Just like there is a long line of failed New York Giants’ offensive lines, there is a long line of failed offensive line coaches.
Since Pat Flaherty went out the door with Tom Coughlin after the 2015 season, Mike Solari, Hal Hunter, Marc Colombo, Dave DeGuglielmo and Rob Sale have all tried unsuccessfully to build the Giants’ offensive line into a functional unit.
All failed. Some for reasons out of their control, others just because they weren’t up to the task.
Now, it is Bobby Johnson’s turn to try and help the Giants build an offensive line that gives quarterback Daniel Jones and the rest of the offense an opportunity to be, at least, competent.
Johnson was asked on Thursday if he feels pressure to get this right.
“No,” Johnson said. “Do I feel responsibility? Yes, that’s different. Pressure? If I felt pressure then I wouldn’t do the job. If you’re afraid of the job then you shouldn’t take the job.
“I feel responsibility because I have a privilege. The team, the unit hasn’t performed to expectations. My responsibility is to get them to do that. There’s not pressure in that, it’s just what comes with the job.”
Johnson comes to the Giants after three seasons helping build the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line. Since 2010, Johnson has worked for the Bills twice, Jacksonville Jaguars (tight ends coach), Detroit Lions (tight end coach, assistant offensive line coach), Oakland Raiders (OL coach) and Indianapolis Colts (assistant OL coach).
“I’ve had the benefit of having some really good jobs,” Johnson said. “This is another really good job. I don’t feel the pressure, I just feel a responsibility to get them to perform to expectation, mostly the expectations of ownership. This is one of the blue-blood organizations.”
Johnson wants “smart, tough, dependable” players. How does he define those characteristics?
“I want guys that are tough and I don’t mean physically tough, I mean mentally tough. If you’re mentally tough you’ll be physically tough.”
“I don’t care what they got on the ACT. I don’t care what they got on the Wonderlic. Are they football smart? Can they process the information, can they solve problems?
“Am I getting the same thing out of them every day when they walk in the building? I don’t want to guess. No offense to anybody. I’m married with two daughters. I’ve got enough uncertainty on a daily basis. I don’t know which one I’m getting on any given day, and they don’t knwo what they’re getting when I walk in the door, either.
“When I come to work my players know what they’re getting from me and I want to know what I’m getting from them.”
There is one other thing he wants players to know — availability is important.
“Availability is another trait. If you’re available, you get reps, you get better. If you’re not available, you don’t get reps, you don’t get better,” Johnson said. “More importantly, if you’re not available other guys are getting your reps. That’s the cold, hard facts about our business.”
The fact that the Giants, thanks to drafting Evan Neal No. 7 overall, should now have young bookend tackles to build a line around with Neal on the right and Andrew Thomas on the left.
Johnson was asked about the idea of development vs. expectation for a top pick like Neal, and called it “a delicate balance.”
“Those kids already have enough pressure on ‘em. He was drafted in the top 10, he came to New York City. That alone is enough pressure to crush a player. My job is to develop him. My job is to help him exceed his expectations, and everyone else’s,” Johnson said.
“I will stunt his development if I try to exert any more pressure than is already there.”
Johnson said he has quickly learned that Neal “puts a lot of pressure on himself.”
“One of my keys with him right now is ‘hey, my job is to coach you.’ If you need any pressure applied let me do it. Don’t do it to yourself. You’re too young, you won’t know when to turn it off,” Johnson said. “Right now my job is to teach, my job is to coach, my job is to mentor. I don’t need to apply any more pressure than what’s there. He had enough pressure the day he was drafted.
“He wants to be really good.”
Johnson, GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll brought veteran Jon Feliciano from Buffalo to be their center. What does Johnson like about the player commonly nicknamed “Mongo?”
“He feels like he has something to prove every day,” Johnson said. “Not only as a player, as a man and I know that’s how he plays. He plays with an edge that you want your room to have.”
Johnson refers to Feliciano as “Dirtbag,” because “that’s how he plays.”
“Not in an illegal fashion, but he plays the game on the edge and you have to have that,” Johnson said. “Sometimes if you don’t have that in each guy you have to develop that kind of attitude in the room, and Jon plays that way. Mark Glowinski plays that way. I think we have other guys that will play that way.
“I think they’ll find from me as their coach if they don’t play that way, they will not play.”