The McAdoo Report, an exclusive weekly interview with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo:
Q: Is it fair to say that this week is both very similar and vastly different to a lot of your other weeks? You're preparing for a game, it's your 12th game of the season, but obviously there's been a momentous quarterback change from Eli Manning to Geno Smith.
McAdoo: "Well, it's a long week coming off of a short week, so we had a little extra time in the beginning. Make sure that we have a good plan like we do each and every week, but it's different from my chair not having Eli in there, having Geno in there. There are some different concerns with that, our first game together going in with Geno as a starter in the regular season. But there is some excitement as well. I'm looking forward to seeing him going out there and playing. I know his teammates are excited for him and it should be a great game, a great contest on the west coast (the Giants play the Raiders in Oakland)."
Q: You mentioned it's different, does it feel strange to you? Eli taking snaps with the scout team and in the meetings? Is there a strangeness to it?
McAdoo: "You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in this business sometimes, and this is definitely one of those weeks. None of us wanted to be here. This isn't something that anybody looked forward to, but it is an opportunity for Geno and that's where our focus needs to be."
Q: I think everyone would acknowledge there is no easy formula for reducing the playing time of an iconic quarterback. You had an idea of how to do it, but Eli didn't accept (starting and playing a half). John Mara said (Wednesday), perhaps it could have been presented differently. Are there any second thoughts on how you did it?
McAdoo: "No. I put a lot of time into the thought process. I wanted to make sure that we respected Eli and everything that he has accomplished in this profession, for this organization. I've got a ton of respect for him. He and I have had a close working relationship over the past four years, and it's tough. But I wanted to make sure I gave him the opportunity to play. I think it's important for everyone to understand that it's not only Eli why we're 2-9."
Q: There have been many instances where a backup quarterback has stepped up, played well, and rallied a team. Have you seen that happen, particularly in Green Bay in 2013 when Aaron Rodgers was injured and you used a small army of quarterbacks?
McAdoo: "In 2013, we won the division playing four different quarterbacks. Another challenging year, an emotional year. But you play four different guys, the coaches and the players just push through. You got to keep pushing through and finding the positives when you're going through a tough year, and we ended up winning the division that year right at the end, almost on the last play of the last game when we got Aaron back there. But you learn a lot of lessons along the way. I learned a lot of lessons in 2008 (Rodgers' first year as the starter after Brett Favre's long reign), I've learned a lot of lessons in 2013, and I'm learning lessons now. You never quit learning. That's the beautiful thing about professional football, you always keep learning. But I'm confident and I'm at peace with the decision."
Q: But you have seen players, teams, rally around a backup quarterback?
McAdoo: "Absolutely. The competitive fire and the competitive nature in players tends to come out, and the opportunity for the player to show what type of player they are in these types of situations is key."
Q: You studied Geno very closely before he signed here, and maybe when he was coming out of college. What did you see on tape that made you say, "I think he can come in here and help us?"
McAdoo: "First thing, you see him make throws that very few people can make in the National Football League, let alone anywhere else, so he has an arm. He has some anticipation with that arm. He can throw guys open, so it's not just the arm strength. He has the touch. I think once he got into this league, you saw his fundamentals improve, his footwork improved. He didn't get a ton of reps in the offseason, because of the injury (torn ACL) he was coming off of. You got a chance to see him develop as a pro. We just watched every two-minute drive he had with the Jets last night, so that was encouraging to see. He's had a lot of success in two-minute situations. And really just him picking up the offense and growing that way. He's been humbled, and I think when you've been humbled, I think your best can come out."
Q: When a quarterback change is made, do coaches normally tailor a game plan specifically for that player?
McAdoo: "Well, yes. The system is based where you can tailor your plan to the quarterback. It's based off of what the quarterback is comfortable with and confident in throwing. No coaches are throwing passes on Sunday, it's the quarterback, so that's a big part of it. Now, when you're this far into the season, a lot of things are what they are outside of the quarterback position. So you have to put players in position to be successful, not just the quarterback. You have to ask the other positions to do what they do well, so you have to massage that as you go through the plan and each situation. But the answer would be yes and no."
Q: If you weren't aware of what happened and you just watched Eli Manning this week in his preparation with the other quarterbacks, would you even know a change had been made?
McAdoo: "I think that he's doing a tremendous job on the field and in the meeting room. Just the way he gives himself to his teammates. He's humble and he's very respectful of the game and this organization and that says a lot about him, the way he's helping his teammates this week."
Q: I don't think you necessarily relish controversy, but you certainly are not afraid of it. But as long as you coach, to some people you're going to be remembered as the coach who sat down Eli Manning. Is that part of doing business in the big city?
McAdoo: "I've always been someone who's comfortable in his own skin. The way I was raised, I guess you could say that it wasn't always to do the easy thing, but it was to do the right thing. And a lot of times the right thing is the hard thing to do. Because a lot of times, if you're going to do the right thing by the organization and make decisions that are bigger than one person or bigger than yourself, you have to have thick skin to do that."
Q: Evan Engram dropped some passes in the previous two games, and the phrase that seems to be popular is he's "hit the rookie wall." Do you believe there is a rookie wall and if so, how does he get through it?
McAdoo: "I believe he needs to catch the damn ball. And I believe he will catch the ball. To me, it's pass-catching fundamentals that are the issue. When the weather turns, the ball gets cold and chalky and if you surround the ball instead of shooting your hands at the ball and catching it and looking it into the tuck, you're going to drop some footballs. And once you drop one, you start to put a little pressure on yourself and you start to press. That's a part of it, that's a part of the game. It's a part about being a tight end who grew up in the south, coming up here and playing in the northeast. He's got to learn from this experience and move on, and I'm confident that he will."
Q: Your second-round draft choice, Dalvin Tomlinson, has started every game, and nobody is talking about him hitting a rookie wall.
McAdoo: "Dalvin has done some good things, but he needs to take another step this week. The run game is big, obviously, when you're playing a guy like Marshawn Lynch. We got to be sound. Our three technique (defensive tackle) has to stay a three technique and be in the right gap. That's a big part of his challenge this week and I expect him to take a step."
Q: It looks like you're going to get Sterling (Shepard) back this week. The last time he played, he had a big game (11 catches) in San Francisco. Can you try to do more things offensively when Sterling is on the field?
McAdoo: "Sterling is one of our better players. Again, he had probably the best offseason of any player on offense. A tremendous camp until he turned his ankle, and then it seems like it's been a bunch of different little things with Sterling. It's good to have him back out there on the practice field, but we'll see how the week goes and see if we can get him back out on the field on Sunday. But if we do, it'll be a big boost for us."
Q: The right side of your line is now Chad Wheeler and Jon Halapio, which I don't think a lot of people expected when the season started. How did they do in Washington, and what do you see expect to see from them in the future?
McAdoo: "I think it's tough for Jon. It was a short week and we didn't really practice because of the short week, so he didn't really get a ton of full speed reps, he didn't get any going into the ballgame for his first start in the National Football League. So that was obviously a challenge for him. We expect him to take a step this week with the full week of practice and a long week, and a padded practice on Thursday. Chad had a rough night and we expect Chad to respond. They had a handful of edge rushers, including Ryan Kerrigan, who had a good night vs. us, and we need to learn from it. Once you have film of yourself and it's out there, guys get to study you and your strengths and your weaknesses, and they get to use it against you. That's out there for Chad right now, and he's got to work to respond."
Q: You had six sacks in Washington. Was that your best game of the season pressuring the quarterback?
McAdoo: "I thought we did some good things getting after the quarterback. It was a step in the right direction. I'm excited to see our guys get after the quarterback this week. They have a good offensive line. It'll be a challenge and (Derek) Carr gets the ball out of his hands the quickest of any quarterback in the league, but we can still affect the throws."
Q: You signed five new defensive players this week. In one week of preparation, how do you learn what your new players' strengths and weaknesses are and what situations they're best suited for?
McAdoo: "It's a baptism by fire situation. We're pretty confident that we all know each other's names now. That's where we are. But we have to go out, we have to put them into the plan, get them onto the field, get them moving around. You have a good idea of what guys are capable of doing in this league, because you do have pro film on them. That helps whether it's preseason or otherwise. But we have to go out there, we have to trust our personnel department and the evaluations and put guys in position to be successful. But a lot of these things we'll learn on the move."
Q: The Raiders will probably be missing their top two receivers, (Michael) Crabtree and (Amari) Cooper. But with Carr, (Jared) Cook and Lynch, do you still look at them as a team with a dangerous offense?
McAdoo: "They are a dangerous offense. I would imagine that they're going to come out and establish the run game. That will be a huge challenge for us. They're good up front with a big, strong running back who gets better as the game goes on and is a physical football player. Cook presents some matchup challenges. We've seen him in the past, we know what he's capable of doing underneath and deep. He can run a lot of the same routes that receivers run on the outside and he's a big target and a challenge so we got to be on the top of our game."
Q: Offensively, do you need to know where Khalil Mack is at all times?
McAdoo: "Yes, him and (Bruce) Irvin. Their edge rushers are dynamic. Mack is impressively strong and with one hand, it's impressive. He can string moves together, but he's just built naturally low to the ground with leverage and his strength on his one arm pass rush, his long arm is pretty impressive, pretty impressive."
Q: It looks like they have two real good special teams weapons, (Cordarrelle) Patterson at kick returner and (Marquette) King at punter. Do you see that as well?
McAdoo: "Absolutely. Patterson, I've known him, I've seen him for years. He was in Minnesota. They did a great job blocking for kick returns, as does Oakland, and he has a chance every time he touches the ball to take one to the house. He's big, he's fast, he's strong, he's fearless and he doesn't hesitate to hit, which creates some challenges. King is an emotional, big-leg punter. He can pound the ball and we got to make sure we do a good job outside on our vices and making sure we look the ball into the tuck returning it, got to field the ball."
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