- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Giants don't do this, which is why it's so noteworthy. They don't grab for the hot new toy. They stick to their guns, believe in their program, stress the importance of continuity. ... Heck, let's just come right out and say it: They're boring.
So when the Giants announced Tuesday night that they'd hired 36-year-old Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, you were justified in perking up your ears and considering it at least a mild surprise.
The early favorite to replace the retired Kevin Gilbride had appeared to be Mike Sullivan, whom the Giants know well as a former Gilbride assistant with whom quarterback Eli Manning had found great success. Sullivan knows the offense and the terminology, and as long as the Giants remain committed to Tom Coughlin as their head coach (which they do), the in-character thing for them to do would have been to hire him and maintain the aforementioned continuity.
But another thing the Giants don't do is go 7-9 with one of the worst offenses in the league -- at least not since Coughlin's been there. So after they did just that in 2013, there was a sense around the building that a somewhat dramatic change might be welcomed. Team owner John Mara has made no secret, in his public comments since the season ended, that he believes the offense to be "broken" and that something different from Gilbride would be welcomed. Manning hasn't said anything either way, but there's a sense around the team that he'd welcome something fresh and new after 10 years running the same system. And for all of Coughlin's belief in sticking to his program, he is a man who has shown a willingness and ability to make major changes when the writing is on the wall.
So here's McAdoo, whose offensive coaching pedigree doesn't look much like that of a Coughlin/Gilbride guy. McAdoo has worked under Mike McCarthy for the past nine years -- in 2005 when McCarthy was the 49ers' offensive coordinator and for the last eight years in Green Bay with McCarthy as the head coach. While Coughlin is an admirer of McCarthy's schemes and playcalling, there are stark differences between the Packers' system and the Giants' system. McCarthy's offense is basically a West Coast offense with some zone blocking principles sprinkled in, which also backs the comparisons you may be hearing between McAdoo and a young Andy Reid. The Giants' offense under Coughlin and Gilbride has been an evolution of the run-and-shoot, though with a bit more reliance on the running game and the tight end than that offense had in its original incarnation decades ago.
"We're going to try to compromise the system with what we have here," Coughlin said in the team's official news release announcing the hire. "However, there will be change, and that change will be very positive and very well-received by our team and players. And if our players are scrambling around to learn a new system -- good. That's another fire in their rear end."
Assuming McAdoo is being brought in to run something along the lines of what they run in Green Bay, the difference should help Manning and could elevate wide receiver Victor Cruz to new heights. The principles of the Packers' offense rely on the ability of the quarterback to go through his progression quickly (a Manning strength) and deliver the ball accurately to playmakers in space. Receivers like Cruz and maybe Jerrel Jernigan (assuming the final three games of 2013 weren't a fluke) should benefit from that and be productive in such a system. The deep threats on the outside aren't irrelevant in this system, and Manning would still be asked to throw downfield when it's called for and available. But where under Gilbride they were reliant on the big play and the ability to stretch the field, McAdoo's background is with an offense that operates in a more controlled fashion near the line of scrimmage, with the explosiveness coming mainly after the catch.
The Packers also ran the ball effectively this year, though much of their playbook had to be scrapped due to the large number of games quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed due to injury. While rookie Eddie Lacy starred in his role as the feature back, the Packers' offense has excelled for years without a traditional workhorse running back, and it's possible the Giants could continue to mix-and-match at the position and have success under McAdoo.
Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit here, since we don't know what McAdoo plans to run. Maybe all this time he's been convinced McCarthy's got it all wrong and he has his own ideas about how to do it better. When a hire like this is made, we assume we know he'll stay true to his background. And when it's nine years' worth of background working for the same offensive coach, that assumption has a solid foundation. Odds are, if McAdoo is as smart and thoughtful as he's purported to be, his offense will evolve over time and take on a flair and substance he himself imparts upon it. And we'll all find out together what that is. There's no way to know how it will go. McAdoo has never before had a job where he was responsible for calling plays, as he will be now.
But as of right now, on the night McAdoo has been hired to run the Giants' offense, it's worth taking note that this is the Giants doing something they don't normally do. They're taking a chance on a fresh, new face with ideas that differ from theirs. They're dipping their staid blue toe into new waters, mainly out of an admission that what they were doing for so long had stopped working. It's a pretty big deal, and however it works out, it speaks to the state of the franchise right now. After 10 years of Manning and Coughlin, they don't believe their run is coming to an end, but they're at least admitting to themselves that they'll need to try something different if they want to be right.