New York Giants: Mike Pope

One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle will play for Jerry Rice's team Sunday in what could be the final Pro Bowl ever. Rolle was "assigned" to Team Rice in Wednesday night's Pro Bowl draft, which I think means he was the only safety left after all others were picked and Rice's team needed a safety. I think that's what it means, but I didn't stay up for the whole thing and I didn't see Rolle get picked. Kevin Seifert reviewed the first-ever Pro Bowl draft here, and I agree with him. It was something of a tough watch.

Anyway, the "starting" safeties for Team Rice are San Francisco's Eric Reid and Buffalo's Jairus Byrd, with Rolle on the bench behind them. If Rolle intercepts a pass, it'll be from one of the Team Deion Sanders quarterbacks -- Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or Nick Foles. Rolle is, of course, the only Giants player in this year's Pro Bowl.

In Giants news closer to home, the team named former Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson as its new running backs coach. Don't get caught up in titles. A coach is a coach is a coach, and if this is a guy the Giants like, he should have no trouble coaching running backs instead of quarterbacks. Now, the Giants just need to get him some running backs to coach. One spot remains open on the coaching staff now, and it's the tight ends coach position vacated last week by the firing of Mike Pope, who joined the Dallas Cowboys' staff Wednesday in the same role.

Giants name Craig Johnson RB coach

January, 22, 2014
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The New York Giants' plan to overhaul their offensive coaching staff was apparently to hire as many quarterbacks coaches from the NFC North as possible. The Giants announced Wednesday that they have hired Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson to be their new running backs coach. Last week, of course, they hired Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator.

Johnson replaces Jerald Ingram, who was one of two offensive assistants let go last week after McAdoo was hired. He's been the Vikings' quarterbacks coach for three years and held the same position with the Tennessee Titans for 10 years prior to that.

“This is a veteran coach that has coached some great players, like Steve McNair,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in the team's official release announcing the move. “He’s been around a while and has experience as a quarterbacks coach, as a running backs coach and he’s been a coordinator in college.”

One vacancy remains on the Giants' coaching staff, and it's the tight ends coach position vacated when the team let go of longtime assistant Mike Pope, who is discussing the same position with the Dallas Cowboys.
Let's see. Lots of little notes today ...

Giants right tackle Justin Pugh tweeted that he had surgery on his thumb and that it went well. The weeks that follow an NFL season are littered with "cleanup" surgeries on things that weren't serious enough to keep these guys from playing but may as well get fixed while there's time before next season. The number of these procedures, and the extent to which they fly under the radar, remind us just how brutal is this game these guys play.

Calvin Watkins writes that the Dallas Cowboys are interested in Mike Pope for their vacant tight ends coach position. The Giants fired Pope, who's put in a total of 23 years on their staff, last week and he's interested in continuing his career. Could he do it as a member of former Giant Jason Garrett's staff in Dallas? Why not?

Giants safety Antrel Rolle was named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Seattle's Earl Thomas, who can't play because he'll be preparing for the Super Bowl. So if you want to watch the Pro Bowl on Sunday night, there's now one Giants player in it.

John Mara says he and Tom Coughlin haven't talked yet about extending Coughlin's contract beyond 2014, but that they plan to.

I wrote this column on Eli Manning's brother, who doesn't have to win this Super Bowl in order to be the best quarterback of all time. Not Giants-related, but if you need a Super Bowl fix, there you go.

Oh, and NJ.com's Jordan Raanan says it's not going to be very easy for the Giants to find offensive line help in this year's draft. Which is obviously rotten news if you're the Giants, who need offensive line help in the very worst way.

Mara: No Coughlin contract talks yet

January, 20, 2014
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New York Giants owner John Mara appeared on Mike Lupica's ESPN radio show Monday on 98.7 FM in New York. The link to the interview is here, and while the bulk of it is devoted to Mara's continued celebration of the indefensible decision to hold the Super Bowl in New Jersey, there are a couple of Giants topics addressed starting around the 8:30 mark.

Mara said the team hasn't yet had discussions with coach Tom Coughlin about extending his contract beyond 2014. The Giants have a longstanding policy of not allowing their head coach to enter the final season of his contract as a lame duck, but Mara indicated on the day after the season that they could change that.

"In terms of Tom’s future, we haven’t even had that discussion yet," Mara said on Lupica's show Monday. "He’s obviously going to be our coach here next year and hopefully for longer than that, but we haven’t sat down to even talk about that yet. I think he’s just focused on getting the team ready for next year, and sometime in the future we will sit down and talk about that."

Meantime, Mara said he's happy that the team decided to make changes to the offensive coaching staff. After longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride did the team a favor by retiring before they had to decide to fire him, they hired 36-year-old Packers assistant Ben McAdoo for his first offensive coordinator job at any level and let go of longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram.

"There are times where you just have to do that, because things were just not working for us, particularly on offense," Mara said. "So I’m glad that we are making some changes. We need to move forward and we need to do things a little bit differently around here."

That appears to be the plan on offense. Mara went on to say that he believes there's enough talent on the team to contend and make the playoffs in 2014, which everybody in the league believes and should believe about their team. But as he also said, the Giants have a great deal of work to do in the draft and in free agency before we know that their 2014 will even look like.
It feels obvious to say that a new offensive coordinator is going to be in charge of the offense. But if the first act of the New York Giants' new offensive coordinator is to fire tight ends coach Mike Pope, that tells you the new guy is in charge of the offense. Within a matter of hours of hiring former Packers assistant coach Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, the Giants announced Wednesday that Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram had been let go.

Pope has been a Giants coach long enough to have his name on all four of the franchise's Lombardi trophies. If he's not safe, then no one is. He's the only coach Tom Coughlin retained from the staff that was in place when Coughlin became the team's head coach in 2004. In recent seasons, the Giants have cited Pope's abilities as a reason they feel confident turning over the starting tight end spot every year with the most cost-effective alternative. The organization loves the guy.

So it seems clear that McAdoo has other ideas about who should fill that role on his staff, and that Coughlin is allowing his new coordinator to bring in certain of his own people, as he should. It's actually a bit surprising that more offensive assistants weren't let go, to be honest, but it's possible that McAdoo only asked for two spots to fill on his own or that Coughlin insisted others be kept. Regardless, the removal of Pope clearly indicates that McAdoo will wield a measure of standard offensive-coordinator power in spite of being the new guy in an organization that doesn't always welcome change.

The big question about McAdoo is whether he can actually run an offense, because he never has. He's never been a coordinator and never called plays. Obviously, the Giants think enough of his talents that they believe he'll be able to pull it off. And given the number of interviews McAdoo had and was planning to have before the Giants hired him Tuesday night, they're not the only ones who believe that. Making sure everyone knows he's the man clearly in charge of the offense is a good way to show support of and belief in your new coach, and the Giants are wise to do that. Allowing him to make a change as significant as removing Pope sends that message, loud and clear.

TEs coach on Bennett, Pascoe, Robinson

August, 8, 2012
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Tight ends coach Mike Pope was not aware that Martellus Bennett had referred to himself as a "Black Unicorn" earlier in training camp.

"I don't know anything about the unicorn business," Pope quipped, drawing laughter from the media gathered around him.

But Pope does know a thing or two about tight ends. The highly respected coach of 30 years watched Bennett contribute as a backup to perennial Pro Bowler Jason Witten for four seasons in Dallas. When Bennett signed with the Giants, Pope told him he had a chance to move out of Witten's shadow, to not be "Jason Witten Jr."

"He made a lot of plays for [Dallas], he's a good blocker. He's a huge, big, powerful man and they did use him in more secondary pass games roles," Pope said. "He did catch some screens and do some things like that, but he didn't play a tremendous numbers of snaps for them. ... Bennett has the opportunity to not be somebody's younger brother and he can move into that tight end role."

Bennett is second on the depth chart behind starter Bear Pascoe as he learns the offense. Pope said Bennett will play more early in the preseason because the team uses a lot of two-tight-end sets.

"He understands very quickly the concept, but you have to translate into our verbiage. And that's probably been the thing that slowed him down," Pope said. "It's hard to evaluate him until they know exactly what they're doing and they can play at the speed of the game."

More from Pope:

• He said Pascoe has an opportunity to follow the path Jake Ballard took from obscurity to starter last season. "A year ago at this time we didn't know any more about Jake Ballard than we really know about Bear Pascoe in that role right now. If Bear can do what Jake was able to do and be a good player at the point of attack and be someone that the quarterback can trust and have chemistry with, then anything can happen."

• Fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson, dubbed the "J.P.P of tight ends" by general manager Jerry Reese has been at a disadvantage at camp for a few reasons, Pope said. Robinson's class at Cincinnati didn't graduate until late June so he missed almost all of the team's spring work except for the minicamp. Robinson also played in a wide-open college offense, so his blocking is still a work in progress.

"Here at our place you have to be a blocker first and then you grow into the passing game. If you think back to all the players that we've had here that have done well, that's been the way we have developed them, so he has to do that," Pope said. "You can see the athleticism; if you watch him in the one-on-one things against the defensive players he's very athletic. He does have a large number of, not flaws, but areas that he hasn't had any experience in."

Martellus Bennett: 'I'm not fat'

June, 4, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Giants tight end Martellus Bennett held court with reporters -- with his shirt off -- following Monday's OTA, to dispel the notion that he is overweight.

"Just put on a lot of muscle this summer," Bennett said. "Been working out since January. Faster, stronger, jump higher, run longer, great condition -- every conditioning test we had, I aced."

"Just been beasting out all summer," Bennett added. "What y'all should be writing about is how much of a freak Martellus turned himself into."

Bennett has been sidelined of late with a hamstring injury, but he was in the news late last week when tight ends coach Mike Pope commented on Bennett's weight. "He weighed in at 291 pounds last week," Pope said. "So I think that is probably a little too big for his legs to carry."

Bennett admitted Monday that he had heard all the talk about his weight. "I was just like, that's some bull----, because I'm not fat or out of shape," Bennett said.

"I feel like physically I've always been one of the top athletes in this position, and I'm probably one of the top five strongest guys on this team right now," he added. "I've been working on routes, working on everything since January 1 -- I never really took a day off. So my thing was just to be in the best physical shape. ... In this part of the offseason I'm in way better shape than I've ever been since I've been in the NFL, and I feel the best I've ever felt."

Bennett could play a key role for the Giants this coming season, after signing a one-year, $2.5 million free-agent deal in the offseason. The 25-year-old had 85 catches in four seasons with the Cowboys while backing up Jason Witten, but should get more of an opportunity with the Giants, thanks to the injuries to Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum.

"It'll get there," head coach Tom Coughlin said, when asked about Bennett and his weight. "He's a guy that's obviously got the size to carry whatever weight we would want him to carry. He claims that he's made very good strides in the weight room, and he has.

"He played in the 270s last year, so we'll get that under control."

Bennett is hoping to be able to participate in the Giants' veteran minicamp next week. "I just pulled my hamstring 'cause I overworked myself," Bennett said, "'cause I was squatting 450 [pounds] and then I went out there and ran routes."

"My body fat percent is like 13 [percent] -- by the time the season comes I’ll be at nine percent body fat," Bennett added. "I got measured the other day, which I always do -- get sexy for getting these suits for the summer. My biceps are like three inches bigger than they were last fall. I mean, I just been getting rocked up."

Sounds like Bennett is someone Giants fans (and beat writers) are really going to enjoy.

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