As a teenager growing up in Queens, Jon Berger used to craft hand-written notes and mail them to Wellington Mara, the owner of the Giants. Imagine Berger’s surprise when Mara wrote back. Every time.
That correspondence triggered a 40-year association between Berger and the Giants, first as a summer intern in 1981, continuing in 1986 as a full-time intern. Berger became the team’s computer coordinator in 1987 and in 2007 grew into the role of senior director of football information, a role he held until last week, when his long tenure with the Giants came to an end.
“It was kind of a mutual deal,’’ Berger told The Post. “And it was just time. They wanted to do things one way, I didn’t think it was right for me. So it’s time. The weird thing is I don’t really know what’s next. I’m gonna figure something out.’’
The Giants are undergoing changes to their information technology department. Ty Siam, hired in 2015 as a football operations analyst, in 2020 was named director of football data and technology. Heading into the 2020 season, general manager Dave Gettleman said the analytics wing of the organization was undergoing a transformation.
“We’ve got to reorganize here in terms of making use of technology and analytics, and we’re in the process of that,” Gettleman said. “We’ve got a plan in place. I’ve got to do a better job of that. We’re gonna look to [Siam] to lead us into a world where we have a robust analytics/technology program.”
There was a time when Berger, 56, essentially was the program. When he took charge in 1987, the Giants, and the entire NFL, used the DEC VAX system. “It wasn’t even called ‘IT’ yet,’’ Berger said.
In 2007, Berger began working directly with the coaching staff, analyzing and presenting data to Tom Coughlin and later Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge, as well as coordinators and assistants. McAdoo was the first head coach to put Berger in the booth, wearing a headset as a game-manager resource during games.
“They all want things done a little bit differently,’’ Berger said. “But it’s essentially the same thing.’’
Asked if he believed he kept up with all the new technology, Berger said “I believe so. But it’s not for me to judge.’’
Only four current Giants employees, including Ronnie Barnes, the senior vice president of medical services, have been with the franchise longer than Berger. He owns four Super Bowl rings.
“I’ve never been anything but a Giant, but it’s time to go try something different,’’ Berger said. “It’s been an interesting stretch of time. I sensed I wasn’t really having that much fun anymore. Nothing to do with the coach [Judge], I love the coach. He’s gonna be awesome. He already is awesome. It’s just time for something different. It would be a shame to have done just one thing for an entire career.’’
Berger was a student at academically acclaimed Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan when he became Mara’s pen pal. “It was ‘Great game yesterday’ or ‘I wish we could have punted’ or something stupid,’’ Berger said. “Stupid kid stuff. He always wrote back and was so encouraging and asked me ‘How’d that math test go?’ and things like that. It was phenomenal. I was just some kid and he always wrote back.’’
In one of the return letters, Mara asked if Berger wanted to earn some extra money for college working as a summer intern with the Giants. Berger, headed in 1981 to the University at Albany, was stunned, and accepted the offer. He was a full-time intern in 1986, in media relations and pro scouting — “Which now sounds preposterous,’’ Berger said — when general manager George Young told him he was going to be a full-time employee the next season.
“Just being part of great teams and great wins,’’ Berger said of his career highlights. “Being part of it and having an opportunity to share great moments with people I really love being around. That’s really it. It’s just a matter of people and moments.
“I’ve been hearing from so many people and it’s been so encouraging. I hate when people say “It’s humbling’ but it is humbling. It’s weird. I’ve been part of it since I was a dopey 16-year old kid.’’