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Big Blue View mailbag: Coaching styles, writer backgrounds, more

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The mail’s here!

New York: Coronavirus Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

With NFL training camps — hopefully — right around the corner let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and see what New York Giants questions we can answer.

Ryan Perry asks: This is probably a silly thing to be excited about, but after the Giant’s last two head coaches I am excited that there is no chance whatsoever of Joe Judge calling plays on offense or defense. Feels like I can breathe a partial sigh of relief (partial because of this dang mask I’m wearing). Any thoughts?

Ed says: Ryan, I don’t think it’s silly. There are all sorts of successful coaches — ones who run the offense and let others handle the defense, ones who run the defense and let others call the offense, guys who have been NFL assistants, guys who were college head coaches. There is no “one size fits all” approach to what an NFL head coach is supposed to look like or how he’s supposed to run his team.

Still, I have always been partial to the CEO type head coach. I like the Tom Coughlin style head coach. That’s not because of personality, it’s because of coaching style. He ran the team, not the offense or the defense. Others may have established the schemes and called the plays, but they did it within the framework of what Coughlin wanted. He wasn’t the boss of just one side of the ball. He was in charge of everything, and everyone knew it.

Some guys, like Andy Reid, can run one side of the ball while still maintaining relationships with everyone on a roster and being able to handle all of the fast-moving decisions that need to be made on a game day. Some guys, like Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, weren’t able to do that. For McAdoo, it was relationships. For Shurmur, it was really game day decision-making.

I just prefer the CEO type head coach who can communicate what he wants to coordinators, but who is also removed enough to be able to see the big picture and to think through without the distraction of play calling all of the things that are happening while a game is in progress.


John M. Scott asks: There’s a lot of arguments about which side Andrew Thomas should play, but I haven’t heard any discussions on how this relates to the guard positions. Let’s assume that Hernandez stays at LG, and Zeitler stays at RG. Zeitler and Solder are by far the most experienced players on the line with the most knowledge to share. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep Hernandez paired with Solder, and let Thomas learn next to Zeitler, to give each of these young linemen the best opportunity for growth?

Ed says: John, it’s an interesting way to look at the situation. I’m not sure in the it should be the deciding factor, but it is likely a consideration. Start with this — Nate Solder and Will Hernandez have already played side-by-side for two seasons. That means there should be communication and trust already built. Also, would you rather have Andrew Thomas play next to a veteran leader and possible mentor like Kevin Zeitler as a rookie, or play next to Hernandez, who didn’t have a great season in 2019 and can’t fill that mentor role?

So, yes, I think your reasoning is sound.


John McGruther asks: There’s something I often wonder about when reading the articles on Big Blue View: how do Chris, Nick and Mark know so much about the technicalities of football - have they been players or coaches themselves? If so, it would be interesting to know their positions / teams.

Ed says: Great question, John ... I’m going to turn the floor over to Mark Schofield, Chris Pflum and Nick Falato and let them tell you their stories. You will notice one common denominator.

Mark Schofield: “Thanks for asking! I started playing the game when I was nine, and played all the way through college. My first year playing the sport I was a running back, but I switched to quarterback because having read books like Ken Anderson’s “The Art of Quarterbacking,” it’s what I wanted to do. I played the position through high school and through four years of college, where as I’ve often said I was the worst quarterback in all of college football from 1996-1999. Let’s face it, as a backup QB at a Division 3 School (Wesleyan University) you roll with the title.

“Since then, however, I’ve been studying the game first as a fan, then later as an analyst. I went through the “Scouting Academy” program done by Dan Hatman, former NFL scout with teams like the Giants, and that also helped expand my knowledge of the game.”

Chris Pflum: “I suspect that I’m going to be the black sheep here. I never actually played organized football — thanks to some bad advice at just the wrong age, I didn’t even know football was an option for me until my senior year of high school, and by that point nature made it clear that I just wouldn’t be built for the game. But I did play plenty of disorganized games and I was usually a running back and linebacker in those cases.

As for how I got here, I didn’t study journalism or media either. My background is in history and physics, and I applied those research skills to the game of football to educate myself on the nuts and bolts. I read as much as I could, and figured out which experts knew what they’re talking about (spoilers: one of them is ABSOLUTELY Mark), and paid attention. Then I finally made the commitment to enroll in the Scouting Academy to polish my skills and learn how to study the game like a pro.

I suppose I’m a testament to just how much information is out there if you’re willing to look.”

Nick Falato: “Thank you for asking John! I played CB and OLB in high school on defense, and TE/WR on offense. I ended up joining the Marines after high school, so I didn’t get the chance to play D-III which would have been my only opportunity. After the Marines, I started studying the game beyond just being a player. I attended the Scouting Academy, went to FDU where I became a coach for two years, and started reading countless books about different football strategies. I’ve also played in several unorganized adult tackle football leagues (many interesting injuries were suffered there) and even some flag football leagues over the last 8 years. It’s been a lot of fun and football has always been a huge passion of mine; I have learned so much over the last 8 years, but there’s always so much more to learn with this sport ... that’s one of my favorite aspects of football.”


Wally Cirafesi asks: Doesn’t it seem reasonable that all the players, coaches and personnel in an NFL facility could be tested daily for the virus. If you have about 70 players, and 50-60 other people in the building that would work out to approximately 20,000 tests to cover every day for 5 months. Multiple millions of tests are becoming available.

Ed says: Every day? Sorry, Wally, that does not seem reasonable. First of all, you’re talking about a lot more people than you think. You’re talking about 90 players, a couple dozen coaches, and I couldn’t even tell you how many other staffers are in an NFL building. You’ve got security, training, personnel, public relations, team website, kitchen, cleaning, management, community relations, office staff, sometimes media members. Probably more that I haven’t even thought of. You’re talking hundreds of people involved in the day-to-day, though in the current environment some are likely working from home.

When I talked to Dr. Jill Weatherhead and Dr. Zach Binney for the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast recently they both spoke eloquently about the responsibility professional sports leagues and teams have to keep their communities safe.

If a sports team is using up thousands and thousands of tests simply because they have the resources to pay for them and people in their communities who think they might be sick can’t find a test or are being told by doctors not to bother going to get one, have to wait in endless lines if they can find one, or have to wait a week to get their results, how is that being a responsible community member?


Pete Vuolo asks: In 2010 Big Blue View ran a series which you authored called Giants by Numbers discussing who the best Giants players of all time who wore a particular number. While it would be interesting to have this list updated in 2020 I am particularly interested in your thoughts on three numbers. In 2010 you had discussed No. 10 and had Brad Van Pelt, Fran Tarkington and Eli Manning all considered. If you were to re-assess today would you have Eli the clear leader at No. 10? In 2010 you had for No. 8 Matt Bryant. Do you believe that Daniel Jones showed enough in 2019 to take the top spot at No. 8 away from the placekicker? And finally, No. 13. In 2010 you had Dave Jennings in the top spot. Today would you keep Dave Jennings at the top No. 13 spot or would you change to Odell Beckham Jr.?

Ed says: Pete, you’ve been around for a while if you remember. That. Let’ go one at a time.

  • No. 10 is obviously Manning at this time. Two Super Bowl MVPs. Longest-tenured Giant of all-time. A plethora of franchise passing records. Potentially a Hall of Famer. Easy choice.
  • No. 8 I can’t give to Daniel Jones after one season. It’s a weird number given to Bryant after just two seasons and, to be honest, I’d really like to go back and research the history of the number with the Giants again — which I have not. But, if Bryant is the best No. 8 in franchise history it shouldn’t be long before Jones takes that spot.
  • No. 13 I am still giving to Jennings. I know — punter vs. flashy superstar wide receiver. But, Jennings had 11 years representing the franchise, with two All-Pro honors and four Pro Bowl seasons. Beckham had five controversial years with three Pro Bowl appearances and no All-Pro honors. I will acknowledge that I’ve never been a big Beckham fan, but I believe Jennings still deserves this one.

Ralph Gonzalez asks: I predict that Thomas WILL be starting LT.

I have not read anywhere the opinion that the probability of Nate Solder sitting out the season is almost 100% certain. I cant see him risking passing the infection to his sick child.

So, my question would be:

Who is gonna be our starting RT? I really believe Matt Peart or Nick Gates, if he doesn’t win the center job, would be the winner. Fleming is too valuable as a swing tackle.

What do you think?

Ed says: Ralph, as of now opt out is not an option. The NFL proposed it, but as of this writing it has not been agreed to. If there is an opt out, no one knows if Nate Solder will take it. I think he very well might, but that’s a guess. We have not had the opportunity to ask him.

Every expert I have talked to — and that is several — believes that if Solder is playing he should be the left tackle and Andrew Thomas should be the right tackle. Especially in such a weird year with such limited practice. Thomas has 15 games of experience on the right — recent experience — and that matters. Asking Solder to try to learn right tackle in a handful of practices hardly seems fair.

What happens if Solder doesn’t play? I really don’t know, but if it were me Thomas would go to left tackle and either Cam Fleming or Nick Gates would be the right tackle. Matt Peart? Every analyst I have talked to, including his head coach at Connecticut, has said that it would be a bad idea to push him into the starting lineup this season. I don’t think he would be an option unless there were no other legitimate choice.