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Fact or Fiction: First-year Head Coach challenges

Posted Jun 10, 2016

The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics as the team's offseason program continues:
 

The NFL is the most difficult league for a first-year head coach.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - In general, I think the NFL head coach has the toughest job, so trying to do it for the first time would also be the toughest. There are nearly 60 players to manage during the season, and close to 100 in the offseason. There are a million things going on during the game on a NFL sideline. He has to talk to coaches up in the box about plays, manage the clock, call timeouts, worry about challenges and keep his finger on the pulse of the team. It is an extremely difficult job, and tougher than the other sports.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Let’s start with the simple fact that it has the largest roster size. You’re in charge of 53 men and finding the best 11 to play on your offense and the best 11 to play on your defense. Now you have only 16 chances to prove you’re the best team on the field, and along the way, you deal with injuries, game plans, and a million other things the average fan wouldn’t even think to think of in the most dissected sport in the country and maybe the world. And that’s why we love it. And that’s why the ones who succeed become legends.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Given the parity in the NFL, I think a first-year head coach has a better chance to win immediately more so than in any other league. That doesn’t mean the job is easy, but you can’t say the same thing about the three other major professional leagues. In the NBA, given the small size of the rosters, coaches are that much more dependent on talent. If you have a few superstars, you already have a significant edge over your counterparts. Case in point, look at what Billy Donovan did with the Oklahoma City Thunder versus the struggles of Mike Malone in Denver, Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Scott Skiles in Orlando.

Starting as a rookie on defense is harder than starting as a rookie on offense.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I think when all is ultimately said and done, playing defense is a bit easier. Schemes can be simplified where a cornerback can be told “cover that guy one on one” or “get to the quarterback” in certain situations. It isn’t desirable, but possible, if a player is talented enough and is only used in certain situations. On offense, a receiver needs to run the right route or it is a potential calamity. If a lineman blows an assignment, the quarterback gets killed. The offensive playbook is thicker and, therefore, a bit harder to absorb than a defensive scheme.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Defense is probably a little more instinctive, whereas the playbook is bigger on offense. While cornerback might be the second toughest position overall, quarterback gives more weight to the offense right off the bat for this one. That responsibility only trickles down to the offensive linemen and wide receivers, who all have to be on the same page.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - This really depends on what position you play but, overall, I think there are more challenges on defense. Corners have to adjust to different rules in the NFL on top of the speed and athleticism of receivers. Linebacker and safety are the two most vocal positions in the league and they’re dependent on the defensive line in front of them, as well as what they’re asked to do within the scheme. Defensive linemen have to adjust to the caliber of play of the offensive line, which is a lot different from what they’ve seen in college. On offense, quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver are three challenging positions to take on as a rookie, but the defense has a bit more volume.

The defense has looked ahead of the offense so far

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I wanted to write “no comment” because there is really no way to know. Are we talking about the 1st team offense? The 2nd team defense? The question is too broad and tough to answer given the limits of contact in OTA workouts. It is true that the defense can often come together quicker than the offense for the reasons listed in answer number one, but the bottom line is that the 1st team offense has Odell Beckham and Eli Manning, so I’ll side with them.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fact - At least for the first half, that has looked to be the case. But remember these are non-contact OTAs, so we won’t really know anything until the pads come on in training camp and they play some preseason games. One thing you have to be encouraged by, though, is the two-minute defense, which has stopped the offense a few times this week. That includes walk-off interceptions from Jason Pierre-Paul and rookies Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - With a number of new faces on defense, you would think the obvious answer would be the offense, but I’ve seen a very active defense thus far during OTAs with a handful of players putting themselves in positions to make plays and force turnovers, most notably two new additions: corner Janoris Jenkins and rookie safety Darian Thompson. That’s not to say the offense isn’t in rhythm, it’s just that the defense seems to be gelling well ahead of training camp.

The most underrated Giant is Dwayne Harris.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I’m going to go with Weston Richburg. He is a Pro Bowl caliber center, and I don’t think enough fans or pundits talk about him that way. Harris is very good at what he does and I think most fans see his value given his return touchdowns and time at receiver last year. Perhaps fans don’t appreciate his work on coverage teams enough. But I’m still going with Richburg, who is a top five player on this team.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Harris is as tough as nails and proved to be more than a return specialist this past season, which is the exact reason he signed with the Giants. But I’m going with Justin Pugh on this one. He was the first piece in the Giants’ rebuilt offensive line and he’ll be a cornerstone for years to come. Even though he seems to have found his home at left guard, his versatility is invaluable to the offense in a pinch.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Considering Dwayne Harris plays on all four special teams units and expanded his role as a wide receiver last season, it’s hard to find a player that tops that list of responsibilities and doesn’t get much recognition. With Victor Cruz injured in 2015, Harris assumed the role of the number three receiver, more often than not, and set career highs across the board. He also sparked the Giants return game last season, taking a punt and kickoff the distance. Another player I think deserves consideration is Rashad Jennings because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protect and play special teams (blocked punt vs. Redskins in Week 3).