Kraft, Mara started season, now they’ll finish it

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“When John Mara took over, he continued … that kind of loyalty. It’s almost like a blood transfusion,” Flaherty added. “It let our people know that even with the change at the top, nothing really changed _ not the expectations, not the attention to detail, not what it means to play for the Giants.”

Mara is tall and angular, still looking very much like the lawyer he was for a few years before rejoining the Giants in 1991.

“I tried law for a while,” he said, “but even while I was practicing, I knew I’d be back here. It was hard to imagine I’d wind up doing anything else.”

His look is softened this week by polo shirts and team sweaters. But like his father, John Mara is reserved and his even temperament, inherited or not, serves him well as the CEO of a business where the emotional swings of a season like this one can take a severe toll.

“In this business, it’s week by week. You’re on top of the world one week and you lose a couple games and you’re at the bottom. But you can’t let that affect your decision-making. You have to let the season play itself out because a lot of crazy things can happen,” he said.

More than once during his tenure, the back page of the New York tabloids called for coach Tom Coughlin’s scalp, and each time Mara stood firm. He has resisted the urge to say “I told you so,” recalling how a similarly rocky season was rewarded with that improbable Super Bowl win in 2008.

“As long as you believe in the coaching staff, which we do, you have to have the faith to let them do their jobs. Fortunately,” he said, “it’s worked out for us.”

The Patriots only rough patch this season came after consecutive losses to the Steelers and Giants _ only the second time New England lost two straight in the last nine years. Like Mara, Kraft views his role as providing stability at the top and over the long term.. He prides himself on being able to identify talent at every level of the organization, then building the kind of relationships that enables those who work for him to take risks.

“You get good people with you, you set the tone, and you encourage them to be bold,” he said. “When they take risks that are in the best interests of the team and they don’t work out, you back them.”

Plenty of that loyalty and more than a little of the love Kraft invested has flowed back in his direction during these tough times. He can barely discuss the “MHK” jersey patches is players donned in tribute to Myra without choking back tears.

Kraft remains first and foremost a businessman, but he concedes it’s never been more difficult than during this season to keep his heart from overruling his head.

“People use the word “family.” In a family, you don’t cut players. The unfortunate part is that you can’t keep everyone that you want. We try to differentiate by creating a family environment. … This team is very special to me,” he continued. “There isn’t one person on this team I wouldn’t have at my dinner table. They’ve shown me, personally, great love, respect and support.

“They helped me get through the hardest period of my life.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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