One of the more curious moves in the offseason saw Tom Coughlin forced out in New York after four straight years of missing the playoffs. But rather than a full housecleaning it was the two-time Super Bowl winner alone who took the bullets. General Manager Jerry Reese, architect of a wafer-thin roster, kept his job; so too did defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo despite the Giants ranking at or near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories.
And ascending to the big chair was offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo as the Giants reacted to McAdoo’s name being bandied about for other openings around the league.
Not that McAdoo’s promotion is without merit. After some initial struggles as McAdoo implemented his version of the West Coast offense in New York, the Giants’ attack started to come around. And quarterback Eli Manning has posted two of his most productive seasons in this system, throwing for 8,846 yards and 65 touchdowns the past two seasons; only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have thrown more touchdown passes in that span.
In fact, the hiring of McAdoo as the Giants’ head coach is all about the 35-year-old quarterback as New York looks to rise to the top of the eminently winnable NFC East and make one more Super Bowl run before Manning’s window closes.
Not surprisingly, Manning is on board with the decision.
“I think the Giants ownership made this decision on what’s best for the organization and best for the team,” Manning said after McAdoo was promoted. “I think Coach McAdoo has great leadership skills, and will do a great job being a head coach and leading us in the right direction. I enjoy this offense, I enjoy working with Coach McAdoo. I’m excited about that staying the same.”
McAdoo has never been a head coach at any level… but then prior to taking the Giants’ offensive coordinator gig he had never been an NFL play-caller and that’s worked out okay. Coming from Green Bay, McAdoo’s experience was rooted in the West Coast offense. In New York he wed concepts of that system with Coughlin’s run-first mentality and a more vertically attacking scheme to create what you’ve witnessed from the Giants over the past two seasons.
“It’s not a system any more, it’s our offense,” McAdoo said after the first year of its implementation. “That means it is tailored to the players we have in the room. It’s about the players, not the plays. We tailored it. You put some stuff out in the storage shed that you make like, but you may not get to because it doesn’t fit with who you are.”
The most important person in the room, of course, is Manning. After running the same scheme for the first decade of his career, Manning embraced McAdoo’s system and has seen his completion percentage rise the past two seasons. He’s also made fewer mistakes, throwing 28 interceptions the past two seasons after a career-high 27 the year before McAdoo arrived.
And McAdoo thinks Manning can get even better in this regard.
“We want to continue to work on taking care of the football better,” McAdoo said after being promoted. “14 interceptions (in 2015), we feel we can get that down a little bit, complete the ball a little bit better. (Eli) knows the offense inside and out now, and going forward with his third year in the offense, we expect things to really take off.”
“We’ve got to play a little bit better around Eli, too,” he added.
Much of Manning’s success can be attributed to having Odell Beckham Jr. to throw to, and that also remains unchanged. In fact, if OC Mike Sullivan—promoted from quarterbacks coach—incorporates any of his previous offense into McAdoo’s scheme it will likely be his willingness to depend on receivers winning one-on- one battles like he did when he called such plays for Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay. It’s a remnant of the Giants offense bound to linger as long as OBJ is in blue.
The Giants are thin at receiver after Beckham, but they can hope Victor Cruz gets healthy. If not, there’s always the draft and free agency… or just throwing a dozen times at OBJ.
McAdoo’s offense—along with the Giants’ lack of quality depth at receiver—has also helped tight end productivity. Over the past two seasons a pair of undrafted free agents—Larry Donnell and Will Tye—have combined for 11 touchdowns. Donnell’s injury threatens his NFL future, but Tye could have staying power in this offense—especially since the team has so many other holes to fill that addressing the tight end position is well down on the priority list.
Part of the reason the Giants’ offense has relied on tight ends in the red zone is a lack of success in the running game. The hope has to be that it was Tom Coughlin whom Andre Williams had compromising pictures of, and that Coughlin’s departure means less playing time for the least efficient back in the league. Several mocks have linked Ezekiel Elliott to the Giants, which would also go a long way towards improving the Giants’ running game. Either way, given the WCO leanings of McAdoo’s offense there should be a PPR role for Shane Vereen.
Ultimately the biggest changes in New York should come in the form of personnel—improving the offensive line, upgrading in the backfield and at complementary receiver—as opposed to any drastic adjustments to the offensive scheme. We have a pretty good idea of what McAdoo wants to accomplish, and with only himself to answer to regarding his play-calling he can be that much more aggressive. Whether better fantasy results follow, however, rest primarily on who’ll be lining up alongside Eli and OBJ.