The 2018 offseason started in a flurry for the New York Giants, as they rebuilt their coaching staff from the ground up. While there were a few hold-overs from the previous regime, the team has a number of new faces and names holding the assistant coaching positions.
After a hectic couple of months featuring the opening waves of free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine, and constant trips to university Pro Days, most of the assistant coaches are finally back in East Rutherford. Wednesday marked the media’s first chance to meet the new coaches and hear them speak as Giants. Predictably, much of the curiosity surrounded defensive coordinator James Bettcher and offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
After the Giants fielded one of the worst offenses in the NFL over the last two seasons, it falls to Shula and head coach Pat Shurmur to right the ship and return the Giants to return the offense to respectability.
Of course, the Giants’ fan base is certainly curious about what the offense will look like, particularly how Shula’s history in Carolina (with Cam Newton running a run-first offense and vertical passing game) will mesh with Shurmur’s West Coast Offense roots.
“Well,” he said “we’re still working through all that and I know you guys have talked to Coach about that and, basically, my vision is going to be Coach’s vision and I want to be an extension of what he does for the offense. And without getting into specifics, we want to use multiple personnel and make the defense defend the whole field and like a lot of other offenses, get the most out of the guys that you have, put them on the field and find out who can do what and put them in positions to make plays for us. So, obviously we want to be productive and we want to be balanced and be as unpredictable as we can be.”
Whatever the Giants’ new offensive scheme winds up looking like, they will have to find a way to get the ball to, Odell Beckham Jr.
“You know, God, he’s such an explosive player. We’ve watched what everyone else has seen what he can do on the field and I’m really looking forward to being able to work with a guy like that,” Shula said.
But, when asked for specifics on whether the offense will be built around Beckham or if he will be an interchangeable part in it, Shula deferred to Shurmur, saying “Well, again, as we still work through this with Coach Shurmur, I think that he’s obviously a vital part of our offense and when you have guys that can make plays and put points on the board, you want to try to feature them as much as you can.”
“But,” he added, “you also have to realize that you’ve got other components and hopefully some more as we more forward into the offseason and the draft, where we can put players on the field and we’re not going to be predictable. And if teams want to try to take Odell away, then we’ve got other answers, and good answers.”
Since the Giants have committed themselves to winning with Eli Manning this year, Shula was asked what might be different in the new offense for his veteran signal caller.
“I think there are going to be some things terminology-wise that are going to be different,” Shula said. “He’s been around and seen a lot and been exposed to a lot. So it’s just going to be a matter of he may have called things differently, but it’s really the same thing. Or maybe he’s been taught to read it a little bit differently, so little things like that that it’s just going to take some getting used to. That’s why it’s important once we get going that we’re really clear on exactly what we want to do and I know he’s going to pick things up well and lead us in that aspect as far as understanding the whole offense.”
But while Manning has to be a concern this year, the Giants also know that he is nearing the end of his NFL career. This year’s draft is being looked at as the likely source of the Giants’ next franchise QB, but the team already has a young quarterback on the roster in Davis Webb.
Asked about the sophomore from Cal, Shula admits that he hasn’t had as much chance to evaluate Webb as he would have liked.
“Yeah, it’s been a little bit harder for me to evaluate Davis,” he said. “Just getting here so late and then as soon as I got here, we’ve been at the Combine, we’ve been on the road. I’ve looked at him, I got a chance to meet him in the cafeteria and I’m looking forward to finding out what he’s about. And I think coming up next here in the next few weeks with our veteran minicamp will help us gather more information on him.”
When it comes to the draft, it is commonly held that the top two quarterbacks in the draft, are Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen out of UCLA. Shula has played a major role in the evaluation of both quarterbacks to this point, so he was asked about them.
He said, “I think both of those guys are going to be really good quarterbacks. I think they’re talented, they’re a little different in the way they go about things, but I think it’s an exciting time in the draft because of the guys that are coming out. It’s exciting to have an early pick, but hopefully this will be the last time we have an early pick.”
The team will host four of the top quarterback prospects next week, starting with Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield from Sunday into Monday. Mayfield will be followed by Darnold, Rosen, and Josh Allen throughout the week. Asked about what the Giants hope to learn about the quarterbacks in their valuable Top 30 visits, Shula said, “It’s about what you think. You just keep gathering information in every aspect. What’s their personality? What’s their demeanor like? You can talk a little football. We’ve seen them workout now. Just re-establish that relationship. Those guys have been pulled in every different direction by a lot of different teams from the end of the season, obviously, especially since the combine, physically and mentally. So it’s like anything else, when you’re looking and getting ready to invest a lot in somebody, you want to find out as much as you can in every aspect of their life.”