EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Marc Colombo looks like an offensive lineman out of central casting. He's 6-8, strong, powerful and aggressive and he reveals an occupational nastiness that comes in handy when engaged in trench warfare. He is an ideal candidate to lead the rebuilding of the offensive line that is a priority of the team's front office.
Colombo is 41 years old and last wore a football uniform in 2011, but he is still that guy – just not as a player. As the Giants' first-year line coach, he will be a vital figure in the turnaround of a unit he will challenge every day. That was evident when he was asked on a Zoom call with reporters today what characteristics he expects from his group.
"I think it's a work ethic, it's a nasty attitude, going out there and just kind of imposing our will on the defense," Colombo said. "Flying around, that's non-negotiable. That comes right from coach (Joe) Judge and this organization. We really demand it here. The first thing we're going to do is work our butt off and we're going to play hard. That's non-negotiable. Everything else, the technique, assignments, stuff like that, we can get that stuff corrected. But the effort, again, non-negotiable."
Colombo can impose those demands as a coach because he adhered to them as a highly-respected NFL tackle. He was Chicago's first-round draft choice in 2002 out of Boston College and played in 115 regular-season and postseason games, starting 99 of them for the Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Less than five years after his final game, he was Dallas' O-line coach under Jason Garrett, now the Giants' offensive coordinator.
"Marc was a hell of a player for us in Dallas," Garrett said. "He was one of those guys that was just a natural leader on our offensive line and throughout our team. He simply played the game the right way. You talk about wanting guys who are going to fight, guys who are smart, tough, disciplined, and play the game at a high level. Marc did that. He was always so prepared. He always approached practice and games the right way and had a really positive impact on everyone around him."
"Coach Colombo is great," left guard Will Hernandez said this week. "It's awesome having somebody who's actually been there, done that, 10-plus years playing. He definitely has a lot of inside information as a player himself that he can pass on to us. As far as being there with us, he's one of us. He's one of the guys. … It's cool having somebody who is very similar to everybody in that room and kind of gets it. He just gets it. That's something that any offensive lineman appreciates, a guy that understands you. It's a very unique position. You don't meet too many offensive linemen. There are not too many offensive linemen. It's a unique position. To have somebody that actually played there, it definitely helps us out a lot. We really like having him here."
Colombo can easily put himself in his players' shoes, because he's worn them.
"I think relating to offensive linemen, that can happen because I played in the NFL for a while," Colombo said. "I think these guys respect that, and respect the fact that I've done it, I've seen it.
"(The players) mastering the techniques that I'm teaching, I've been able to show them exactly what I want, that's important. That's important to me, it's important for them to get a visual of exactly what it is instead of watching another guy doing a technique that I was teaching. I'm able to get in there and do it myself, at least right now. I'm 41, so I'm not getting any younger. At the same time, I think that's important for them to get a good visual of exactly what you want so you can correct it right there on the field instead of having to go all the way back to the film and correct it afterwards."
In Dallas, Colombo coached a line that was annually considered among the NFL's elite groups, one that helped the Cowboys finish with the league's top-ranked offense last season. Tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick (who retired in March) were selected to a combined 18 Pro Bowls and were among the very best players at their positions.
How can Colombo help the Giants' offensive line establish that same consistent excellence?
"Attention to detail is everything," he said. "Every little step matters. I'm not going to speak for every other coach in the NFL, but every single step matters. If you're not coaching every little detail of it, the player can't get better. It's a grind. You have to get in there with every one of these players. You have to make sure they're doing it exactly the way you want it. You can see, even after a few weeks, these guys are just eating it up. They love getting coached, and that's our job as coaches. Coach Judge harps on that. Coach every little detail, and that's the way we roll as a unit and that's how you get better as an offensive line.
"I'm really excited with the response I've gotten so far from this unit. These guys have really taken on the challenge, and they're in it every day trying to get better. After practice, working every little detail, every step. We just need to keep getting up there, keep getting the reps in. I'm excited for the future of this organization."
And the Giants are excited for the future of their line under Marc Colombo.
View the best photos from Friday's training camp practice.
*In 2005, Colombo was released by the Bears at the end of training camp. He was unemployed until Dallas signed him on Nov. 2. The Cowboys were then coached by former Giants coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, under whom he started 17 games in 2006.
"Coach Parcells revived my career," Colombo said. "He saw something in me when I was hurt and no other team would take a chance on me. I owe him a lot. He pushed me to be something better than I ever thought I could be. I'm forever indebted for that. I'd run through a wall if he asked me to right now. That's the type of respect I have for him, and that's the influence he's had on me. That's the way I try to go in and coach the guys hard like that. Yeah, he's been a tremendous influence and I owe him a lot."
*Colombo also has a passion for music and has played guitar in bands whose music is, uh, loud.
"It's maybe a little harsh for me," Garrett said. "Heavy metal times 10."
"I'm an old school metal guy," Colombo said. "Metallica, anything from the 80s. Master of Puppets, And Justice for All, Ride the Lightning, Kill 'Em. That's the music I love, that's the music I sing, that's the music I play, and believe me, coach Garrett likes it."
*The Giants' collection of running backs includes Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman, but the player position coach Burton Burns effusively praised on his call was Eli Penny, who had 15 carries and two receptions last season
"Eli has a great personality," Burns said. "He is infectious throughout the team. I think guys look up to him, he's a go-getter. He's got this attitude I'll do whatever it takes. He's got a unique ability. He's primarily a fullback if you will. As you noticed last year, he was able to get in some one-back opportunities and do those things. I think the biggest thing with Eli, he's got great leadership qualities. He's got a great personality and the whole locker room loves Eli. Just because of his attitude and his desire to do the right thing for us to be successful."
*Defensive tackle Leonard Williams passed his physical, was removed from the reserve/non-football injury list and practiced.
*Rookie tackle Andrew Thomas, the Giants' first-round draft choice, was excused from practice for personal reasons. Every other player practiced today.
*The players are off tomorrow and will return to the field on Sunday. The first full-pads practice is scheduled for Monday.