We are about to learn a great deal about New York Giants’ rookie head coach Ben McAdoo.
The Giants are 4-3 and, while the road is filled with sink holes, there is the possibility of carving a path to the playoffs. The Giants, though, are a flawed team. They have myriad issues on an under-performing offense, and still need to prove they can find a consistent pass rush on defense.
There are potential solutions at hand to many of those problems, things that — at least — scream to be tried. Whether they succeed or fail, will McAdoo show the flexibility to at least try to make some alterations to the Giants over the final nine games?
- Will he change up the ridiculous over-reliance on “11” personnel, perhaps giving opposing defenses more to think about and giving the Giants increased options for going deeper into the playbook?
- Will he be willing to re-evaluate who is, and isn’t, playing? He has hinted at that, but let’s see him prove it. Let’s see him get rookies like Jerell Adams, Paul Perkins and Roger Lewis more involved in the offense. Let’s see if he is willing to dust off running back Orleans Darkwa.
- Let’s see if he is willing to expand the playbook, where the Giants have relied on only a couple of running plays, and an elementary passing game.
- Let’s see if he might even be willing to surrender the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. There is a clear case to be made that McAdoo has not handled the sideline well this season, that too many things are not getting his attention because he is focused on the play sheet. Whether that is the sideline antics of Odell Beckham Jr., players running on the field and getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, erratic time management or seeming to spend zero time dealing with the defense, they are legitimate questions.
McAdoo is stubborn.
If you haven’t figured that out yet, you really have not been paying attention.
He believes he has the right plan. He believes the Giants practice the right way and that the right messages are being delivered. He believes, quite obviously, that the “11” personnel group gives the Giants the best chance. and that he can best impact games by calling the plays himself. He believes, as he said last week, that the Giants have enough scheme in their offense.
Yet, the best coaches — the best people at anything in life, really — are those who are confident enough to be flexible. Those who are willing to self-evaluate, to look at a plan or a pre-conceived notion and realize that there comes a time when there is a big enough body of evidence that changes need to be made.
The best in the business at this is New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots have Tom Brady, sure, but they change their approach from season to season. Really from week to week. No one is better at analyzing an opponent and adjusting what his team does to counter that than Belichick.
We haven’t seen that yet from McAdoo.
What we have seen is that he believes in his plan. He believes that he is doing the right thing. He believes that if he and the Giants just keep doing it, and get better at it, that it will work eventually. And it has worked well enough that the Giants have won more games than they have lost.
Maybe he will be right if that’s the approach he takes. Give McAdoo credit for having a plan, for being organized, for knowing what he wants and for seemingly having the support of the players in the locker room. Those things served him well in preparing an NFL team on his own for the first time.
What might serve him best, and tell us what kind of future McAdoo has as an NFL head coach, is if he shows some flexibility. In recent days we have discussed a wide variety of changes the Giants could make. I honestly don’t know which ones are right, which are wrong, which will work, which won’t. No one does because we haven’t seen them.
What we know is this.
The Giants cannot continue to score 19.0 points per game, more than a touchdown less than last season, if they hope to make a playoff run. They cannot continue to turn the ball over an average twice per game. They have to run the ball better. They can’t continue to ask their defense to spend more time on the field than any other defense in the league. They have to manage the clock and the sideline better, and have fewer instances of the undisciplined “bad football” McAdoo sometimes refers to.
The Giants are in a position to make a second half of the season run. For me, playoffs or no playoffs is not necessarily the determining factor in judging McAdoo’s rookie season and perhaps his long-term viability as a head coach.
I want to see signs that McAdoo is willing to grow, to adapt. I want to see signs that the Giants recognize their weaknesses, that they recognize their tendencies and that they are willing to make adjustments — even slight ones — to address them.
Whether they end their playoff drought this season or not, if we see efforts to do those things from a McAdoo-led Giants team that will be an encouraging sign. McAdoo is, after all, a first time head coach and a learning curve should be expected.
Beginning next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, let’s hope McAdoo shows us he has learned some things from his first seven games.