Ben McAdoo knew the inherent risks of the job — especially the part about handling controversy — as soon as he was anointed the Giants’ coach in January.
“You knew going in there were going to be three dumpster fires every day,” McAdoo said after Wednesday’s practice.
This has been quite the introductory season for McAdoo, 39, who succeeded two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin after two years as his offensive coordinator. The Giants have been at the epicenter of controversy this season — on the field with Odell Beckham Jr.’s early-season antics that drew criticism and repeated fines and off the field over the team’s handling of kicker Josh Brown’s domestic violence case.
“We deal with them as they come,’’ McAdoo said. “A lot of things cross your desk that you don’t want to deal with, but it’s part of the job and you handle it, you move on, stay consistent. You stay in the moment and you keep everyone’s best interests in mind.”
The Brown case has been especially troubling. Brown initially was suspended one game for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, but the situation mushroomed into a full-blown crisis, mostly because of how clumsily the team handled it. After first expressing support for Brown, the Giants eventually released him after court documents revealed admissions from Brown that he had physically and mentally abused his wife on multiple occasions.
Of all the Giants’ key decision-makers, though, McAdoo handled the circumstances with an appropriate mix of concern, criticism, thoughtfulness and sensitivity. While condemning Brown’s behavior, he showed compassion for the family and never ducked the issue, despite the intense attention focused on the situation.
Team president and co-owner John Mara initially declined to comment on Brown’s suspension, appearing evasive. After acknowledging last month that the team was aware of Brown’s abusive behavior but not the full extent of it, Mara was criticized heavily for re-signing him and not releasing him sooner than last week.
General manager Jerry Reese has said almost nothing on the subject. He hasn’t explained why the team signed Brown to a two-year contract in April, even though Reese knew of his impending suspension and an incident at the Pro Bowl in January when Brown’s then-wife, Molly, called NFL security after the kicker had pounded on her hotel room door.
It has been a bad look from management, but McAdoo at least has been forthcoming in addressing the issue and not ducking questions. Mara and Reese have left it to McAdoo and the players to comment on Brown, and the coach has done a commendable job steering the team through the controversy.
He also has found a way to get Beckham to settle down on the field after a series of incidents, including slamming his helmet into the kicking net during a game, getting into a skirmish on the field, pretending to kiss the kicking net and then “proposing” to the net the next week.
McAdoo deftly handled the national anthem protests around the league. He convinced his players to show respect by standing but also addressed the issue of racial injustice in America through community-related activities, which included meeting with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
McAdoo told Newsday he remains unflinching in the face of the challenges.
“I’m going to be the same consistent coach and man I always am, regardless of what’s going on around me,” he said. “The bigger the bullets, the harder it gets, the better I’ll get. I’m never gonna waver. Period.”
He thinks the controversy ultimately will galvanize his locker room.
“I think it’s been a great test for our team, and I think we’re going to come through it stronger,” he said. “The noise is loud here (in the New York market), but if we stay focused on the task at hand, we’ll come through it stronger. It’s not over. It never is.”
McAdoo has strong support in the locker room.
“I think he’s handling everything well,” quarterback Eli Manning told Newsday. “It’s different when you’re a coordinator or a position coach and then becoming the head coach and dealing with the media, but I think he’s done a great job handling it.”
Victor Cruz said McAdoo has “done a good job of understanding the team that he has, that he’s able to talk in a way we’ll listen and comprehend and I think he’s been great. He’s been nothing but a positive influence on us.”
Cruz said the job “isn’t too big for him. He understands what New York is all about, what this organization is all about, and I think he’s handled it perfect. I don’t think this stage has been too big for him.”
At 4-3 and coming off the bye, McAdoo is attempting to get the Giants into the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the season they won their second Super Bowl under Coughlin. Next up: NFC East rival Philadelphia at MetLife Stadium.
“I don’t like the bye, personally,” he said. “I like to stay in rhythm, stay in the grind.”
McAdoo admits the job is not for everyone.
“What we do is not normal,” he said. “Who we are is not normal. I embrace that. I enjoy that.”