EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today filled one of the openings on their coaching staff when they named Craig Johnson as their running backs coach.
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Johnson, who is entering his 32nd year in coaching and 15th in the NFL, was the Minnesota Vikings' quarterbacks coach the previous three seasons. He previously held the same position for 10 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, where he was also assistant head coach and running backs coach in 2010.
"This is a veteran coach that has coached some great players, like Steve McNair," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's been around a while and has experience as a quarterbacks coach, as a running backs coach and he's been a coordinator in college."
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to join such a great franchise," Johnson said. "I've always admired coach Coughlin during the many years I've coached against him. I'll come here to do my part to help the Giants get to and win a Super Bowl."
Johnson is the second former quarterbacks coach from the NFC North to join the Giants' staff since the end of their 2013 season. Last week, Ben McAdoo was named the offensive coordinator. He had been the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay.
"I think (Johnson) is an excellent teacher and his versatility is going to add a lot to our staff and, of course, to the running backs room," Coughlin said. "He'll be an excellent contributor for the coordinator with ideas. His interview was very impressive as we put him on the board. He really did an outstanding job with protections. And he's talked long and hard about ball security. Pass protection and ball security are both very important to me."
They are to Johnson as well.
"I know he's a stickler for that and that's good," Johnson said. "He's a coach that has a great attention to detail and I feel very comfortable being around a coach that stresses that."
Johnson replaces Jerald Ingram, who was the team's running backs coach from 2004-13.
With the Vikings, Johnson presided over the development of Christian Ponder, Minnesota's first round draft choice in 2011. Ponder started all 16 games and led the Vikings to the playoffs in 2012. In the recently-completed 2013 season, Ponder suffered a concussion and was limited to nine games. Matt Cassel led the team with 254 pass attempts, 15 more than Ponder. And Josh Freeman started one game, an Oct. 21 loss to the Giants in MetLife Stadium.
In Johnson's first season as quarterbacks coach in 2011, Ponder threw for 1,853 yards and 13 TDs in 11 games.
During his long stint with the Titans, Johnson coached McNair, Vince Young and Kerry
Collins to Pro Bowl seasons. McNair was voted the NFL's co-MVP in 2003 and was a Pro Bowler in 2000, '03 and '05. Young was the 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2008, Collins, the former Giant, was pressed into action after Young was injured in the season-opener and responded with one of his career-best seasons, leading the team to a 12-3 mark as the starter and returning to the Pro Bowl.
Johnson said he is excited about coaching running backs again.
"It's a challenge, because it's a different spot," he said. "I broke into coaching as a running backs coach. I feel confident that I'll be up to the task and I'll take them where they want to go.
"The key is seeing what the players do best and also make sure I am up to date on the schemes. With Ben here we're going to have a new style, a new terminology and a new look and I want to make sure I'm comfortable with that and I'm able to teach it correctly."
Before joining the Titans staff, Johnson coached quarterbacks and running backs at the collegiate level from 1983-99. Johnson was a graduate assistant at Wyoming (1983) and Arkansas (1984). He also coached at Army (1985), Rutgers (1986-88), Virginia Military Institute (1989-91), Northwestern (1992-96) and Maryland (1997-99). Johnson coached the Maryland quarterbacks, and for the 1997 and '98 seasons he served as offensive coordinator. During his five years at Northwestern, he helped the Wildcats win consecutive Big Ten titles in 1995-96 for the first time in team history.