Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 2/1/12

WASHINGTON - APRIL 30: New York Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara (R) speaks while President George W. Bush (C) and quarterback Eli Manning stand nearby during an event to honor the Super bowl XLII Champions on the south lawn of the White House, April 30, 2008 in Washington DC. Last February the Giants beat the New England Patriots 17 to 14, in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Contrary to popular belief, Jerry Jones isn't the only owner in the NFL who attends draft meetings. New York Giants co-owner John Mara likes to check in with his scouting department on a regular basis and he's always in the "war room" on draft day. The difference of course is that he's there to show support for the people he's empowered to make football decisions. Mara's also fiercely loyal to head coach Tom Coughlin, and wouldn't dare show up on the sideline to offer him advice DURING A GAME. The Giants only finished with one more win in the regular season than the Cowboys, but they were able to make this improbable run to the Super Bowl, in part because they have a clearly defined structure. General manager Jerry Reese took over the reins from Ernie Accorsi in 2007 and promptly had to deal with a very public holdout by defensive end Michael Strahan. Reese allowed Strahan to sound off in the media and never lost his cool. In fact, it's that calm demeanor that can drive players nuts when they're attempting to pick a fight (see Osi Umenyiora). "The most important thing Ernie taught me is to make solid football decisions," said Reese via text Wednesday. "It has nothing to do with emotionjust everything that encompasses good, solid football decisions." Unlike Jones, Reese doesn't work hard at creating friendships with players. And once he and his scouting department deliver the players, he steps out of the way and lets Coughlin do his job. He serves as a sounding board for the head coach, but you won't catch Reese offering unsolicited advice. He did feel strongly after the '06 season that quarterback Eli Manning needed to make some changes to his body language on the field. The Giants didn't want to change Manning's personality, but they realized that his slumped shoulders and hang-dog expressions after negative plays were affecting his teammates. Running back Tiki Barber used to chide Manning for this during games. But Manning set the tone for the '07 season when he fired back at Barber, who was criticizing him in the media. His teammates saw the quotes, and it helped him gain more credibility in the locker room. The Giants don't leave any doubt when it comes to their overall hierarchy. Mara, who played a leading role in negotiating a new collective labor agreement, avoids the spotlight. And you don't see him in a suite during road games because he's sitting on the same row as reporters in the main press box, normally next to Reese. Mara has a great admiration for the Rooney family in Pittsburgh and that's why he's stayed with Coughlin through some rocky seasons, just like the Steelers did with Bill Cowher. Reese was widely criticized before the season for allowing free-agent wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss end up on other rosters. Smith, who was coming off major knee surgery, didn't do much of anything for the Eagles and Boss didn't light it up for the Raiders. The Giants continue to stock their roster with long-armed pass-rushers and they struck gold last year by signing free-agent rookie wide receiver Victor Cruz out of UMass. The Cowboys' hierarchy is so muddled it's hard to explain. The assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski and his staff do a nice job putting together a draft board, but they can be undermined by Jones at any minute. Jones talks to a handful of his old pals from outside the organization, including former Cowboys director of scouting Larry Lacewell and even Barry Switzer at times. He seems to listen to whomever he's been on the phone with last, which is a strange way of doing business. Jones' son, Stephen, is actually the voice of reason at Valley Ranch. If the scouts or coaches feel strongly about a player, they know it's wise to inform Stephen. He's someone that Jerry talks to on a daily basis and has great trust in. If not for Stephen, you may have seen Terrell Owens remain on the Cowboys roster for another season. Jones promised that nothing would happen on the Cowboys roster or coaching staff without the approval of Jason Garret, but a lot of us were skeptical. When an owner's willing to advise his head coach during live action, it's hard to believe he's giving him free reign over football operations. Jones will probably watch Sunday's game and think about how close the Cowboys were to beating the Giants in their first meeting this season. He'll continue to convince himself that nothing's wrong with the core talent with his team. Meanwhile, the Cowboys' most bitter rival (for now) will be going for its second Super Bowl title in five years.
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