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Giants fire Reeves as coach

December 23, 1996

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Dan Reeves was fired today as coach of the New York Giants after missing the playoffs for the past three years and battling with team executives over personnel decisions.

``I just think that we were not going in the right direction,″ general manager George Young said.

At his news conference later in the day, Reeves blamed ``a philosophy difference″ between him and Young, particularly over which players to draft.

``It was not a power struggle. It was more a philosophy struggle,″ Reeves said.

Reeves compiled a 31-33 record in four seasons with the Giants. New York (6-10) capped a very inconsistent season Saturday, blowing a 22-0 halftime lead in a 23-22 loss to former Giants coach Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots.

That didn’t seal Reeves’ fate. Just last Monday, the 52-year-old coach said he expected to be fired once the season ended.

Asked when he made up his mind on Reeves, Young said it was not a sudden decision.

``It evolved over the second half of the season,″ Young said.

``I’m not apologizing for anything. We made a decision. We wanted to go in a different direction. ... We felt we wanted to change leadership.″

Reeves, who still had one year to go on a five-year contract, met with Young earlier in the day, according to a source close to the team.

``He said he talked to George and that they couldn’t work it out,″ said the source, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.

Reeves then met with his coaching staff at 10:45 a.m. and told them a change was going to be made.

The Giants’ failures on the field were not the main reason Reeves won’t be back. He battled with Young and Tom Boisture, the team’s director of player personnel, for more input into player decisions.

It nearly led to his firing last year, but Reeves returned after being told by Giants owners that things were not going to change.

Reeves came to the Giants in 1993, taking over a team that was bitterly divided after missing the playoffs in its only two seasons under Ray Handley.

Handley got the job after Parcells resigned shortly after a Super Bowl win over Buffalo in January, 1991.

Reeves, whose contract with Denver had not been renewed after 12 seasons and three Super Bowl appearances, was Young’s third choice for the job, only getting it after Tom Coughlin decided to stay at Boston College and Dave Wannstedt took the Bears job.

Reeves quickly restored order on the Giants, naming Phil Simms as his quarterback and waiving disgruntled linebacker Pepper Johnson. New York responded with an 11-5 record and came within a field goal of winning the NFC East.

The Giants were crushed by San Francisco in the second round of the playoffs and Simms and Lawrence Taylor both retired after the season.

New York nearly made the playoffs in 1994 with a season-ending seven-game winning streak, but lost out on a tiebreaker. The past two seasons have been typified by slow starts and New York never came close to the playoffs as the offense struggled under Dave Brown.

The pressure to succeed put a strain on Brown’s relationship with Reeves and the two have been at odds the past two years.

Brown said his biggest problem with Reeves was he felt the coach sometimes undermined his leadership role by either benching him or creating the appearance that his job was in jeopardy _ like when he started Tommy Maddox in an exhibition this season.

The two mended fences on Sunday in a 10 minute farewell meeting.

``It was a good meeting,″ Reeves said. ``We talked about the frustration that we both had as far as not getting the end results. I feel badly I didn’t get him to play the way I felt he was capable of playing.″

``We apologized to each other for not getting it done,″ Brown added. ``We talked about how frustrating it was. I felt there was some finality to it.″

Brown wasn’t the only player who felt that way among those who arrived to clean out their lockers shortly after 6:30 a.m. Sunday, a time mandated because the Jets were playing a 1 p.m. game at Giants Stadium against Miami.

Not only did cornerback Jason Sehorn thank Reeves for a chance to play, but he also told his coach how much he respected him as a person.

``You usually don’t say those things to people when you think they are going to be around,″ Sehorn said.

Fullback Charles Way was more to the point.

``Everyone knows the situation _ more than likely he will not be here,″ he said. ``You just have to look at it as an opportunity for everybody. He will probably get a coaching job somewhere else and he’ll make the best of it, We’ll have to make the best of our situation here.″

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