Sure, we are only a quarter of the way though his rookie season, but Ben McAdoo appears likely to become the best head coach in Giants history among those who have succeeded a two-time Super Bowl winner.
OK, so the bar set by Ray Handley in 1991 and ’92 is exceedingly low. But still!
The 39-year-old already has proved he belongs, winning two of his first three games entering Monday night’s tall task against the Vikings and handling the mechanics and nuances of the job smoothly.
Fans of a certain age recall that Handley, like McAdoo an offensive expert hired from within, made an alarming mess of the post-Bill Parcells Giants after an alarmingly messy transition.
He did start that season with a victory over the 49ers and eventually was 4-3 and 7-5 before finishing 8-8, but then the wheels, chassis and steering column came off the bus in ’92.
And remember, he took over a Super Bowl winner and a team that had reached the playoffs in five of the previous six non-strike seasons.
McAdoo took over a franchise that had missed the postseason four years in a row and six out of seven under Tom Coughlin and needed a jolt of — something, anything, before Eli Manning’s prime expires.
It began with revenge victories over the Cowboys and Saints in the sort of games that often were lost last year. (The rematch of the Vikings’ 49-17 rout last December was a chance for a third.)
But there are certain to be ups and downs ahead, and McAdoo seems an even-keeled sort, much like his Jets counterpart, Todd Bowles, who made an impressive debut last year and now faces an early-season crisis at 1-3.
One thing McAdoo is not is a charismatic figure of the kind Parcells and Coughlin were. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Winning trumps personality every time.
Speaking of bland quotes, McAdoo has mastered that, often one word at a time. For example: What sort of qualifications does he look for in considering an offensive player to help out on defense? “Tackling,” he said.
When asked by Giants.com if he will fill the injured Shane Vereen’s roles by “committee,” he responded, “Yes, absolutely. ‘By committee’ is a good way to say, ‘I’m not giving you an answer.’ ”
Sports history traditionally advises coaches and managers to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces the guy, not the guy who replaces the guy.
Dan Reeves replaced Handley in 1993 and immediately led the Giants to an 11-5 season, a playoff berth and a near division title.
McAdoo has much to live up to as Coughlin’s immediate successor.
Near the top of McAdoo’s to-do list is how to harness the mercurial emotions of Odell Beckham Jr. A week ago, McAdoo used the “D” word in reference to Beckham, as in distraction.
OBJ did not seem to be a fan of that notion, saying: “At the end of the day, you play for the guys who are wearing the jersey. They’re the ones that take the field for you. They’re the ones who you shed blood, sweat and tears with. I’m just going to go out and be who I am.”
By later in the week, McAdoo was saying: “Just like everybody else in the locker room, we want to be our best when our best is needed, and he’s been that for us. It was no factor in the outcome of the Redskins] game.”
One of Coughlin’s trademark phrases was “remorse for opportunity lost.” McAdoo sounded a lot like his old boss when discussing the three close games the Giants played in the first three weeks.
“The pain of discipline versus the pain of regret,” he said. “The first two weeks we showed the pain of discipline. Last week, the pain of regret showed up.”