Ben McAdoo announces coaching staff

Posted Feb 16, 2016

Ben McAdoo announced his staff for the 2016 season on Tuesday

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Head coach Ben McAdoo today announced the composition of the Giants’ 2016 coaching staff.

McAdoo’s first staff will include 20 assistant coaches, including eight on offense, seven on defense, two on special teams, and three in strength & conditioning.

Twelve of the assistant coaches were on Tom Coughlin’s 2015 staff, including all three coordinators. Mike Sullivan will assume McAdoo’s former position as offensive coordinator after spending last season as the Giants’ quarterbacks coach. Steve Spagnuolo (defense) and Tom Quinn (special teams) will remain the coordinators of their respective units.


The other coaches who were on the staff last season are Craig Johnson (running backs), Kevin M. Gilbride (tight ends), Lunda Wells (assistant offensive line), Ryan Roeder (offensive assistant), Tim Walton (secondary/cornerbacks), David Merritt (secondary/safeties), Rob Leonard (defensive assistant), and Markus Paul (assistant strength & conditioning) and Joe Danos (performance manager).

The eight new coaches include Frank Cignetti Jr. (quarterbacks), Adam Henry (wide receivers), Mike Solari (offensive line), Patrick Graham (defensive line), Jeff Zgonina (assistant defensive line), Bill McGovern (linebackers), Dwayne Stukes (assistant special teams) and Aaron Wellman (strength and conditioning).

“This is a new staff,” McAdoo said. “Nobody was retained, there were no holdovers; everyone was hired. When I sat down with everybody on the staff, that was one thing I wanted to make clear. No one was retained, no one was a holdover. Everyone was hired here as part of a new staff.

“You have a nice group of guys who I’ve worked with in the past, and then there’s some I haven’t worked with, and some I’ve admired from afar. There’s a nice mix. We talked a lot about putting a staff together that fits, number one, that has great diversity, great personality, and great character, a staff of people who can teach the game. We feel we’ve done that.”

Wellman is the only new member of the staff that McAdoo has worked with previously.

“I worked with Aaron back at Michigan State (in 2001) when we were both cutting our teeth in the business,” McAdoo said.

The Giants’ 2016 coaching staff:

Head Coach – Ben McAdoo

Coordinator – Mike Sullivan
Quarterbacks – Frank Cignetti Jr.
Running Backs – Craig Johnson
Wide Receivers – Adam Henry
Tight Ends - Kevin Gilbride
Offensive Line – Mike Solari
Asst. Offensive Line – Lunda Wells
Offensive Assistant – Ryan Roeder

Coordinator – Steve Spagnuolo
Defensive Line – Patrick Graham
Asst. Defensive Line – Jeff Zgonina
Linebackers – Bill McGovern
Secondary/Cornerbacks – Tim Walton
Secondary/Safeties – David Merritt
Defensive Assistant – Rob Leonard

Special Teams

Coordinator – Tom Quinn
Asst. Special Teams – Dwayne Stukes

Strength & Conditioning

Head – Aaron Wellman
Asst. – Markus Paul
Performance Manager – Joe Danos

“I think we have a nice mix of youth and experience,” McAdoo said. “Even our young guys tend to have some experience when you look at it. I think we have good teachers who have high character and get the game and understand what we’re looking for from a vision standpoint.”

Spagnuolo will be in his second season of his second stint as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. He first held the position in 2007-08.

“When you look back at this past season, it was great working with Spags,” McAdoo said. “He’s a tremendous leader, gets the players to play hard. We feel that if we continue to develop the young guys, add some pieces to the puzzle, and keep them playing as hard as they played last year, we’ll make progress in the second year of the system.”

Sullivan rejoined the Giants staff in 2015. He was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator in 2012-13. Sullivan was on Coughlin’s staff from 2004-11, the first six as the wide receivers coach, and the final two as quarterbacks coach.

“He’s a guy, in my mind, who’s an experienced leader of men who has a championship background,” McAdoo said. “He’s been in this system now for a year, and he’s familiar with the building and the people in the building, and a lot of the players in the locker room. I like that continuity there.”

In addition to Sullivan, Cignetti and Solari have been NFL coordinators.

“It’s great, because they’re men who have high character and they’ll be able to work in the same room with each other and have a lot of ideas,” McAdoo said. “And there’s enough character that when decisions have to be made, to stick with the decision and move on down the road and make sure we’re all on the same page that way.”

Cignetti, 50, was the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator for the first 12 games of the 2015 season after spending the previous three years as the team’s quarterbacks coach. A 27-year coaching veteran, including nine in the NFL, Cignetti previously coached quarterbacks for the New Orleans Saints in 2000-01 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2007. He was the offensive coordinator at Fresno State from 2002-05 and North Carolina in 2006, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the University of California in 2008 and Pitt from 2009-11. 

“Frank Cignetti Jr. is a phenomenal teacher,” McAdoo said. “He grew up in a version of the system from the ground floor. He has a great understanding of what we’re looking for fundamentally from the quarterback position.”

Henry, 43, spent the 2015 season as the 49ers’ wide receivers coach. From 2012-14, he held the same position at Louisiana State University. In his first two seasons at LSU, Henry coached Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Prior to joining the LSU staff, Henry was the Oakland Raiders’ tight ends coach for three seasons. He was a wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints from 1994-96, and prior to that at McNeese State.

“Adam Henry has worked his way up from a small school, I admire that about him,” McAdoo said. “He’s done a tremendous job working with talented players and we’re fortunate to have him.”

Was Henry’s relationship with Beckham a factor in his hiring?

“That’s a positive, but that’s not why he got the job,” McAdoo said. “He’s earned the job. Anyone that thinks that about him hasn’t seen his work. The way you look at it, he’s worked his way up from a small school and has had an opportunity to work in a lot of big programs, teaching a lot of talented players and has gotten a lot out of those players. We expect that to continue here.”

Solari, 61, is entering his 40th season in the coaching profession and his 28th in the NFL. In 2015, he was the Green Bay Packers’ assistant offensive line coach. Solari has coached with the Dallas Cowboys, Phoenix Cardinals, the 49ers (twice), Kansas City Chiefs (for who he was the offensive coordinator in 2006-07), and Seattle Seahawks. Before his one season in Green Bay, Solari coached the offensive line in San Francisco (2010-14) and Seattle (2008-09).

"Mike Solari, I’ve admired his work from afar for a long time,” McAdoo said. “He had a chance to come from this system last year. He’s one of the best in the business. I look forward to seeing what he brings to the table in developing our young players.”

Graham, 37, spent the last seven seasons on the New England Patriots’ coaching staff. He spent one year as a coaching assistant and another as a defensive assistant before becoming the team’s linebackers coach in 2011. Graham coached the Patriots’ defensive line in 2012-13 before returning to the linebackers for the 2014-15 seasons. Graham played on the defensive line at Yale, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“Patrick Graham, he’s a guy that cut his teeth working up from some tough jobs,” McAdoo said. “He’s knowledgeable, has some grit to him, and a great personality for the room. We feel that those guys will rally around him and he’ll have the chance to develop them.”

McGovern, 53, coached the Philadelphia Eagles’ outside linebackers the previous three seasons. Prior to that, he spent 12 seasons at Boston College, including the last four as defensive coordinator. Two of McGovern’s B.C. linebackers were named ACC Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Herzlich, who has played for the Giants since 2011, and Luke Kuechly, the current Carolina Panthers star. A native of Oradell, N.J., McGovern was elected to the Bergen County All-Century Football Team and was inducted into the Holy Cross Hall of Fame in 1996.

“He has a ton of coaching experience,” McAdoo said. “He’s very familiar with the division. He’s going to bring great energy to the building, great energy to the staff room. That usually filters down to the locker room. I look forward to working with Bill.”

Zgonina, 45, is a former NFL defensive tackle who retired after the 2009 season. He previously coached in 2013 with the Texans as their assistant defensive line coach. Zgonina played 17 seasons in the NFL for the Steelers (1993-94), Panthers (1995), Falcons (1996), Rams (1997, 1999-2002), Colts (1998), Dolphins (2003-06), and Texans (2007-09). He played in 219 regular-season games with 67 starts, recording 26.0 sacks, 13 fumble recovers, three forced fumbles, and an interception.

Zgonina played in two Super Bowls with the Rams, winning Super Bowl XXXIV over the Titans. A former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Purdue, Zgonina was selected in the seventh round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He fits the profile we were looking for,” McAdoo said, “with 17 years playing in the league in the trenches, which speaks volumes. He’ll add a passion for technique, and bring an energy boost to the field for us. We look forward to him getting out there and getting in the mix with Patrick Graham and spending a lot of time detailing the performance of the guys in that room.

“Jeff also has a year of coaching experience – that is valuable. There may be a little bit of a learning curve there, which is normal. But 17 years of him playing in the trenches is very valuable for him to lean on.”

The Giants have traditionally had just one coach for their defensive line. Zgonina is the team’s first assistant defensive line coach.

“When you have four guys out there at a time – maybe more, maybe less, depending on the personnel group you’re playing with – having a couple sets of eyes and ears comes in handy. Guys being able to play off of each other on the coaching staff will help. Most staffs now have two offensive line coaches and most staffs, if you’re a 3-4 (defense), have an interior coach and an outside backer coach. The way it’s gone with the four-down line teams, you either have two coaches there, or a coach and an assistant. But they’ll work hand-in-hand.”

Stukes, 39, was the Chicago Bears’ assistant special teams coach in 2013-14. He spent the 2012 season with the Dallas Cowboys as a coach in their minority internship program. From 2006-11, Stukes was on the coaching staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was the Bucs’ special teams coordinator in 2011, after serving the previous two seasons as an assistant defensive backs coach.

The Giants’ special teams showed marked improvement in 2015.

“We’re looking to build on it,” McAdoo said. “Dwayne’s a guy who has a lot of experience for the position he’s coming in for, assistant special teams coach. He’s highly qualified for it. I feel like he’ll be able to breathe some life into the perimeter of our special teams, and get those guys going a little bit more, and provide some juice there. He’s a nice addition for us.”

Wellman, 41, comes to the Giants from Notre Dame, where he was the assistant director of strength and conditioning in 2015. A strength and conditioning coach at the Division 1 level for 20 years, Wellman spent four years (2011-14) as the director of strength and conditioning at the University of Michigan. He also held similar positions at San Diego State (2009-11) and Ball State University (2004-08). Wellman was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Michigan State from 2001-03 and at Indiana from 1998-2000.

“Aaron’s a guy that is a forward-thinker,” McAdoo said. “He’s advanced in the sports performance arena, but he also has an edge to him. He can be tough when he has to be. That’s hard to find in this business these days. He’s got a nice combination of both. We feel that he’ll provide a nice lift to our program.”

McAdoo has begun the process of melding the Giants’ new coaching staff into a cohesive unit.

“I think that it takes a little while,” McAdoo said. “It’s a marriage in a lot of different ways for a lot of different guys, a lot of different positions. The most important thing is we have to get everyone in here and get everyone speaking the same language. It helps that we do have some guys who have been around, and the systems are staying the same on offense, defense and special teams.

“At the end of the day, that’s not what drives any of the decisions. Systems are systems. You can go to K-Mart and get a good system. It’s more about the leadership, the character, and the fundamentals that are being taught. We like what we see there. We like what we have there. We felt that going forward in that direction was the way to go. We just have to train everyone to speak the same language, and teach the same from a fundamentals standpoint. That should give us a head start.”