As the 2014 season began to wind down, then first-year New York Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo began talking about "players, not plays." Meaning the offense was becoming less about a system and more about identifying what the players could or could not do, and making sure that play-makers got opportunities.
It was interesting that McAdoo returned to that theme on Saturday during a meeting with reporters following the second and final practice of Giants rookie mini-camp.
"We spent a lot of time (this offseason) on scheme and tying it into the personnel that we had and some of the new toys that we added. It is not a system anymore, it is our offense," McAdoo said. "That means it is tailored to the players we have in the room. It is about the players, not the plays. We tailored it. You put some stuff out in the storage shed that you may like, but you may not get to because it doesn't fit with who you are."
McAdoo did not want to spend a lot of time looking back at 2014, which saw the Giants finish 10th in the league in yards per game (367.2) and tied for 12th in points per game at 23.8. It was a season that saw Odell Beckham Jr. set franchise rookie records for receptions (91) and yards receiving (1,305) while winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. It was a year that saw Eli Manning complete a career-best 63.1 percent of his passes, reache 30 toudhdown passes for the second time in his career, throw just 14 interceptions and finish with a 92.1 passer rating, third-best of his career.
Considering that Beckham played just 12 games, Victor Cruz missed half the season, the offensive line was still in transition and the running game did not function well what the Giants accomplish pointed toward the possibility of better things to come.
"I usually don't think that way (looking back). There isn't a lot that I look back and I am real happy about. We didn't win enough ballgames. We don't like to spend a lot of time talking about that," McAdoo said. "We like to chase execution. I think the last six games we started to play the way that we wanted to play. We started to execute and produce the way we wanted to produce. The way we completed the ball and the number of plays in a game. We just have to continue to chase execution and start where we left off."
Where the Giants left off was averaging 29.2 points over their final six games after averaging 20.5 over the first 10. The Giants averaged 409 yards per game over those last six contests, racking up 500+ in each of their final two games. They averaged only 342 yards per game in the first 10 contests.
Thus, there is reason for optimism. Another year of comfort in the new offense for Manning. A year of experience for Beckham. Hopefully, health for Victor Cruz. An added year of development for Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell. A revamped offensive line that should include Georff Schwartz and first-round pick Ereck Flowers. The addition of play-making running back Shane Vereen.
McAdoo, though, seemed to bristle at the notion that the Giants could simply pick up offensively where they ended up last season.
"It is a loser's mentality to think you can come in here and not miss a beat and pick up where you left off," McAdoo said. "Any success in this league is earned. If you come walking in thinking you don't have to do any work and you can pick up where you left off and we can execute the way we were at the end of the season, that is a loser's mindset."
Here are a couple of the other topics McAdoo touched on.
What he hopes to see from Manning in his second season at the helm of a new offense.
"Usually when you put in changes or change the system or address fundamentals, it usually shows up in year two. I like the look in his eye. I am excited for what is on the plate this year."
On what Vereen can add to the offense.
"Vereen is a good player. He is a talented player. Unique skill set. He gets a lot of credit for what he does in the passing game. He is probably under-appreciated as a pass protector and as a runner. We are glad to have him."
On what he expects from Cruz.
"We are going to take the same approach on offense that we always do. We have a group of guys that we are going to go out and play with. We are pulling for Victor and we hope for the best. He certainly looks good moving around out there right now in rehab. We are going to let Victor take care of what he needs to take care of and come back when he is ready. When he is ready to come back, we will welcome him back."