If coaching football doesn’t work out for Ben McAdoo, he has a second career waiting for him as a tabloid sports editor.
McAdoo on Sunday said he thought franchise quarterback Eli Manning has been “consistent” and “productive” in training camp but “seemed a little bit rusty” at practice following a few days off. And the coach immediately knew what he’d done.
“I don’t know if that needs to be a headline, but I’m sure most of you will use it,” McAdoo said. “It’s an easy one.”
Not to worry, Ben. Your review of one practice is just that: a first-glance opinion of how Manning played during an isolated Sunday practice in mid-August.
Manning has made a likely Hall of Fame career of playing so-so in the regular season and hitting all the big throws on two Super Bowl runs. A practice more than a week prior to the Giants’ second preseason game certainly doesn’t reflect how he’ll do in Week 1 at Dallas.
But McAdoo’s consistent, constructive criticism of his offense the last few days is noteworthy on a grander scale. The coach is diligent in his film study, dissecting all elements of his team’s play in practices and games, and he clearly is not satisfied simply by the existence of explosive talent on his offense.
McAdoo wants to see his offense – the one he calls plays for on game days – produce, clean up and step up. And it’s good that he’s speaking up about it earlier.
There’s no using hiding from the work needed to improve from last season’s 26th-place finish in scoring at 19.4 points per game. And there’s no hiding either from the fact that no matter who wins the backup job, Geno Smith or Josh Johnson, the drop-off from Manning would be steep and the Giants need Eli to win.
There was one play in Sunday’s practice that perfectly illustrated the subtle difference between this offense’s potential for both exciting highs and disappointing lows.
Odell Beckham Jr. made a ridiculous, one-handed catch on a corner route in the end zone for a deep touchdown reception from Manning. But as the fans in a sell-out practice crowd (you read that correctly) went crazy, a whistle blew.
“Sack,” a voice said over the loudspeakers surrounding the practice field.
Olivier Vernon had gotten past left tackle Ereck Flowers around the edge for a sack of Manning. There is no tackling of quarterbacks, but Vernon got there and Beckham’s touchdown didn’t count.
“It’s nice that it was completed, but no it wasn’t nice, there was a sack on the play,” McAdoo said of the completion. “It’s good for the defense.”
After Friday’s 20-12 preseason opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which the Giants’ backups didn’t score a touchdown, McAdoo revealed a strong stat from the offense’s unacceptable 2016 season to illustrate why red-zone errors were unacceptable.
“We had a penalty. We had a bad snap. Should have thrown the ball away on one occasion, and it really dates back to last year in 2016,” McAdoo said. “Drives without a negative play, we scored touchdowns on 74% of those drives, and drives in the (red) zone with a negative play, we didn’t score a single touchdown.”
McAdoo also took issue with top running back Paul Perkins failing to beat a safety one-on-one in Friday’s game, which was the difference between a 7-yard gain and a first down.
“He has to make him miss, or he has to run him over,” McAdoo said. “We have to at least get a first down on that play.”
No one blames McAdoo for offering honest critiques of his players. On the contrary, that is part of his job as a coach – to motivate his players and help them succeed while also supporting them. He even reaffirmed on Sunday that Perkins remains the leader in the clubhouse to be his feature back.
“Paul Perkins has an opportunity right now to go out and establish himself, and I look forward to seeing him getting more carries as we go through the preseason and enter the regular season,” the coach said.
But it’s not just helpful that McAdoo push his players, especially on offense. It is, in fact, his obligation.