Ben McAdoo felt like the right choice all along. But it wasn’t until after talking on Sunday night with two of the most important men in McAdoo’s coaching life that it most assuredly felt like the right move.
If Aaron Rodgers, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and his head coach, Mike McCarthy, were willing to vouch for McAdoo, then it makes perfect sense that Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, as well as general manager Jerry Reese, would consider McAdoo the right man to fill the gargantuan shoes of Tom Coughlin.
The Giants were working on a contract to make McAdoo the 18th coach in franchise history, although nothing had been finalized as of late Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the team’s situation.
McAdoo spent eight years as a Packers’ offensive assistant on McCarthy’s staff, and the coach swears by his 38-year-old protégé. Same with Rodgers, who couldn’t say enough about his belief in McAdoo as a head coach. This was a few minutes after the Packers had beaten Washington, 35-18, Sunday in a playoff at FedEx Field, and McCarthy and Rodgers were genuine in their public support for McAdoo.
“Ben’s a great coach,” Rodgers said. “He’s really advance quickly, and the key is he’s got an excellent work ethic. He puts in the work and he cares about it a lot.”
McCarthy called McAdoo “the ultimate preparation individual. He’s prepared for this opportunity for a long time. He’s paid his dues. He’s earned his stripes.”
This was not just two former associates blowing smoke, as some might suggest. After all, why wouldn’t they say nice things about someone who no longer works alongside them and has a chance to get a head coaching gig for the first time? But Rodgers and McCarthy are genuine expressing their regard for a worthy coach; the quarterback and his coach are straightforward guys who don’t sugarcoat things — especially Rodgers, who is as outspoken and opinionated as they get in the NFL.
McAdoo makes sense on so many levels here.
As long as the Giants were ready to move on from Coughlin — and it was clear from Mara’s statement about “12 years is a long time” to be a head coach that they were — then McAdoo is the logical heir apparent.
He did good work in his two years under Coughlin as offensive coordinator, dramatically reducing — although not completely eliminating — Eli Manning’s turnover issues. Manning threw a combined 28 interceptions in McAdoo’s two seasons as coordinator; the year before, he had 27. Manning threw a combined 65 touchdown passes under McAdoo; in his previous two seasons with Kevin Gilbride, he threw a combined 44. Manning had 30 or more touchdowns just once before the past two seasons.
Manning is 35 and probably has only a few good years left. He has professed his admiration for McAdoo, and will no doubt benefit from the continuity in his offensive system. A dramatic change of course for the veteran quarterback would have risk a lost season or two adjusting to a new system. It’s too late for that. Manning is too valuable a quarterback to be forcing into a system that may not suit him.
McAdoo has the respect of his players, and that includes star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has emerged as one of the league’s best playmakers in his first two seasons. McAdoo also struck the proper tone when chastising Beckham for going off on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and incurring a one-game suspension. The coach did not mince words when saying Beckham was completely wrong and unjustified for his selfish behavior.
As with any coach, there are potential shortcomings. It is a quantum leap from offensive coordinator to head coach, especially in a media market as big and as pressure-filled as New York. McAdoo is not entirely comfortable with his media interactions, and he’ll need to loosen up as time goes on. But he has a terrific support staff with the team, so he can be expected to grow as he becomes adjusted to his myriad responsibilities.
But, like McCarthy said, “Let’s be honest. It’s not about winning the press conference.”
There are some tactical issues as well. For one, he cannot go into another season intent on using as many as four running backs in a rotation, as he did in 2015. It is simply not workable, and once he started using Rashad Jennings in more of a featured role late in the season, the ground game improved.
McAdoo also will have to expand his vision to include the Giants’ defense, which was simply horrendous last season. It was bad mostly because there weren’t enough good players, so Reese needs to do his part to re-stock the roster and get some more pass rushers. A beneficial salary cap situation should help in that department, assuming Reese can produce a quality free agent class and get more help in the draft.
But first things first. Most importantly, the Giants have their coach, and he looks to be the right guy.