It’s been 12 years since the Giants have found themselves in the position where the team is transitioning to a new head coach.
Of course, that’s quite an accomplishment—and it’d be even more impressive if the Tom Coughlin-era culminated in at least one last playoff birth. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
This year’s Giants’ injury-ridden roster was not talented enough to begin with, even in an embarrassingly lowly NFC East, but the 69-year-old Coughlin was the only one to pay for the team’s disappointing output in 2015. Coughlin was not fired, but given his club’s four-year absence from the postseason, it’s safe to assume that the Giants hierarchy gently shoved the veteran coach aside. Despite the letdown that was the Giants regular season, co-owner John Mara declined to give general manager Jerry Reese the pink slip for his years of lousy draft selections and repeated failures on the free agent side. At the end of the day, the miserable season was Coughlin’s cross to bear—and he did so with class, as you’d expect from a coach who has never once blamed anyone else for his team’s failures.
The Giants’ recent failures have been well documented, but Coughlin’s legacy is in tact, so much so that the Giants have decided to promote offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach. Coughlin may have not personally selected McAdoo to run his team’s offense two years ago, but as Coughlin’s deputy, you’d have to expect that he learned a thing or two about coaching from the man who restored pride to the Giants organization and, before that, showed guts by taking over the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and, four years later, had them one win away from the Super Bowl.
“It has been a privilege to work and learn under Coach Coughlin,” McAdoo said in a statement posted on the team’s website Thursday aftenroon. “I have been preparing for this moment my entire professional life, and without the guidance and support of many people, I would not be here right now.”
Fair or not, now it’s up to McAdoo to turn Big Blue around because Mara’s apparent support for Reese means he’s not willing to point the finger at the person most responsible for the team’s deficiencies.
At 38, McAdoo is young for a head coach. His appointment as offensive coordinator in 2014 was his first coordinator job after spending time in Green Bay as an offensive assistant. When he was hired, McAdoo was seen as a potential Coughlin successor because of the head coach’s advancing age, but his meteoric rise is remarkable. McAdoo is younger than Coughlin by three decades and has never been a head coach at any level.
Most importantly, McAdoo has the backing of star quarterback Eli Manning, who in his two years at the helm of McAdoo’s fast-paced, West Coast-style offense, has thrown 65 touchdowns compared to 28 interceptions, and statistically just had the best year of his career—throwing for career highs in passing yards (4,432) and touchdowns with 35. His second best year in terms of passing yards was in 2014, again under McAdoo. The year before McAdoo came along, Manning had thrown for only 18 TD’s and 27 interceptions. His QB rating in 2013 was a dismal 69.4. When this season ended, it was 93.6.
Manning himself admitted that having to run a new offense next season would not be ideal. At 35, Manning easily has four great years left. Forcing him to learn a new offense now would essentially be wasting a year of his career. Although he put up strong numbers in 2014, Manning needed nearly the entire season to master McAdoo’s system.
Turning the keys over to McAdoo is the right decision. The Giants brought in a half-dozen candidates to interview for the job but McAdoo was the perceived favorite the whole time. It also helped him that the rival Philadelphia Eagles reportedly expressed a strong desire to pry him away from the Giants.
The Giants are betting that McAdoo can translate his success as one of the premier offensive coordinators in the league to leading an entire team.
It’s a good bet, given the head coach he learned under and the quarterback in charge of his offense.
Although he’s employed in a league where yearly production is paramount, McAdoo should have time to grow as a coach. As the Giants have shown with Coughlin, they favor continuity over anything. When the Giants sign a coach, they hope he’ll be around for the long haul. McAdoo may very well be capable of parlaying his success as an assistant to the more demanding job of head coach, but without more help from Mara-approved Reese, there’s little that he, or any other head coach for that matter, can do on the field.