Davis Webb was asked on Thursday about the return of his first head coach with the Giants, Ben McAdoo, to MetLife Stadium on Sunday as the offensive coordinator of the Panthers.
His initial response: What took you so long?
“I’ve been sitting here wondering why that isn’t something more people are talking about,” he told Newsday.
Two reasons, likely. The first is that while McAdoo presided over the last winning team and last playoff berth for the Giants in 2016, the following year crumbled so quickly and ruthlessly around him that it’s an era most in the organization would rather forget. The second: Only two players in the current locker room even know him from his tenure with the Giants and one of them seems to want nothing to do with him.
“I try not to think about any of that stuff anymore,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard who was a rookie and second-year player under McAdoo, the first of his now four head coaches during his seven-year career, with an icy indifference. “I’m focused on now.”
That seems to be the approach McAdoo is taking as well.
While he has been in football since his dismissal from the Giants the day after he benched Eli Manning for Geno Smith, including last year as a consultant for the Cowboys in the division, this will be his first opportunity to actually coach against the team that unceremoniously canned him before he could even complete his second season.
“Right now it’s about getting ready to play a football game and for me to spend any time thinking about that would be kind of selfish and not very smart,” McAdoo said. “We played them twice last year when I was in Dallas and it didn’t really factor into anything. We’re playing them again this year and so far there is nothing to it. I try to keep it between the ditches, my feelings and everything.”
McAdoo did say being head coach of the Giants in a “baptism by fire” helped make him a better coach overall.
“Having an experience is a lot greater than having an opinion,” he said. “You really get a chance to find out what is important to you.”
Webb, now on the Giants’ practice squad, would seem to have the biggest right to a grudge against McAdoo. It was McAdoo’s decision to start Smith in place of Manning that cost Webb a potential first NFL appearance. McAdoo had planned to start Webb the following week but was fired before he could fulfill that plan and when interim coach Steve Spagnuolo took over. Manning was reinstated as the starter for the final four games in 2017.
Webb was cut the following summer by the Giants, spent time on the practice squads with the Jets and Bills, appeared in one regular season game (two plays, two kneel downs), and is now back with the Giants on their practice squad.
But Webb said he and McAdoo are cool.
“I like Ben,” he said. “He believed in me. I still talk to him and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Webb said he enjoyed watching McAdoo’s offense with the Panthers in the preseason, too, especially since it was centered around Baker Mayfield who was Webb’s teammate at Texas Tech.
“I like watching his stuff,” Webb said. “He has a good offensive mind. He’s done a really good job … He’s done a really good job adapting to Baker and Sam (Darnold). I think that’s what a really good coordinator does. It’s not written in pen, it’s written in pencil.”
“I’m excited he has another opportunity and I think he’s going to do a really good job with it,” Webb said. “Hopefully we hold him to one less point than us (on Sunday).”
There haven’t been many former Giants head coaches who have had a chance to face the team as either a head coach or coordinator elsewhere. Dan Reeves did it four times with the Falcons from 1997-2003 and Bill Parcells did it 10 times with the Patriots (1993-96), Jets (1997-99) and Cowboys (2003-06). Last year Pat Shurmur came to MetLife Stadium as offensive coordinator of the Broncos. The Giants are 6-9 in those revenge games.
And make no mistake, despite the many claims otherwise, this is a revenge game.
“I can’t speak for Coach McAdoo, but anytime you play a former team it’s fun to win those games and if you lose it’s tough, that’s just the human nature of it,” Webb said. “As long as you don’t reach because of that and stay within yourself, that’s normal.
“Is there anything wrong with that?”