Coaches

Craig Johnson
Running Backs Coach

Biography

Craig Johnson is in his fourth season as the Giants’ running backs coach, his 18th season coaching in the NFL, and his 35th season as a football coach.

In 2016, Johnson coached a group that included three veterans who missed time with injuries, as well as a promising rookie.

Craig Johnson is in his fourth season as the Giants’ running backs coach, his 18th season coaching in the NFL, and his 35th season as a football coach.

In 2016, Johnson coached a group that included three veterans who missed time with injuries, as well as a promising rookie.

Despite sitting out three early-season games with a thumb injury, Rashad Jennings led the Giants with 181 rushing attempts for 593 yards, and three touchdowns. Shane Vereen twice tore his triceps and played in only five games. He had 158 rushing yards and 11 catches. Orleans Darkwa was placed on injured reserve after 10 games with a leg injury. He was second on the team with two rushing touchdowns.

Paul Perkins, the Giants’ fifth-round draft choice in 2016, was second on the team with 112 carries for 456 yards. Perkins had personal season-high rushing totals in each of the last five games: 38 yards at Pittsburgh, 45 vs. Dallas, 56 vs. Detroit, 68 at Philadelphia, and 102 in Washington, where he also had a season-high 21 carries. Perkins made his first career start vs. the Redskins, and became the first Giants back to rush for at least 100 yards since Jennings ran for 170 yards in the 2015 season finale vs. the Eagles.

In 2015, Jennings and Vereen had career years under Johnson.

Jennings led the Giants with 195 carries for 863 yards (both career-high totals), and three touchdowns. Jennings’ 863 yards were the highest total by a Giants back since Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards in 2012. Vereen was second on the team in rushing (260 yards on 61 carries), and receiving (59 catches for 494 yards and four touchdowns, all career-high totals).

In his first season with the Giants in 2014, Johnson welcomed two backfield newcomers, Jennings and rookie Andre Williams, who helped the team average 100.3 rushing yards a game, a 16.9-yard improvement over the team’s output the previous season.

Williams played in all 16 games and led the Giants with 217 rushing attempts, 721 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the first rookie to lead the Giants in rushing since Joe Montgomery in 1999 with 348 yards. Williams’ 721 yards are the highest total by a Giants rookie since Ron Dayne had 770 in 2000.

Despite missing five games with knee and ankle injuries, Jennings was second on the team with 639 yards and four touchdowns on 167 carries.

Prior to joining the Giants’ staff, Johnson spent three seasons as the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterbacks coach. In 2013, injuries led to three different quarterbacks starting at least one game for the Vikings, with both Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder playing in nine games. Cassel, in his first season with the Vikings, led the team with 1,807 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes and an 81.6 passer rating.

Ponder played the best football of his career during a four-game winning streak to close the 2012 season that enabled Minnesota to earn an NFC Wild Card playoff berth with a 10-6 record.

In the regular-season finale that clinched a spot in the postseason, Ponder threw for three touchdowns and posted a career-high 120.2 passer rating in a victory over Green Bay. Ponder did not throw an interception in the final three games, completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five games, and had four games with a passer rating of 100.0 or better.

Johnson’s first year with Minnesota in 2011 was also the rookie season for Ponder, the team’s first-round draft choice that year. Under Johnson’s tutelage, Ponder threw for 1,853 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games. Ponder also finished the season with eight touchdown passes and only one interception in the red zone, where he had a league-leading 114.3 passer rating.

Johnson was the Tennessee Titans’ quarterbacks coach from 2002-09, when Steve McNair, Vince Young and Kerry Collins all had Pro Bowl seasons under his direction. McNair was the NFL’s Co-Most Valuable Player (with Peyton Manning) in 2003 and Young was voted the 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2008, Collins was pressed into action after Young suffered an injury in the season opener and responded by completing 58.3 percent of his passes, leading the team to a 12-3 record as the starter and returning to the Pro Bowl. McNair earned Pro Bowl honors in 2000, 2003 and 2005.

During Johnson’s tenure with Tennessee, the team won three AFC South titles and made the playoffs five times with three different starting quarterbacks. In 2010, Johnson was promoted to assistant head coach/running backs after a late-preseason staff shuffle. That year, Pro Bowler Chris Johnson ran for 1,364 yards and led the team with 44 catches.

In his first two years in Tennessee – 2000 and 2001 Johnson was the Titans’ offensive quality control and quarterbacks coach.

Before joining the Titans staff, Johnson coached on the collegiate level for 17 years (1983-99) as a quarterbacks coach at the University of Maryland (1997-99), Northwestern University (1992-96), Virginia Military Institute (1989-91), and running backs coach at Rutgers University (1986-88) and Army (1985). Johnson was a graduate assistant in 1983 (University of Wyoming) and 1984 (University of Arkansas). He coached the Maryland quarterbacks and was the team’s offensive coordinator in 1997-98. During his five seasons at Northwestern, Johnson helped the Wildcats win consecutive Big Ten titles for the first time in school history in 1995-96. The 1995 Wildcats posted the school’s first winning season since 1971 and earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1949. Johnson’s pupil, QB Steve Schnur, was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree and the Big Ten Most Valuable Player runner-up in 1996.

Johnson came to Northwestern from VMI, where he was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and helped the school lead the nation in rushing in 1991. Johnson coached the running backs at Rutgers for three seasons after a one-year stint at Army as a part-time assistant working with the fullbacks. Johnson broke into coaching as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Wyoming, in 1983.

Johnson and wife, Darlene, have two daughters, Shelby and Sydney.

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