Coach Ben McAdoo discusses his decision to give play calling duties to Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the good of his team, Ben McAdoo surrendered last week.
No, the Giants coach didn't give up on the season when his team was languishing with an 0-5 record. But he did relinquish the playcalling duties he had held since arriving here as the offensive coordinator in 2014. Current coordinator Mike Sullivan called the plays last night in Denver, and the Giants earned their first victory of the season with a convincing 23-10 defeat of the Broncos.
McAdoo today pointed to many reasons the Giants played their best game of the season, but perhaps none was as important as the revitalized rushing attack, which generated 148 yards, including a career-high 117 by Orleans Darkwa. Sullivan called for a season-high 32 runs, and the Giants churned through a Denver defense that had allowed an NFL-low 50.3 yards per game on the ground.
All of this occurred one week after the Giants' receiving corps was decimated by injuries, several other players were being treated for ailments, and the suspension of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was constantly in the news.
"I felt with the things that were taking place last week, that I needed to delegate playcalling duty to Sully," McAdoo said on a conference call. "I think he did a tremendous job sticking to the plan during the ballgame, and sticking with the run and putting us in position to win the ballgame. And I felt like during the course of the week, I needed to make sure that I was here for the entire football team and this organization anyway that I could be. We talk about doing what's best for the team, and what was best for the team last week was for me to give up play calling duties. And yes, the head coach needs to be available for his team each and every week."
McAdoo said relieving himself of those duties resulted in a change not only in his sideline responsibilities, but in his demeanor.
"I think what can happen sometimes is, when you call plays your mentality may be a little bit different," McAdoo said. "Your personality may be a little bit different. So I felt my personality came out a little bit more last night than maybe it normally has. I was still involved with the offense. I had a chance to buzz around and be around all the players, let my energy come out a little bit more maybe than I have in the past, but that's part of it."
The players, including those on defense, certainly noticed.
"I think the team was well-balanced, especially the offense," said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who tied his career high with 3.0 sacks. "You don't know what you're going to get. Odell (Beckham) is a great player. Brandon Marshall is a great player. (Sterling) Shep(ard) is out. Dwayne (Harris) is a great player, but I feel like it was balanced like you don't know what you're going to get, so you got to play all of those guys. It's not just one guy and I think they did a pretty good job."
"We needed to establish who we were and that's what we did," guard D.J. Fluker said. "The more we do that, the more we keep working at it, the better we can become. That defined our team tonight. We are a physical group. We just need the time to get our minds right and get on that process and get on that train to buying into what coach McAdoo is saying."
Ironically, McAdoo's decision to have Sullivan call the plays had less impact on the offensive players.
"He told me earlier in the week that Sully was going to call the plays," quarterback Eli Manning said. "So not different for me. I'm used to hearing coach Sullivan in my ear. He calls them all the time at practice, through training camp. Every day at practice he calls them over the headset. So I'm used to hearing how he calls them. Had conversations with him earlier in the week, and still knew we were going to have to grind it out a little bit on the run. It might not be totally pretty, but had some opportunities, had some good plays and guys made some nice adjustments."
Justin Pugh, who played right tackle last night, was asked if he noticed anything different with Sullivan calling the plays.
"It's tough to say," Pugh said. "We talk a bunch during the week, so you kind of know what plays are coming, what plays we like that we're going to call early on. Some things are definitely going to get called. So I thought he did a good job sticking with the run and knew it was going to be that game. Got a little lead and staying with it. I know as a coordinator, as a quarterback, you want to throw it, they're playing a lot of man to man some zero. You want to take a shot, but just with the way things were going and the matchups and the way our defense was going, it was best just to stick with it and play conservative."
And now for the question on everybody's mind: will Sullivan again call the plays when the Giants host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday? That is not the kind of information McAdoo is willing to divulge.
"I'm never going to jump on here and tell you who's playing where and who's calling the plays," he said. "But you can write about what you want."
We'll just note that in his postgame news conference, McAdoo said, "We'll revisit it moving forward, but it looks like a pretty good plan."
*On Rodgers-Cromartie's situation, McAdoo said, "I'll visit with DRC a little bit later in the week, and we'll sit down and have a conversation and see where we are." Asked a follow-up question, McAdoo said, "That's all I have for you."