NFL Nation: John Mara

Former New York Giants coach Allie Sherman died Saturday at the age of 91. He is best known for leading the Giants to the NFL championship game (in the pre-Super Bowl era) in each of his first three years as their coach. The Giants honored Sherman with a few personal reflections on his life and career Tuesday:

John Mara, Giants president and CEO: "Allie was a great coach and an even better man. He was a special friend, and I will miss him dearly."

Steve Tisch, Giants chairman and executive vice president: "Allie was special. Like my father [Bob], Allie was from Brooklyn. Allie was one of us. Can you imagine being the person hired to replace Vince Lombardi on a coaching staff in 1959? Allie did it, and he did it well.”

Giants great Frank Gifford: "Allie was a friend of mine. There were a lot of times after practice when we were in Yankee Stadium and he would come over if I wasn't looking like I was happy. He wanted to know what was wrong. He would pull up his little stool, we'd sit down and we'd talk. He was a coach and a friend. Coaching was a different kind of role in his life. He taught me a hell of a lot. I came from USC as a single-wing tailback and defensive player. Tom Landry wanted to keep me on defense, and Allie wanted me on offense, so I caused a little bit of a riot there. He was a great guy."

Former Giants kicker Pete Gogolak: "He always treated me well. He didn't try to change my form. Back then, everybody tried to coach everybody else, but my kicking style was so new that I think he was very decent from that point of view. He said, 'I don't know too much about what you do,' so he kind of left me alone, because there was no comparison to anybody else. He was a really good guy to play for."
video
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The moments following the end of their 6-10 season were not, the New York Giants decided, the time to talk in depth about the future. Asked whether he thought the team was headed in the right direction and whether he wanted to be back, coach Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't address the latter but, "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."

But is it? And more importantly, is that the right point of view for the Giants to take as they begin their offseason evaluations?

Coughlin's micro focus is one of his coaching strengths. His ability to lock in on one week's preparation at a time and block out external noise ensures that his teams are generally well-prepared for their games. And if your focus is on each individual game, you could certainly talk yourself into thinking that the Giants are moving in the right direction. The offense looked much better in December against weak opponents. Eli Manning had a fine statistical season. Odell Beckham Jr. would get anyone excited about the future.

"You look at the games we lost, and we really feel like we beat ourselves," running back Rashad Jennings said. "And when that's the case, you know you can fix it."

[+] EnlargeGiants Selfie
Alex Goodlett/Getty ImagesIf the Giants take a hard look at themselves this offseason, they'll see they still have a long way to go to get back to a championship level.
The problem is, that game-to-game micro focus can distract from the big picture. And for the Giants right now, the big picture is one of disappointment and mediocrity. Their regular-season records the past six years are 8-8, 10-6, 9-7, 9-7, 7-9 and 6-10. Even if you add in the 4-0 postseason record that followed the 2011 season, Coughlin is still just 53-47 over the past six years -- not a record that screams "headed in the right direction."

The case for keeping Coughlin isn't necessarily that much stronger than the case for moving on. Before settling their heads once more on the pillow of status quo, the people who run the Giants need to make an honest evaluation about where their franchise stands and how much work they have to do to return it to a championship level.

For example: Coughlin seemed to be delivering a message, postgame, in support of embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose unit ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Unsolicited, Coughlin said, "Defensively, I think we had a good plan and that the plan was well-taught." And while he has the right to defend (and choose) his own staff, the takeaway was clearly that there's a disconnect between Coughlin's evaluation of Fewell and the public perception that Fewell is a goner. If the front office and ownership believe Fewell must be replaced, there could be a fight over that between them and Coughlin in the coming days.

Which, again, is fine. These decisions shouldn't come without careful, even painful consideration. Fewell's a good guy and a good coach, but the performance of the defense this year and in recent years is the kind that gets coordinators fired. An honest self-evaluation should lead the Giants to do on defense what they did last offseason on offense: Overhaul the whole thing. Refresh it. Bring in a new coordinator, a new scheme and rebuild it with new people in key positions. It may be too extreme to say the defense is "broken," as John Mara said the offense was a year ago, but at best it's stale. The Giants trade on the idea of stability in leadership roles, and in general that's a good and too-unusual way to operate. But it can't be a crutch that keeps you from making tough decisions when they need to be made.

The Giants should be looking at absolutely everything and everyone with a critical eye. It makes no sense that the job status of GM Jerry Reese, with his draft record, isn't even questioned. It shouldn't be automatic that Coughlin, who has won playoff games in only two of his 11 Giants seasons, returns just because the Giants don't want to be a team that fires coaches. And if performance dictates otherwise, it shouldn't be a slam-dunk that Fewell or special-teams coordinator Tom Quinn comes back just because Coughlin likes coaching with them.

Huge decisions loom about player personnel, of course, at the end of all of this. They can't get lulled to sleep by the fact that the offensive line was a bit better in December than it was in September. All offensive lines are. The Giants' line still needs better players. They need to overhaul the pass rush -- the Giants' sack total was inflated by a strong finish -- either around a re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul or around a viable playmaking replacement. They need to address safety and linebacker, look honestly at the run game and decide what the best thing is to do about Manning and his contract.

It's entirely possible that losing Sunday's game was a good thing for the Giants. Something about 6-10 feels a lot worse than 7-9, and if that reminds them of how much work they really have to do on this work-in-progress roster, then good. Because no matter how much they may want to convince themselves they're headed in the right direction, the Giants can't lose sight of how far they are away from where they want to be.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' season-ending 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium:
    lastname
    Coughlin
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't reject questions about his future, but he made it clear there were internal discussions to be had before he could deliver final answers. "I'm going to go about my business, just as I always do, unless I'm told otherwise," he said. Asked if he wanted his coaching staff to return intact, he said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today." Asked if he thought things were moving in the right direction and if he wanted to be back to oversee them in 2015, he said he would not answer the last part but added "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."
  • Coughlin said the reason rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. came out of the game late was that he was "vomiting and so on and so forth" on the sideline.
  • After a 12-catch, 185-yard, one-touchdown finale to his brilliant rookie season, Beckham said he was "looking forward to next year with a smile."
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a free agent, said he would like to be back and that he would like Coughlin to return as well. "I look at Coach Coughlin as a dad," Pierre-Paul said. "You need someone like that on the team, otherwise it would be chaos." Pierre-Paul also endorsed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose job status seems a bit more tenuous.
  • Owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese declined comment after the game and likely will address the media Monday or Tuesday.
CANTON, Ohio -- A large New York Giants contingent is on hand Saturday for the enshrinement of former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The leader of that contingent is Giants owner John Mara, who remembers Strahan as a Hall of Fame practice performer.

"That's a once-in-a-lifetime guy, a guy that makes other people better," Mara said on his way into the ceremony at Fawcett Stadium. "And you'd just watch him practice, going up and talking to different players. He was always encouraging guys, but he'd also get on guys if he felt they were slacking off and not doing their jobs. And that's one thing I always appreciated."

Strahan said Friday that he doesn't get to East Rutherford, New Jersey, as often as he likes to, but he will show up periodically throughout the season to talk to Giants players. There are only three remaining Giants who played with Strahan, but it's not hard for him to get everyone's attention.

"He has a huge impact when he comes in, because he's got the credibility because they know he was such a great player," Mara said. "And what was great about him, I've said this a million times, is that he practiced just as hard as he played, and he set such a great example. So that type of influence is what you want.

"We're very proud to be here to support him."
Chris SneeJason O. Watson/Getty ImagesChris Snee retires after 10 seasons and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Offensive linemen don't get stats. They don't gain yards or score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks. Check out Chris Snee's page on ESPN.com right here and, well, you don't see a whole lot of information. But Snee makes a strong case as the best offensive lineman in New York Giants history. And on the occasion of his retirement Monday after 10 seasons, four Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, it was clear that his legacy would live large in the memories of those who watched him up close.

"Strength, power, mental toughness, work ethic, the way he approached the game ... he had everything you want," former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl said in a phone interview Monday. "Sincerely, one of the best guards I've ever seen."

You have to play guard at a pretty high level -- and for a pretty long time -- in the NFL to make the kind of imprint Snee made on the game. Monday afternoon, Giants owner John Mara said Snee was the first player he'd ever told, on the occasion of his retirement, that he would definitely be in the team's Ring of Honor.

"We just have to figure out a date," Mara said shortly before Snee came out to formally announce his retirement.

Mara recalled that 2004 draft, in which the Giants were making the big blockbuster deal to trade up for quarterback Eli Manning. He said there was a debate about whether to include that year's second-round pick (No. 34 overall) or the 2005 first-rounder in the deal, and they ultimately decided to hold onto the 2004 second-rounder, "because we felt like it was going to be a real good player, and was it ever."

Snee was that player, though at the time he was picked the bigger headline was about his relationship with Kate Coughlin, the daughter of Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Snee would end up marrying Kate and fathering three of Coughlin's grandsons -- creating a professional arrangement that could have been awkward but which both son-in-law and father-in-law discussed emotionally and lovingly Monday at its end.

"People say, 'You're not very objective about this.' Well, I'm not pleading my case for objectivity right now," Coughlin said. "I'm just telling you the quality of the man is greater than the quality and the ability of the football player, and that's as good as it gets. People asked about coaching your son-in-law, 'Is it hard?' I'll take 100 of them. If there's 53, I'll take 53 of him."

Manning smiled Monday as he recalled coming into the league at the same time as Snee. Two quiet guys who didn't say much, even to each other as they roomed together in camp and on the road that year, Manning and Snee ended up as part of the backbone of a team that won two Super Bowls. Manning said Snee took some grief early in his career for being the coach's son-in-law, but that he handled it the best way anyone could.

"He became a dominant player," Manning said. "And that helped him really take it in stride."

Dominant. The best player on an offensive line that became a Giants calling card from 2006-10. Snee, Diehl, Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie quite famously started 38 games in a row at one point. They helped knock off the undefeated New England Patriots and win Super Bowl XLII. Diehl says he still has the copy of the January 12, 2009 ESPN the Magazine cover that pictured the five of them in a circle, looking down at the camera, under the headline "Are These Guys the NFL's Real MVPs?"

"We wanted to be the leaders of our football team," Diehl said. "We had a mentality that we were going to push for each other, work for each other and turn things around for the New York Giants. Chris embodied everything about that mentality. He did it quietly, but he lived it."

Snee lists at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, which makes him a large human being but not an especially large NFL guard. He fought the perception that he was undersized and did it by emphasizing strength and power in his game. Coughlin said Monday that Snee and former defensive tackle Linval Joseph regularly competed in the weight room for the title of strongest player on the team.

"People knocked him for his size, said he was short," Diehl said. "But he had incredible strength, an ability to get under people on double teams, use his legs to move people off a spot and dictate the action. Just a tough, hard-nosed, hard-working football player."

The incredibly physical way Snee played is likely the reason it's over for him at 32. Both hips and his right elbow are shot to the point where he doesn't feel he can play anymore, and after an offseason of trying to get himself in shape to do that, he figured out within the past couple of weeks that he could not.

"I have to admit that I can no longer play," Snee said. "It's a sad day, but once I leave here, I'll be at peace with it."

Snee is a guard, and as such he's a guy who doesn't get or seek a lot of attention. So Monday wasn't easy. He broke down at the start of his retirement news conference, and when it ended he gathered two of his sons in his arms as they cried. He said he'd have to "disappear" for a couple of weeks, but that he expected to return at some point this season to catch a practice and some games because his sons love it so much.

"This is home," Snee said. "My kids love the games. They're going to want to come. I'm going to want to go. It's going to be tough at first, but that's the way life goes."

Snee said "everybody wants the Strahan ending," referring to the fact that former Giant Michael Strahan's final game was the Super Bowl XLII victory over the Patriots, but he's OK with not getting that ending. He'll wish his final game had been something better than the seven-sack mess the Giants delivered in Week 3 of 2013 in Carolina, but that's not in his control. And if he listened to those who spoke around him Monday, he knows he doesn't have to worry about that being a part of his legacy.

"As an offensive lineman, you don't want the glory, you don't want the fame," Diehl said. "All you want is that 'W' for your team."

The New York Giants won 89 games with Snee on the field from 2004 to 2012. Two of those 89 were Super Bowls. Offensive linemen don't get stats, but they'll take those. And if you're wondering about Chris Snee's legacy, it doesn't need numbers. All you had to do Monday for proof of that was ask. Anybody.
video 

The quarterback-needy teams at the top of this year's NFL draft are miserable, and justifiably so. No one's sold on this year's top quarterbacks, so taking one with a top-five or a top-10 pick is a frightening proposition. If you spend a resource that valuable on a quarterback and you get it wrong, you've made a franchise-crippling mistake.

Oh, but if you get it right ... well, then, you've made a franchise.

The New York Giants were one of those teams 10 years ago. They held the No. 4 pick in the 2004 draft and needed a quarterback, and the guy they wanted was going to go No. 1. In order to get Eli Manning from San Diego (and he'd made it clear he didn't want to play there), they had to pick Philip Rivers at No. 4 and trade him and a third-round pick to the Chargers. The Giants also would have to send their 2005 first- and fifth-round picks. 'Twas a heavy price, and a difficult one to pay. But pay it the Giants did, because they decided they were sure that Manning was their guy. They were certain they were getting the right quarterback, and that the price to do so was worth it.

Ten years later, in advance of a draft that has no Eli Manning (and no Philip Rivers, for that matter), the Giants' move to get Manning stands as a prime example of getting the quarterback right. Manning hasn't always been perfect, and he's not and never will be his brother. But as No. 1-pick quarterbacks go, he's one who has lived up to the promise and the price.

Could the Giants have won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI with Rivers as their quarterback instead of Manning? Sure, it's possible. Rivers is a fine player who at times during the past decade has been better than Manning. And those Giants Super Bowl teams did have other high-quality aspects to them. It's entirely possible that had the Giants emerged from that draft with Rivers and their 2005 first-round pick, they'd still have won those titles.

But it's not certain, and what is certain is that Manning did deliver those two Super Bowl titles. While Rivers and others who haven't been there continue to carry uncertainty about whether they can be championship-caliber quarterbacks, Manning has been a championship-caliber quarterback. Twice. He was absolutely instrumental in those playoff runs and Super Bowl wins, and to say that Rivers or anyone else would have won those titles with those teams is to presume they'd have played at least as well in those games as Manning did.

The result has been franchise-altering in the best possible way. Think about the difference in the way you perceive the Giants now and the way you'd perceive them if they still hadn't won a Super Bowl since 1991. Think of what having Manning at quarterback has done for the reputations of Tom Coughlin, Jerry Reese ... John Mara, for goodness' sake. These are regarded around the league as men at the absolute top of their profession, the Giants as one of the league's exemplary franchises. Would that still be the case if they were working on a 23-year Super Bowl drought? If they'd only ever won two titles instead of four?

Just as Manning wasn't the only reason for the Giants' past two Super Bowl titles, he's not the only reason the reputations of the men in the previous paragraph stand out. But had they not made the move to get him in 2004 -- or had he not turned out to be the player they believed he would be -- they'd have spent all, or at least a good chunk, of the past decade trying to figure out the quarterback spot. And when you look around the league at teams that wander in that desert, you don't exactly see a lot of stability in the general manager's and coaches' offices. A franchise quarterback is an anchor. Having one makes everything else about your team and your football business seem brighter, all of your problems feel easier to solve. That's what Eli Manning has brought to the Giants since then-GM Ernie Accorsi made the move to get him in the 2004 draft. Because of what Manning has delivered on the high end, not even the low moments or the down years have ever given the Giants any reason to doubt whether they did the right thing.

Giants owners express support for Sam

February, 10, 2014
2/10/14
2:45
PM ET
One of the major questions in the wake of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam's announcement he is gay is how NFL teams will react. With the draft less than three months away and the scouting combine next week, the focus will be on how and whether Sam's coming out will affect his draft stock. To hear the owners of the New York Giants tell it, it shouldn't affect it at all.

"I would just echo what the league and Zak DeOssie, one of our captains, have said in welcoming Michael into our league and supporting him as he attempts to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL," John Mara said Monday in a statement released by the team. "Our sport, our game, is the ultimate meritocracy. You earn your way with your ability. As Patrick Burke and Wade Davis constantly remind all of us, regardless of who you are, what your background is and what your personal or sexual orientation is, if you can play, you can play. Michael’s announcement will not affect his position on our draft board."

"As I said last night, Michael Sam is a gifted athlete and a courageous man," Steve Tisch said in his own statement released by the team. "I hope any NFL team would not hesitate to draft Michael if he is right for their team. Our game is the ultimate team game, and we often talk about how a team is a family. Regardless of where you are from, what your religious beliefs are, what your sexual orientation is, if you are good enough to be on the team, you are part of the family. How the University of Missouri and its football program embraced and supported Michael is a tremendous blueprint for all of us, but frankly, I think the lessons of our game also provide the same positive example."

I'll echo what I wrote this morning, which is that the Giants likely would be a welcoming environment for Sam due to their strong leadership. The question in the Giants' draft room will be whether Sam represents good value at the mid-round pick with which he'd be available to them. The Giants run a 4-3 defense, but while Sam played 4-3 defensive end in college, there is concern that his lack of prototypical size would inhibit his ability to do so in the NFL. That doesn't mean the Giants won't take him if they think he's a good enough player to help them on special teams and in certain roles, but it's hard to see him as the kind of player they have to have.
MetLife Stadium skylineAP Photo/Charlie RiedelNew York Giants co-owner John Mara would like to see the Super Bowl return to MetLife Stadium.
You know how you make deals with your kids and you know they're going to take advantage but you do it anyway because they're your kids and you just love 'em so doggone much? Like, it's bedtime and you're having fun playing video games with them and they say, "Daddy, pleeeeeease, just one more game and we'll go right to bed?" And then you say yes, and you play the one more game and they ask for another one?

This is John Mara. He's the kid in this story. Roger Goodell and the NFL's other owners are the duped parents who think their kid can do no wrong. And Mara's going to keep getting his way as long as they're all too scared or myopic to put their foot down.

Mara said on the "Ian O'Connor Show" on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that of course he thinks the Super Bowl should return to MetLife Stadium in future years, because, wow, yeah, the week's been great and look how great the weather is on this one random early-February weekend in 2014.
Asked if he wanted a Super Bowl sequel at MetLife, Mara said, "Based on everything that's happened so far, yes. If we can be assured that we'd get the same cooperation from all the different government entities that were involved, which has been tremendous so far, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't consider doing it again.

"I think that when the NFL owners that are here, when they leave MetLife Stadium tonight after this game, I'm pretty confident that most of them will say to themselves that it was a great idea to have this event in this area, New York and New Jersey, and why not come back here again. It's good for the league."

What a pile of garbage. It's good for John Mara, and for the New York/New Jersey area that hosted all of the events leading up to Sunday night's game. But it's whatever for the NFL, which could stage the Super Bowl on the moon and find a way to make a zillion dollars off of it.

What no one's calling these guys on is that they promised this was a one-time deal. Go back and read what they were saying in 2010, when they decided the game would be here. Asked specifically about this, Goodell and Mara's fellow owners insisted this would be a one-time exception to the NFL's longstanding rule requiring the game to be held in places that had either a dome or an average high temperature of at least 50 degrees. Goodell categorically shot down the idea of other cold-weather, open-air-stadium cities hosting the game because New York is special. No one came right out and admitted that the Super Bowl was a reward condition for Mara's Giants and Woody Johnson's Jets building a new stadium with more luxury boxes and better premium seating options than Giants Stadium had, but everything everyone said made it clear that that's what this was, and that once it was over it wouldn't happen again.

But we all know these guys don't always tell the truth, and so there was never any reason to believe this exact thing wouldn't happen. And now that the area got through the early part of the week with frigid-but-not-incapacitating weather, and now that it appears game conditions will be the absolute best anyone could have hoped for when this whole cockamamie idea was conceived, they want to go back on this.

They shouldn't press their luck. For goodness' sake, another winter storm is scheduled to hit this area mere hours after the game ends Sunday night. They got lucky by one day. And that's just game day we're talking about. Every time they have the Super Bowl here or in Chicago or in Philadelphia (and you know that's going to come up as long as Mara keeps pushing), the NFL is going to be taking a major risk that its biggest week (not just its biggest day, but its major convention week) gets ruined due to weather. And I continue to fail to understand the reasons for inviting that risk.

No, you can't predict the weather. It snowed in Atlanta and New Orleans early last week, which means the Super Bowl would have been a mess this year if it had been in either of those warm-weather, dome-stadium towns. Three years ago Dallas was crippled by an ice storm. I get that you can't predict weather years in advance. But you can minimize risk, and you can decide to hold your gargantuan event in places where it's more likely to go well. The NFL should do this, and the fact the weather in New Jersey on Feb. 2, 2014, is good does not qualify as a good reason to invite the game back here -- or to Philadelphia or Chicago or Foxborough -- in 2018. It's madness. It always was madness. And just because they got away with it one time doesn't mean it makes sense to push their luck and try it again.

But they will. Because they're just like spoiled kids. If you always give them everything they want, then they never stop asking for more.

Giants deny forgery suit claims

January, 30, 2014
1/30/14
1:55
PM ET
NEW YORK -- So this is an interesting one. A New York Post story on Thursday said that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, as well as team owner John Mara and equipment managers Ed and Joe Skiba, are being sued for allegedly passing off forgeries as "game-used" equipment. The report says the suit claims Manning's involvement was in retaining his game-worn items for himself while knowing that Joe Skiba was doctoring other items and selling them on the pretense that Manning had used them in games. It's all very skeevy stuff, and the Giants were quick to deny it.

"This suit is completely without any merit whatsoever and we will defend it vigorously," a Giants team spokesman said Thursday. "We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation."

Tough to draw many conclusions here. Obviously, if the accusations were to turn out to be true, it would severely damage the image of both Manning and the Giants, and likely cost Skiba his job. But the suit could be bogus, as the Giants claim it is, in which case it could be a wronged party out to make someone famous look bad during Super Bowl week when so many eyes are on his sport, his town and his family.

Sadly, not much is impossible to believe anymore, and a scam in which a player and some people around him -- including an outside dry cleaner who allegedly doctored items to look worn when they hadn't been -- isn't farfetched. But that doesn't mean Manning, Skiba and the Giants actually did any of this, so it's important to hold off on making any judgments until we see where this goes.
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.

[+] EnlargeBen McAdoo
AP Photo/Mike RoemerBen McAdoo, right, takes over the Giants offensive coordinator position from the retired Kevin Gilbride.
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.
In his radio interview of WFAN in New York on Thursday, New York Giants owner John Mara referenced this annual study by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, which shows that the Giants led the league in games lost by starters due to injury in 2013 with 91, including 26 on the offensive line. Mara was quick to offer the usual "that's not an excuse" disclaimer, and he's right. The teams that rank second and third on this list -- the Colts and the Patriots -- are playing in a second-round playoff game Saturday night. But the figure raises the question of whether the injuries stand as a legitimate reason for what went wrong with the 2013 Giants.

[+] EnlargeChris Snee
AP Photo/Bill KostrounLosing guard Chris Snee, 76, and center David Baas, 64, to injuries early in the season exposed the Giants' lack of offensive line depth.
First off, Gosselin's figures assign 16 lost games to Stevie Brown, who was projected as a starting safety before tearing his ACL in preseason and missing the entire season. The Giants ended up fine at safety with Antrel Rolle, Will Hill and Ryan Mundy, but Hill did miss the first four games because of a drug suspension, and it's reasonable to think Brown might have helped during that time, as the Giants lost all four of those games as well as the next two.

But the Giants' biggest problem all year was that offensive line, and the losses of David Baas and Chris Snee early in the season were damaging. The line wasn't a strength to begin with, and once the starters began to go down, it exposed the lack of depth behind them. That is why I continue to insist that the line needs to be a major priority in the draft this year, even if they have already addressed it in free agency by then. This team absolutely has to develop capable replacements for the long-term at these positions, because its inability to provide them in 2013 absolutely crippled the offense. If the Giants have a center or a guard or even a tackle they like in March, by all means, they should sign him and make the 2014 line better. But they can't assume that whoever it is will stay healthy or play effectively for years to come. They need to deepen their stable of capable linemen so that injuries along the line don't destroy everything they're trying to do in future years.

The Giants were spoiled in this regard for a long time. Everybody knows about that starting offensive line that held together for years without anyone missing a game. But Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie aren't walking through that door. The days when this wasn't a worry for the Giants are long gone, and now they're dealing with the same reality with which other teams deal. They need depth on the offensive line to combat inevitable injuries, or else nothing they do is going to work.
The latest name in the New York Giants' offensive coordinator search is that of Karl Dorrell, the former UCLA coach who was most recently the Houston Texans' quarterback coach. Dorrell will be the fourth candidate to interview for the position, joining a field that includes former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan, former Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, who's scheduled to interview Saturday.

On a radio interview Thursday on WFAN in New York, Giants owner John Mara said there were currently four candidates but that the field could expanded.

Mara reiterated the Giants' party line that former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride decided to retire, but he also indicated that Gilbride may not have been back even if he hadn't.

"Fortunately, it didn't come to a situation where he had to be forced out," Mara said.

So it seems clear that the Gilbride thing was about to turn ugly, and it's possible that Gilbride saw the writing on the wall and did the Giants a favor. Going forward, it now appears possible that the changes to the Giants' offensive scheme could be more extensive than we originally thought when the Gilbride news broke last week. As head coach Tom Coughlin interviews candidates other than Sullivan to replace Gilbride, it's clear he's keeping an open mind about coaches who might bring fresh offensive ideas to the table.

"I think, going forward, a change is probably going to be good for us," Mara said on WFAN. "Nothing lasts forever. Teams adjust to what you're doing. Sometimes you have to have new ideas in there, and I think Tom is obviously open to that."

Gilbride and Coughlin worked together for a long time. Gilbride was on Coughlin's original staff with the 1995 expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, and 2014 will be the first of Coughlin's 11-year tenure with the Giants without Gilbride on his offensive staff. But as much as the Giants' offense has been Gilbride's, it also has been Coughlin's.

Coughlin's background is as an offensive coach, and his influence on the principles and terminology on which the Giants' offense is based is significant and likely to remain so. For that reason, assuming Coughlin and the team weren't going to want to change much, a lot of us assumed Sullivan would be the leading candidate to take over as coordinator. He knows the offense and the terminology, and if continuity is the goal, he seems the obvious choice.

But if not the goal, then change is at least a possibility. McAdoo and Loggains are both in their 30s and thought of as up-and-comers in the offensive coaching ranks. And Dorrell has extensive experience in college as well as some in the NFL and could bring fresh ideas. If nothing else, Coughlin seems open to the possibility of bringing in someone who might want to shake up the way the Giants play offense. And I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise. Coughlin has shown a willingness to change before, and if it's clear that Mara thinks a change is in order, the coach is smart enough to know he needs to demonstrate a willingness to at least consider it.

No matter who gets hired, the Giants are going to need major personnel upgrades on the offensive line, at running back, at tight end and at wide receiver in order for the offense to work better than it did in 2013. And quarterback Eli Manning will need to play better as well. But after 10 years under Gilbride, I think there's a strong chance Manning could be fired up and energized by a new coach and a new system, and it's wise of the Giants to be looking into those things.


The New York Giants are going to present Thursday's news as the "retirement" of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, but if you're buying that then I'd like to quote you a really sweet price on the George Washington Bridge. Gilbride was clearly forced out in a move favored by many Giants fans and, from the way it sounded Monday, by Giants owner John Mara as well. And since head coach Tom Coughlin expressed strong support for Gilbride in the waning weeks of the team's 7-9 season and obviously didn't want to make the move, it's one that could change the dynamic between Coughlin and the organization going forward.

Which is part of the problem if anyone thinks this really fixes things.

The Giants need to make major changes to their offense. At a time in NFL history frothing with new offensive schemes and concepts, the Giants are likely to remain committed to doing the same things that have always worked for them up until this season. And that's fine, as long as they can get them working again. Their mistake would be to think that minor tweaks and midlevel hirings and firings will provide the solution. They need to think big -- a lot bigger than just dumping the coordinator.

A year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles decided it was time for a whole-program overhaul and turned over the keys to Chip Kelly, who just delivered a division title in his first NFL season. The Giants have decided not to go that drastic in their moves, and again, that's fine. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Coughlin has earned the right to stay and turn this thing around. But the Giants need to operate like a team in need of major change, because their greatest fear isn't that they're where the Eagles were this time last year. It's that they're where the Eagles were two years ago -- unaware of the depth and severity of their problems and too stubborn to change before the bottom fell out.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Julio CortezAcquiring linemen to protect Eli Manning has to be at or near the top of the Giants' offseason plans.
Parting with Gilbride wasn't a bad move. Offensive coordinators have been fired based on better seasons than the one the Giants just had, and the offense slipped a bit in 2012 as well, though not as drastically as it did in 2013. The idea of quarterback Eli Manning declining at age 32 is an alarming one for the Giants, especially since he's likely to get a long, large contract extension at some point this offseason. The case can convincingly be made for a new voice with new ideas in the meeting rooms.

But there has to be much more than this to the Giants' plans to overhaul their offense, because changing coordinators doesn't go far enough.

Blame 2013 on "Gilbride's offense" all you want, but it's Coughlin's offense, too. That's his side of the ball, and the offense the Giants run reflects his vision. Hiring a new coordinator -- especially if it's someone like former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan -- isn't going to change that. There may be tweaks and alterations, and whoever comes in may have some ideas that help Manning or other specific players, but the concepts are going to be the same. They're going to want to stretch the field with wide receivers, run to set up the pass with play-action and lean on big plays to the extent that they can get them.

For that reason, the Giants need to make lots of other changes. We all know about the personnel deficiencies they're confronting due to free agency and age issues on offense. They need three starting offensive linemen, at least one running back, at least one wide receiver and a new tight end. They need help on defense, too, but we'll deal with that in a future column. For our purposes here, know that they can't afford to spend all of their available cap money on offensive solutions even though they have enough needs on that side of the ball to justify it.

The Giants need to be creative and forward-thinking and open to any and all possible solutions if they're to fix an offense Mara described Monday as "broken." Don't just bring back Hakeem Nicks after he lollygagged his way through a contract year. Don't settle for Andre Brown at running back if a more dynamic option is available in free agency. Don't settle for a one-year stopgap at tight end for the fourth year a row. Don't leave it to Manning to make chicken salad. Get him some ingredients whose skill sets are as dynamic as his is.

And for goodness' sake, find a way to keep him safe. Don't assume you're set at right tackle just because Justin Pugh played better as a rookie than you thought he would. Take another first-round tackle, even if that means one of them has to end up at guard. Load up the line with top talent and sort out the positions later. Don't assume you can develop the guy you like in the fourth round. If Chris Snee has to be replaced, respect what he's been and what he's done and make his a high-end replacement. Don't approach it as though you need a new guard; approach it as though you need a new long-term stud.

The Giants aren't going to look at a whole new way of designing an offense, not as long as Coughlin is there. He has been too successful for too long, and as long as the team is committed to him, it's committed to his principles. So within that framework, the Giants must look at new ways of building their roster on that side of the ball. They have to make changes, and they have to make them bigger and broader than the one they made Thursday. If they don't, they're going to be right back here a year from now, looking for scapegoats. And eventually, that search takes you a heck of a lot higher up the ladder than offensive coordinator.

Assessing the Kevin Gilbride situation

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
2:45
PM ET

People want answers, and I get that. Coaches were getting fired left and right in the NFL on Monday, so New York Giants fans are wondering why it should take a few days for their own team's coaching situations to sort themselves out. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is the name on everyone's mind, and everyone wants to know whether he'll be back or if the Giants will find someone new to guide their offense. Former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan, just fired as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator Monday, makes a lot of sense, and it's possible Gilbride will get fired and Sullivan will get the job.

But it's also possible Gilbride will keep the job, and truth be told no decision has been made on that yet. Head coach Tom Coughlin, who says he wants to return and has been told by owner John Mara that the team wants him to return, is scheduled to meet with Mara and other Giants decision-makers later this week, likely Thursday. Until that time, little that you hear or read should be viewed as final.

"We’re going to do what we have to do, but we’re going to do it in an intelligent fashion," Mara said Monday. "We’re not going to make these sweeping changes. Stability is important. It’s one of the reasons we’ve had some success here, but there are times when changes have to be made. If we agree on those changes, then we’ll make them going forward."

Here's how I read the situation as of Tuesday afternoon:

Coughlin wants to be back as head coach and the team wants him back as head coach, so all of the discussions to come work within that framework. Coughlin operates as one of the decision-makers. Head coaches like to choose their own coordinators, and the Giants historically have allowed that to be the case. Coughlin is, however, outranked in the decision-making hierarchy, chiefly by the people who own the team. And if Mara, who described the offense as "broken" Monday, thinks Gilbride needs to be replaced, he's surely going to make that opinion plain to Coughlin.

If and when that happens, the manner in which Coughlin reacts will determine a lot. I do not know for certain how Coughlin would react if presented with a suggestion or ultimatum about firing Gilbride, who's been with him since his Jacksonville days, and neither does anyone else who's speculating on it right now. The people I've talked to think Coughlin would resist or possibly refuse, but even those people are speculating. Only Coughlin knows what's in his heart and head. So be careful with that.

The other piece to remember here is that Coughlin only has one year left on his contract. In the past, when it appeared he might confront that situation, Coughlin has cited with admiration the old Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers manager Walter Alston, who never had a contract longer than one year but held the job for 23 of them. He says he's not afraid of having to prove himself year after year, and if the Giants insist on breaking with organizational policy and allowing him to coach as a lame duck, he may say that's fine with him.

But it also could be a negotiating tool. For instance, if the Giants insist that Coughlin fire Gilbride and replace him with Sullivan and he agrees (which isn't an insane thought, since he likes Sullivan and so does quarterback Eli Manning), he could do so under the condition that they add a year or two to his contract. If he goes to the mat for Gilbride and insists that he be kept (also possible, since Coughlin is loyal and has expressed confidence in his coaches in recent days), the Giants could agree but then refuse to extend the contract.

There exists the slim possibility that the whole thing could blow up and that Coughlin could decide to leave (or the Giants could decide to fire him) over one or more of these issues. That would be a shocking result at this point, but again, these meetings are going to be emotional, and it's impossible to predict exactly what will come of them. And there are other coaches whose names will come up for evaluation in addition to Gilbride. Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn can't be assumed to be safe. Gilbride's son is the wide receivers coach, and one of Mara's best lines Monday was about how he was "not sure why it took us three years to figure out Jerrel Jernigan can play." This is, as Mara said, intended to be a thoughtful process and not a rash one. For that reason, it must take some time.

So while I wish I could give you a more definitive answer, the fact is I don't know right now if Gilbride will be fired because the Giants don't either. My only advice is to be patient and rest assured that the decisions will be discussed and made the right way, whether you end up agreeing with them or not.

Coughlin plans could fall apart over OC

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
4:29
PM ET
Kevin GilbrideAP Photo/Bill KostrounKevin Gilbride has been a member of Tom Coughlin's coaching staff for the past 10 years.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants headline of the day is that Tom Coughlin said he wants to stay on as coach and owner John Mara said he's told Coughlin he wants him back. And that all sounds very simple, especially because it's what was expected all along.

But while I still think the strong likelihood is that Coughlin returns to coach the Giants in 2014, I'm not all the way to 100 percent certain yet, and there are a number of reasons you shouldn't be, either.

First of all, no one actually said Monday that Coughlin would be back coaching the team next year. Mara and GM Jerry Reese both said they wanted that to be the case, and Coughlin did, as well. But all were careful not to say with certainty that it would work out that way. There are meetings yet to come about the length of Coughlin's contract, which has only one year left on it, and the makeup of Coughlin's coaching staff, which could be a major sticking point before this is all said and done.

I've spoken to multiple people in recent days who are close to this situation, and they have said they have found Coughlin to be unusually pensive and quiet about his situation lately. They also said that it would be very difficult for Coughlin if the team told him it wanted him back but that he had to make changes to the coaching staff. One of the people said there was "no way" Coughlin would agree to fire offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

And that last part could be a major sticking point. Mara was crystal clear Monday in assessing blame for a 7-9 season he called "as disappointing as any in my memory."

"I think our offense is broken right now, and we need to fix that," Mara said. "We can't go into next season with the same personnel."

He didn't explicitly mention Gilbride, though he made some other pointed comments that could have been directed at the offensive coaches, including, "I'm not sure why it took us three years to figure out that Jerrel Jernigan can play." Mara spoke about the need to make the reconstruction of the offensive line the top offseason priority. And out of respect to Coughlin and the meetings they're all planning for later in the week, he declined to be specific about whether he expected or would demand coaching changes.

"I certainly have my opinion, and I'm sure Jerry has his and Tom has his," Mara said. "I'd like to think that, at the end of the day, we're all going to be on the same page. I don't think it will come to that."

But it could. If Mara's opinion is that the offense is stale and stalled and that Gilbride must go, how far will Coughlin go to stand up for a coach who was on his original 1995 Jacksonville Jaguars staff and has been on his Giants staff for every one of his 10 seasons here? If Mara insists that Gilbride must go, would Coughlin quit before agreeing to fire him? And if Coughlin insists that Gilbride must stay, would that jeopardize his chances to have his contract extended beyond 2014?

Mara could certainly tell Coughlin that he has the right to construct his own coaching staff but that the blame will fall on him if it fails again. He acknowledged that the Giants, as a rule, don't let their head coaches work on one-year deals, but he also said that could change.

"That has been our philosophy in the past, there's no secret about that," Mara said. "Whether it continues or not has yet to be decided."

Basically things sounded more ominous Monday about the Coughlin situation than I expected them to sound. I think there remains a chance this could still come to a head and that the end result could be a change at head coach for the Giants. I think the chance is a slim one, but I believe it exists. And I think Coughlin does, too.

"Everybody wants to know what's next for me," Coughlin said. "I hope it's coaching the New York Giants."

He did not sound like a man who was wavering. He was defiant in his defense of his record, which includes only one playoff appearance in the past five years. "How long ago was 2011?" he asked, referring to the Giants' most recent Super Bowl team. "Did the [defending champion] Ravens make the playoffs this year?" And he expressed clear support for his coaching staff without naming specific names.

"Everything will be evaluated, but I have great confidence in this group of men we have as a coaching staff," Coughlin said. "And I believe in them very strongly."

The problem is, it had been nine years since there was a losing season around these parts, and when losing seasons happen people demand change. NFL team owners demand change. As Coughlin spoke Monday, news was rolling in about head coach firings in Detroit, Tampa Bay, Washington and Minnesota, to go with those that already had happened in Cleveland and Houston. Coughlin has two Super Bowl titles and thus is something of a "made guy" in NFL coaching circles. He'll get to coach the Giants as long as he wants to coach them. But what if the landscape and the power structure shift just enough that he can't coach them on his terms? Will he then decide it's not worth it anymore?

Mara was asked whether and when it might be time to talk to Coughlin, who will be 68 next season, about what comes after him -- to make a "succession plan" of sorts for an inevitable coaching transition. Mara said it was a worthwhile thought, though not a realistic one.

"I'll probably have that discussion with him, but I'm not sure what value there is there," Mara said. "I don't know how much longer he wants to coach. I'm not sure he knows how much longer he wants to coach. It's very tough to have an exit strategy in the National Football League."

Which means things almost can't help but end ugly, no matter how great they have been in the past. Whenever it's time for Tom Coughlin to not be the Giants' coach anymore, the parting is likely to be awkward and uncomfortable. And while I still don't think it happens this week, it would be a mistake for anyone to hear what was said Monday and assume it can't.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD