Amidst all the storylines surrounding the New York Giants training camp this year, one has gone remarkably under-reported. It isn't an injury, an addition, or a schematic change.
It has been a reunion.
And no, not the reunion between Steve Spagnuolo and the Giants. I'm talking about the reunion between quarterbacks' coach Mike Sullivan and quarterback Eli Manning.
When the Giants rebuilt their offensive coaching staff after parting ways with Kevin Gilbride, they hired Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf to help Ben McAdoo fix Eli's broken mechanics. They did an outstanding job, and the result was Manning's most efficient year to date. However when an the opportunity to become a coordinator again arose in Nebraska, Langsdorf left to go back to college.
The open position was filled by Mike Sullivan. Sullivan had last been seen around Giants-land when he interviewed for the offensive coordinator position after Gilbride retried, but he was also Eli's quarterbacks coach during the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2011. That season Sullivan established a great rapport with Eli as the two worked to clear up the issues that caused Eli to lead the league in interceptions in 2010.
Coming from Kevin Gilbride's "Run 'N Shoot" based offense, there was some trepidation as to how Sullivan would embrace McAdoo's West Coast based offense. As it turns out, that hasn't been an issue.
"It has been exhilarating. I just can’t say enough about working with Ben McAdoo, what a detail-oriented, great teacher, very comfortable relationship and it is exciting. There [are] so many concepts about this scheme and I think Eli has really bought in and it has been a lot of fun to work with him. We didn’t really have to break through any of those barriers as far as establishing who we are and what we are about. We have a little history together so that has made it a lot easier so it has been a lot of fun."
After the 2011 season, Sullivan left the GIants' coaching staff to become the offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay under Greg Schiano. His stint as an offensive coordinator has given him some new perspective on the job McAdoo has done.
"You know, it is interesting to see when you have the perspective of the entire operation: the run game, the pass game, the protections. I certainly can appreciate the responsibility and the pressure that Ben is under and having gone through that, I kind of try and find different areas and ways to make his job easier, to try to have a perspective of some of the bigger picture things, of lessons I learned and mistakes that I made, things that worked well and just to focus on what can I do, especially from the quarterback's standpoint, to help him to be at his best so it helps the rest of the offense flow smoothly."
Part of the talk leading into the 2014 season was Manning's goal of completing 70 percent of his passes. Though many jokes were made on the subject, Eli thrived in the new system and played much more efficiently than many would have believed. This year, Eli has not backed off that goal, and both he and Sullivan have been working to further refine Eli's mechanics.
"It always starts with the footwork but I think it is just really having the reads, having the concepts become second nature and having that level of comfort and confidence that the player is going to be where we want them to be. That he is going to trust his feet, as we like to say, in terms of the timing of the system and nothing beats experience. There are no shortcuts, there is no way to kind of go around that and you've got a true professional like Eli who really buys into doing all the little things that really makes it easier to improve."
He later added:
"Eli has always been very goal-oriented. He has always been someone that has had high expectations for himself and I would say this, he is certainly going to do everything and has been and will continue to do everything possible to achieve those goals that are going to help us win. I think that it comes down to however many passes we need to win, that is what we are going to want to complete. However many big plays or touchdowns or adjustments in the run game or protections or whatever needs to be done, he is going to do. I don't know if there is any set number or those certain indicators that help you win. We all know that if you protect the football, if you are able to have a certain amount of yards you are able to rush for or efficiency on third down or red zone or QB rating, those are all objectives but ultimately it just comes down to winning and I think that is all that really Eli cares about. In fact, I know that is all he cares about. "