It’s too soon to know whether Sunday’s upset of the Chiefs will represent a turning point for Ben McAdoo or be just a rare win in a nightmarish season. After all, at 2-8 the Giants are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, with the rest of the season serving mostly as a referendum on whether McAdoo will remain as coach.
But there were times during that 12-9 win, particularly when McAdoo disagreed with a few officiating calls, when there was a noticeable difference in his sideline demeanor. Unlike the emotionless pose he usually strikes — often to his own detriment, because many fans would rather see a more animated leader — McAdoo was far more excitable and argumentative.
Was it a one-time deal when he was coaching as if he had nothing to lose? Or could this have been a potentially transformative moment for a coach still trying to find his voice in what has turned into an unimaginably difficult season?
“I’m just going to be myself on the sidelines,” McAdoo said following the game when asked if he had made a conscious decision to be more emotive. “I don’t call plays anymore, so I try to stay into it on all three phases. Be myself.”
He revealed nothing more — at least not at that moment — but McAdoo was willing to pull back the curtain after Tuesday’s practice and amplify on his remarks. And on his emotions as he soldiers on.
He apparently has decided to basically say: “The heck with this. I’m going to do this job the way I want to do it, not the way I’m expected to do it.”
“I think that’s safe to say,” McAdoo told Newsday. “Your personality when you’re a play-caller is different than your personality when you’re just coaching football.”
He also conceded that the man you see at news conferences, when McAdoo is purposely dull and rarely, if ever, shows emotion, is not the person his players see on a day-to-day basis.
“Your personality with your team is different than your personality at a press conference,” he said. “At a press conference, I’m very guarded. I don’t want to do anything that puts the coaches and players at a disadvantage. I don’t want to create questions for anybody else in the building. It’s more of a ‘survive and advance’ mentality for me at a press conference. That’s not my personality inside this building. When I’m around this team, my personality needs to come out.”
Apparently, it does, and that may explain why most of his players are quick to defend him from outside criticism. Despite the recent second-guessing of him by two anonymous players, the overwhelming majority do not see McAdoo as the root cause of a season that went off the rails early. It showed the respect he has earned in his locker room that many of the team’s leaders forcefully defended him after ESPN published those quotes.
Even after a humiliating loss to the previously winless 49ers dropped the Giants to 1-8, safety Landon Collins suggested that McAdoo should return as coach next year,
“It’s not Ben,” Collins told Newsday on Tuesday. “We’ve got to go out there and perform. All he can do is coach. He’s doing a great job coaching. He’s doing a fantastic job keeping us focused, because we’re all still playing and all still trying to go get it. Nobody’s going against him. Nobody’s trying to fight him each and every day. We don’t showcase that.
“In this locker room, the mindset is each week that we’re trying to improve, and that’s what he harps on,” said Collins, the NFC’s defensive player of the week. “He always has our back. We had a great season last year with him as our head coach. So, what if we come back next year and have a great season again. Then everybody’s going to love him. It’s New York. You’re winning, they’re going to love you. You’re losing, they’re going to be on you.”
Quarterback Eli Manning also continues to believe in McAdoo.
“He’s a high-energy guy, and he likes to spice things up in meetings,” Manning said. “Calls people up to read, to sing, shows these different film clips. He likes to keep things high energy and keep it going. I think it’s a good energy and a good enthusiasm, and I think he has a good feel for when you have to keep things loose, when you’ve got to make it serious and keeping the guys ready to go each and every week.”
The answer to whether the Giants will keep McAdoo will reveal itself in the final six games, starting Thanksgiving night against the Redskins. And we will see if the fiery sideline demeanor will continue and become another sign that McAdoo has decided to show more of himself to his players.
One thing that will not change is his public persona away from the game. That will stay dull. When it was suggested that his unwillingness to be more open may hurt his reputation, McAdoo said, “I could care less. My job is to do what’s best for the organization, and that’s what I feel is best for the organization.”
Would there ever come a time when he’d let his guard down?
“I’ve got to do what’s best for the organization.”
What’s best for McAdoo is to win more games, which might be the only way to save his job.
And if he does go down, at least he’ll remain true to himself.