Throughout a coaching career that has seen him work for three college teams and five NFL teams since 2000, Mike Groh’s authentic, game worn Lawrence Taylor jersey stayed in moth balls, hanging in the back of a closet.
Now that he works for a sixth team, Taylor’s New York Giants, a team his father coached for and that he rooted for as a kid, that jersey is no longer in hiding.
“Had it hanging up in my closet all those years,” said Groh, now wide receivers coach for the Giants. “Now I’ve got it out.”
Mike’s father, Al Groh, was Giants linebackers coach in 1989 and 1990, and defensive coordinator in 1991. The Giants won a Super Bowl during that time, beating the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, in the 1991 game. Those years coincided with Mike Groh’s junior and senior years of high school and his freshman year as a quarterback at Virginia.
“I was around. Worked training camp, was a ballboy in training camp, would clean the guys lockers, get their cars washed, carry their pads off, I was [Bill] Belichick’s ballboy for all his ball drills, threw his defensive back drills,” Groh said last week after an OTA. “I got LT’s jersey when I was a kid, I got that hanging up in the office.”
Since he got into coaching, Groh said he has “absolutely” always hoped to land with the Giants.
“It’s the New York Giants. When I was a kid my dad was really in college football, but his connection with LT, with Lawrence, I just kinda became a Giants fan when I was a kid,” he said.
“They’ve always been my pro team.”
Groh has arrived with his dream team at a dark time in the franchise’s history. The Giants have lost double-digit games in five consecutive seasons. Brian Daboll is the team’s fifth head coach, including interim boss Steve Spagnuolo, since Tom Coughlin was let go after the 2015 season.
The Giants, per Stat Muse, have scored 30 or more points in a game just nine times since 2016. That makes them the only team in football not to have double-digit 30+-point games over that time span.
That’s why Daboll, a successful offensive coordinator is the head coach. It’s why Mike Kafka was brought from the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s why Groh, a former offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, and other experienced NFL coaches, now dot the Giants coaching staff.
“That’s why we’re here. We’re here to get it going in the right direction,” Groh said. “We’re excited about that opportunity and we’re confident in our ability to do that, but we know that it’s gonna be our process. We’ve just gotta come in here, roll up our sleeves and get to work every day.”
There are no guarantees, of course, but as a group they bring the promise of brighter days — and more points.
A new offense
“This system Dabes has brought here has been wildly successful at a number of different stops,” Groh said. ‘There’s some nuance to learning it, and our guys have really invested their personal time in learning it. But when they’ve been out here and been together we’ve gotten a lot out of the time.
“I’m excited about the group overall. A lot of talent in the [wide receiver] room. We’ve got guys that have position flex, have the mental flexibility to be able to move around and play different spots, which I think is one of the things that sets this system apart a little bit with the way that they utilize guys and move guys around and put them in different positions and motion and shift, different personnel groups, all those different kinds of things. The guys have really taken to it and immersed themselves not just in the building but when they leave the building investing their personal time in learning the ins and the outs of the offense.”
Two of the players critical to the success of the new offense the Giants are installing, are the young wide receivers the Giants selected in the past two drafts. Those players, of course, are 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney and 2022 second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson.
Toney, of course, is a divisive figure in the Giants fan base. A player with tantalizing talent and game-changing skills that can be used in multiple ways, but one who had a long list of injuries and other faux pas in 2021 that left a poor impression in the minds of many. His offseason arthroscopic knee surgery only deepened the idea that Toney is a disappointment.
“I love being around him,” Groh said of Toney. “Got a big smile, is excited to be here. Obviously, he’s got a lot of ability … think he can be even better than what he’s shown. We see a really good player, and he’s been a really good person and a good teammate. Excited to get him out there on the field.”
Groh said Toney has a fresh start.
“I would say this, not just with Kadarius, but with anybody. We’re starting fresh and it’s an opportunity for him to work with a new staff and for us to work with new guys,” Groh said. “He’s been terrific … excited about his skillset and what he brings offensively. Think he’ll be a great weapon and a great fit in this system. He’s been really terrific and done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Groh called the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Robinson, whose selection 43rd overall surprises many, a “unique” player.
“His skillset really fits in what we do here,” Groh said. “There’s a bunch of different ways to get open, different body types, shapes, sizes. As long as you can get that separation and you’ve got the ability to get open and present that to the quarterback you’ve got a chance to be really productive.”