On a Tuesday afternoon last week, Stevie Brown was sitting in a laundromat near his home in North Bergen, New Jersey watching his clothes swirl in the wash. It was his off day, but after dropping off someone at the airport, he had to make the trip to the public laundry facilities to do what many other New Jersey residents without power have been doing since Hurricane Sandy left much of the state in the dark: clean his clothes.
It’s a strange image – a rising star on the Giants not being able to get any clean underwear without lugging clothes to the closest laundromat. But the Giants safety, who went from unheralded offseason pickup to the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in the span of about a month, had been told by the power company there that he may have power back in his apartment until Thursday or Friday. By the time it comes back, he will have made it almost a week without any heat or light (or laundry ability) at home.
“One of my teammates in my building still has power and his whole half of the building does too,” he said. “I don’t understand how that happens. I’m just chilling on the other end in the dark.”
He’s making do. His biggest worries have been getting enough gas in his car to get to practice and enough laptop battery every night to watch film. Meanwhile, at work, he’s becoming another Victor Cruz-like story for Big Blue.
Brown is the latest in a string of Giants’ players who have managed to take the opportunity of a teammate’s injury or suspension to become a major factor. He got his chance when Kenny Phillips went down with a sprained MCL at the end of September. With backup strong safety Will Hill suspended for taking Adderall, Brown stepped. He’s already made five interceptions.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the next big thing,” he told BuzzFeed. “It just so happens I’m someone they didn’t expect much of and I’m just doing my job.”
Brown’s story is familiar to Giants fans. Like Cruz did before his breakout year, Brown spent most of his last year in the NFL on the IR, sidelined with a quad injury. This season, he sat quietly learning the playbook and when a seemingly deep bench crumbled, the versatile safety (he played some linebacker in college at Michigan) ended up being a good fit. Even with Phillips returning, Brown fits in well to what seems to be an emerging three-safety package the team is trying out.
Asked if there was something about the Giants that made it easier for breakout stars to shine, Brown simply said the club was a place that everyone wanted to be.
“It’s just a guy who has taken advantage of his opportunity,” GM Jerry Reese told Newsday. “It happens all over the league.”
But it doesn’t in the way that it seems to have happened for the Giants lately. And that, former NFL executives told BuzzFeed, has a lot to do with the ownership and club culture.
Ted Sundquist, a former Broncos GM, said the Giants tend to be more patient in developing potential young stars than many organizations, giving them a chance for more breakout players like Brown.
“I think Jerry Reese has a lot to do with that. He knows what type of players they’re looking for character-wise and who will fit into Coach Coughlin’s system and they go out and get them,” he said. “They know what they want and they see something in a guy and they stay extremely patient and give them a chance to develop.”
Joe Mendes, the Redskins’ former Vice President of Player Operations, said he believed the Giants’ coaching staff was better than most at preparing backups to step into the starting lineup.
“What separates them from so many other clubs is that they have a plan and they have a structure and Coach Coughlin has worked extremely hard to cultivate just a great New York Giants culture,” he said.
The intangibles of the Giants work ethic and patience through the organization, Mendes and Sundquist said, had a lot to do with their player’s surprise successes. Those are easy values to say you believe in, but tough ones to actually display in a stressful NFL environment.
“The recipe’s the easy part,” Mendes said. “But it’s the cooking it that’s hard.”