It is a code of conduct nearly as old as the forward pass, an unwritten rule that almost every coach abides by when dealing with his starting quarterback, especially during adversity. Even the most autocratic coaches rarely violate it.
When criticizing him, you do it in the locker room or on the sideline, not in public. Let the fans, writers and other assorted opinionists in the media excoriate him, but at a news conference, don’t go there.
Ben McAdoo went there with Eli Manning.
“Sloppy quarterback play,” McAdoo said of Manning’s inability to call for a snap from Weston Richburg before the 40-second clock had expired. “Quarterback and the center need to be on the same page there. We’ve got to get the ball snapped.”
No sooner had McAdoo told his players and then the media to put Monday night’s loss on him, he dressed down Manning. Even if McAdoo was justified in criticizing him for not getting a play off in time on a crucial fourth-and-goal from the Lions’ 2-yard line, he needed to keep his feelings to himself.
As every other coach would do, especially with somebody who has two Super Bowl MVP awards and almost every passing record in franchise history. For a head coach who had just concluded his 19th game to second-guess a quarterback who had just made his 201st consecutive start, it was the most tone-deaf moment of McAdoo’s brief tenure.
McAdoo was asked why he didn’t call a timeout, a reasonable question. Again, he put it on Manning.
“Because we have a veteran quarterback who has played a lot of football,” he said. “I expect us to get the ball snapped.”
He then chided Manning for an admittedly uneven performance in the eighth consecutive game in which the Giants failed to score 20 points.
“He had some good moments, and some moments that weren’t what we were looking for,” McAdoo said. “I didn’t like the interception when we got the turnover. The defense took the ball away. You know, it happened fast for him. I thought he should’ve went to number two or checked the ball down. He was under duress all night. I thought he did some good things in the pocket, making some plays under duress, but the whole offense needs work. We’re not in rhythm right now.”
It was a reasonable assessment. Manning did struggle. But for a coach at the center of all that has gone wrong in this debacle of an 0-2 start, McAdoo would be much better off protecting his quarterback from criticism, not piling on.
What made McAdoo’s criticism even more curious was his unwillingness to single out other players — starting with left tackle Ereck Flowers, who had another brutal game in allowing three sacks to Ziggy Ansah. Asked about whether he had considered benching Flowers, McAdoo said, “We talked about giving him some (blocking) help.”
And what about benching Flowers moving forward?
“It’s more than one player,” he said.
If McAdoo won’t criticize Flowers, then why tweak the most indispensable player on your team, the player who needs to elevate his performance if the Giants are to have a chance this season? It just doesn’t make sense.
McAdoo is fortunate that Manning won’t make an issue of being called out.
“You lose games, you score only 10 points, you deserve some criticism,” Manning told Mike Francesa Tuesday on WFAN. “I know coach McAdoo knows I can handle it. That’s part of playing quarterback. You have to be able to handle criticism and take coaching. You can’t get sensitive on the field. You’re a quarterback in the NFL, there are going to be tough times, and you have to be able to handle the fire on game day and afterward. That’s just part of the deal.”
But Manning shouldn’t have to deal with public criticism from his coach. And if McAdoo needs an example, he only had to look to his old boss, Tom Coughlin, who was there Monday night to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl run. A run made possible largely because of Manning’s heroics.
I can’t ever remember a time when Coughlin publicly chided Manning during their 12 years together. Even in the bad times. Especially in the bad times. Coughlin always had Manning’s back. As a great coach should always do with a great quarterback.
So if McAdoo is going to put this one on himself — as he should — then do it without throwing your quarterback overboard.