Last year at this time Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo was a babe in the woods so to speak, a fish out of water. He was just two months into taking over for Tom Coughlin, who had held the job for twelve seasons.
McAdoo had a clumsy beginning, showing up to his introductory presser dressed in an outdated suit that was several sizes too big for him. He then had the unenviable chore of dismissing several of Coughlin’s most trusted lieutenants and replacing them with with coaches that matched his philosophy.
The overall plan worked for the Giants. McAdoo led the Giants to an 11-5 season and their first postseason berth in four years. But there is a lot to be learned from his first year as the team’s head man.
“We kept a running list of things if we had to do them again we’d do better,” McAdoo told reporters this week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. “In the offseason alone, there were over 100 things. And we’re not talking scheme here, not talking offense, defense, special teams. We’re just talking as a program, things that can get better.”
They certainly can. The Giants’ defense experienced a complete turnaround from one of the NFL’s worst to one of its best but the offense took a nosedive. The Giants had trouble running the ball, scoring points and converting in the red zone.
The 38-13 postseason loss to the Packers in Green Bay also sticks in his craw, a bitter defeat that exposed many of the Giants’ weaknesses. McAdoo hopes it serves as a motivational tool for his team this season.
“That last game needs to drive us a little bit,” he said. “It can’t be everything, but it needs to be a big part of it. The more things you have to play for, the better you’re going to play. Hopefully that drives us.”
This offseason, the Giants have gone out and filled in some of the blanks they left open last season by signing a quality offensive lineman in D.J. Fluker, a red zone threat in Brandon Marshall and a blocking tight end/fullback in Rhett Ellison. However, there is more to do and McAdoo is intent on getting it all done in his second season on the job.
“My biggest concern is that we can’t be too big to do the little things that are going to make a difference like we did last year leading up to the season. The fundamentals, we need to go back to work there and take care of the little things.”
The Giants started to get back to those fundamentals last season, but never really got there all the way. He wants to close that circle this summer at training camp and get his club to the next level.
“There’s only one goal in this game,” he said. “It’s to put the trophy in the case, the ring on the finger, banner on the wall, picture on the team meeting room wall. I mean, that’s it. We want to win it. That’s why we’re in it. That’s it. There’s nothing else. That’s why we work the way we work.”
McAdoo had other things to say, adding that the door was still open for the Giants to sign RB Adrian Peterson, who is still a free agent.
“Never say never,” McAdoo said. “He’s a guy who’s a very talented player, and he has a chip on his shoulder,” McAdoo said. “And if he can stay healthy, he has a lot to offer.”
McAdoo also stirred some controversy by stating that recently signed backup quarterback Geno Smith could end up being Eli Manning’s successor.
“I don’t see why not,” McAdoo said. “I find it every exciting. A guy that has his skillset is hard to find. You can’t find guys out there that have that type of arm talent, the quick release, the throwing motion and the feet to go with it. And he’s a competitor. It’s exciting to be able to bring a guy in and work with a guy like that and see where you can take him.”
He was serious. Maybe he is right. Maybe the change of venue will bring out the best in Smith. McAdoo also was noncommittal on who would be calling the offensive plays this season and did not rule out the notion that Ereck Flowers could be the team’s left tackle again.
John Fennelly is veteran sportswriter and blogger who has covered New York sports for over two decades. He will be a featured NFL and MLB contributor this season for NY SportsDay.