There are adjustments for any NFL head coach, and Ben McAdoo certainly is no exception. There are meetings to run, practices to oversee, game plans to create. Then there is the matter of what to do and how to behave — even where to stand on the sideline — during the game.
And as McAdoo showed during his preseason debut last night at MetLife Stadium, it can be a little awkward. While his players and coaches milled about purposefully during the game against the Dolphins, McAdoo often looked like a coach with nowhere to go.
When the Giants had the ball on offense, he’d stand near offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan on the sideline. Although McAdoo said he hadn’t decided who will call plays this season, Sullivan handled those responsibilities last night.
When the Giants’ offense came off the field, it was Sullivan who sat on the bench surrounded by players, going over the previous plays and planning for the upcoming series. That’s the job McAdoo had the previous two seasons as Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator.
When the Giants were on defense, McAdoo left coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to his own devices, standing several yards away. McAdoo occasionally consulted with Spagnuolo, and the two would watch some plays on a tablet.
A different role, but an enthusiastic start for the new man on the job.
“I was excited,” McAdoo said after the Giants’ 27-10 loss, a mostly sloppy affair that went badly for the Giants once their starters left the game. “I think everybody in that locker room was excited. First time you get out and work against another team always provides some good energy.”
McAdoo was none too pleased, however, about the Giants’ ball security issues.
“We had six balls on the ground with two [interceptions],” he said. “I’m not pleased with any of it.”
There still is a month before the Giants open the regular season in Dallas, and there is much more for McAdoo to accomplish in his first training camp and preseason as the head coach. He eventually will establish an identity, both for his team and his coaching style. But for now, it’s a work in progress, and McAdoo seems content to focus on the big picture as he gets his feet under him and prepares for a job that can be relentlessly challenging and mostly unforgiving once the games start to count.
McAdoo did put a somewhat unique stamp on his debut by keeping his two most important offensive players on the sideline. It was announced before the game that Eli Manning wouldn’t play, and when lightning and rain delayed the start of the game, McAdoo added Odell Beckham Jr. to that list.
Manning had never not played in the first preseason game in his previous 12 NFL seasons, so it was an unorthodox decision, to be sure. But it also gave McAdoo a better opportunity to assess his backup, Ryan Nassib, who got to play with the starters and the primary backups.
It was not a pretty picture, as Nassib threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that led to a Dolphins touchdown.
The Giants did get strong contributions from their top two rookies — first-round cornerback Eli Apple and second-round receiver Sterling Shepard, who made a dazzling shoestring catch in the first quarter to set up a touchdown — but both players left in the first half with minor injuries.
Apple had the outside of his left knee looked at and Shepard left with a groin strain. Neither injury was considered serious.
Injuries mean adjustments, and McAdoo is prepared for whatever awaits him. “There’s always some things you have to adjust and improvise,” he said. “You really just roll with the punches after that.”
There will be plenty more adjustments ahead, but McAdoo seems up to the job. He is not a guy who will win the news conference with an electrifying personality, but he does command the respect of his players.
With Manning and a defense that figures to get better with all the talent acquired in free agency, the Giants should contend for the NFC East title.
McAdoo’s new gig as the head man will take some getting used to, and just as he looked awkward in his oversized suit during his introductory news conference, he seemed similarly out of sorts on the sideline Friday night.
But time and talent are on his side. As the process continues to unfold, the arrow points unmistakably upward for a man who figures to be good at what he does.