last five or six weeks. This team never stopped believing in themselves and our coach never stopped believing in the players. And I think it's a testament to Tom and our entire coaching staff."
But if Mara really wanted to take a bow for anything here, it would be that there's a Super Bowl to play in at all. The Giants owner was one of a handful of constants on the ownership side in hammering out a labor deal with players in the spring and summer. Like his dad, who could have made the Giants into the Yankees but instead helped shape a revenue system that leveled the playing field, Mara is as interested in the good of the sport as he is the good of the Giants.
Two weeks from now, the team his club will face features another principle from those marathon sessions of May, June and July -- during which a very small group of players and owners did an enormous amount of work to ensure we'd have Sundays like this one -- New England's Robert Kraft. And in typical Mara style, when I asked him about his role in ending the lockout, he moved the goal posts on the conversation so it wouldn't be all about him.
"That's pretty incredible, because the two of us spent a lot of time together in the spring and the summer," Mara said of the Super Bowl matchup. "I can't tell you how many meetings we attended. I have so much respect for him, for what he went through personally [dealing with the death of his wife], and the amount he put into this labor deal. As Jeff Saturday said, after we signed the thing, we couldn't have done it without him. I just have a lot of respect for Bob and that entire organization."
Everyone has respect for the Maras, as well. With so many other organizations in a perpetual search to find their way -- rampant coaching turnover is an awfully good gauge of that -- there is little question about the Giants' identity.
From Wellington Mara to John Mara, it's really never changed much. And that's a big reason why the Giants hoisted one trophy on Sunday, and may well be lifting another one in two weeks.