Domenik Hixon expects Giants to thrive with Gettleman, Shula

Posted Feb 20, 2018

Former Giant Domenik Hixon joined Big Blue Kickoff Live to discuss playing under Mike Shula and Dave Gettleman:

Domenik Hixon’s six-year run with the New York Giants ended in 2013 when he inked a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

The two-time Super Bowl champion was one of Dave Gettleman’s first signings as Panthers’ general manger. Gettleman was hired three months earlier after 15 years in the Giants organization as a personnel executive.

“Being honest, that’s the reason I went to Carolina,” Hixon said on Big Blue Kickoff Live. “I had an opportunity to speak to him and take a visit down there. The relationship that we built in New York and just his personality and who he is and what type of man he is, I said, ‘I feel comfortable making the move.’ Going down there and seeing what he was doing and what he was doing was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Hixon, now retired, joined on Monday to discuss his relationship with Gettleman, now back with the Giants as the team’s general manager. Hixon also provided insight on new offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who served in the same role during Hixon’s first and only season with the Panthers. After two years of working with Cam Newton as the quarterbacks coach, Shula, 52, took over play-calling duties in 2013 and helped guide Carolina to a 12-4 record and an NFC South title.

“He [Shula] does a lot of film work, and especially during meetings how he explained it to us and kind of what he wanted done game plan wise,” Hixon said. “I felt like we went into every game knowing what we wanted to get accomplished…That year in Carolina with the offense we had, I thought we were extremely explosive and I could see the Giants doing the same thing.”

This past season, the Panthers were fourth in the league in rushing yards per game (131.4), seventh in third-down efficiency (93 conversions in 222 opportunities, a 41.9% success rate) and 12th in scoring (22.7 points a game). From Week 6 of the 2014 season to Week 3 in 2016, the Panthers produced 30 consecutive regular-season games with at least 100 rushing yards, the longest NFL streak since Pittsburgh had 43 in a row from 1974-1977.

“That was priority number one,” Hixon said of his time in Carolina. “If we can’t run the ball, then it’s going to be harder to pass the ball. So running the ball is priority one and one thing he said that stood out to me was, ‘We have to run the ball when they know we’re going to run the ball and we have to be successful at it.’”

With Shula’s track record and Gettleman’s emphasis on finding those “hog mollies” in the trenches, what’s left for Eli Manning and the passing game? Hixon says not to worry.

“When I went to Carolina, the first thing I noticed about the offense was the vertical passing game and their ability to kind of stretch the field every play,” Hixon said. “I think it’s a good fit. With the personnel that the Giants have right now that they can build on through the draft and free agency, I’m expecting big things from the offense this year.”

The former wide receiver isn’t wrong. The son of Don Shula oversaw Newton’s development from NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 to league MVP during the Panthers’ 2015 trip to Super Bowl 50. Carolina set team records with an NFL-leading 500 points and 59 touchdowns that year.

“If I was Odell Beckham Jr. or Evan Engram, I would be extremely excited,” Hixon said. “You have a Pro Bowl guy in Beckham and a heck of a tight end who’s young and kind of the Greg Olsen receiving tight end. So Shula has that same type of outfit that he had in Carolina that he was successful with. So if I’m a Giants fan, if I’m a receiver or a tight end, I’m excited because of what he did in Carolina and how successful he was.”

As for the makeup of the offense and the actual roster, that’s where Gettleman comes in. Hixon believes his ability to connect with players will be an asset now that he’s running the show.

“He’s just a likable guy,” Hixon said. “I’ve never been around him when he’s not upbeat. He’s always smiling around and talking to everybody, making that personal connection.”