Trivia time: who has coached under Tom Landry, Gene Stallings, George Seifert, Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Mike Holmgren, Jim Harbaugh and Mike McCarthy?
The answer is Mike Solari, who is not a household name but is the new offensive line coach for the Giants.
“Mike is well traveled,” said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. “His success speaks for itself. He is great at teaching the fundamentals and we are fortunate to have him.”
The play of the offensive line is never as appreciated as an Eli Manning spiral or an Odell Beckham Jr. highlight catch but many games are won or lost in the trenches.
With the Chiefs, Solari’s unit made holes for Greg Hill, Marcus Allen, Donnell Bennett and Kimble Anders as Kansas City’s ball control offense won 13 games in 1997. In 2003, his line made holes for Priest Holmes and blocked for Trent Green as Kansas City won 13 games again. With the 49ers, his blockers led the way for running back Frank Gore in a traditional offense and then really caused problems for defenses when Colin Kaepernick became the starting QB and ran the read-option.
Tackle Marshall Newhouse, who is entering his seventh year in the NFL and his second with the Giants, spoke about what makes Solari so successful.
“He has been excellent, just great energy, he is a teacher first, very detail oriented and just a great balance,” Newhouse said. “He definitely knows when to pat you on the back and be like, ‘Hey, I want you to recognize that was genuinely good and that is what I want to see more of.’ Then there are times when he says, ‘Hey, I need you to pick it up and this is what you can do differently.’ He will give you evidence. He will show you on film, he will give you an example and that is appreciated as a vet. I don’t have everything figured out, I am always trying to learn, I’m always trying to get better and my ears are open, my mind is open, so I am very receptive and appreciative of what he has brought so far.”
Despite whatever problems the Giants may have had in the last dozen years, the protection of Eli Manning is rarely one. That’s why he has played in 183 consecutive regular season games, third all-time only behind his brother and Brett Favre.
The Giants have enough running backs that if they all can remain relatively healthy during the season, the rushers by committee can do a lot of damage behind a strong offensive line. Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Bobby Rainey, Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings will look to rack up the yards and give a rest to Manning and the defense.
The Giants have focused on its line in recent years as Justin Pugh, Ereck Flowers and Weston Richburg have all been high picks.
Guidance from Solari can help them come into their own this season. Again, the guys on the offensive line don’t get the glory, but they need to be productive if the Giants plan on winning the NFC East.