In discussing ways to improve the New York Giants offense in 2017, some have become fixated on the idea that the Giants consider replacing offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. The topic came up this week during the latest edition of the “Big Blue Chat podcast with Pat Traina and I, so let’s discuss it.
Sullivan is a good coach, an experienced guy in his second tour with the Giants. He has a long-standing, solid working relationship with Eli Manning. It’s unfair to make him the fall guy for the struggles of the offense in 2016. He wasn’t calling the plays or devising the game plans. Head coach Ben McAdoo was doing those things. Sullivan was implementing what McAdoo wanted, and handling most of the in-game communication with Manning.
There is, however, a valid case to be made that Sullivan is not a natural fit for the coordinator job under McAdoo. Sullivan had been primarily a defensive coach until he came to the Giants in 2004, where he learned offense under Kevin Gilbride. After learning from Gilbride, Sullivan spent two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with mixed success.
Sullivan returned to the Giants as quarterbacks coach in 2015, McAdoo’s second season as offensive coordinator. That was really Sullivan’s first exposure to the West Coast-based scheme McAdoo employs.
So, it’s valid to wonder how much Sullivan can add in terms of new ideas or offensive wrinkles when everything he knows about the Giants’ current offense is what he learned from McAdoo.
It is also fair to point out that Sullivan was probably not the first choice for the job. There was plenty of speculation that Joe Philbin, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins and former offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers during part of McAdoo’s time there, would get that job.
Philbin ended up as offensive line and assistant head coach with the Indianapolis Colts. Sullivan ended up with the Giants’ coordinator job.
If not Sullivan, then who?
Removing Sullivan from the job without a clear plan for replacing him doesn’t seem like a smart idea. So, who would be a logical fit as the Giants’ next offensive coordinator if they were to move on?
The name I keep coming back to is Alex Van Pelt, currently the quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Why Van Pelt? Because of his connection to McAdoo in Green Bay, his experience with the offense the Giants run, and because a coordinator job seems to be the next logical move for him.
Van Pelt was offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 2009, taking over right before the beginning of the season. He has been in Green Bay since 2012, first as running backs coach and then as quarterbacks coach after McAdoo left for the Giants.
So, Van Pelt has an existing relationship with McAdoo, several seasons of having coached in the Green Bay/New York scheme and a year of play-calling experience. Van Pelt also has the endorsement of Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
"We’ve worked together for a few years now, and I just have a lot of respect for him as a coach, as a person, as a confidant. He’s a great game day manager, giving me exactly what I need and nothing more. ... He’s a great coach. There’s no reason why his name shouldn’t be about there for coordinator spots right now."
I’m not endorsing or recommending Van Pelt to replace Sullivan, just pointing out that he seems like a logical candidate should the Giants want to move in a new direction.
Your thoughts, Giants fans?