If you don’t get the start you wanted, like these 0-4 Giants, just start over.
That’s essentially what Ben McAdoo is doing this week as he returns to a simpler, more basic approach to football. Fewer plays, less thinking and more reacting with natural skills and instincts.
“You don’t want to go back to a training camp mode, but you want to get pretty close,” McAdoo said Wednesday. “Make it simple. Let players run, hit, tackle, block, catch, do what they do best.”
That certainly won’t erase the four games that the Giants have already lost. They’re stuck with those. But it could spark them to be less hesitant on the field.
“You can play faster,” McAdoo said of having fewer ideas rattling around inside the players’ helmets. “The more thinking you take out of the equation, the faster you can play.”
So what exactly does that mean, simplifying things? Are the Giants going to strip down their playbook for this game, and maybe even going forward? Will they stick to just a handful of plays? Will McAdoo’s infamous play-calling sheet be reduced from the size of a diner menu to an index card?
Don’t bet on that last one.
Odell Beckham Jr. said that to him the message behind the new approach is to “be better than them,” even if predictability is playing into the hands of the opponent.
“You know I’m running a slant,” Beckham said. “Beat me on a slant. Do it. I don’t see you doing it. That’s just what it has to be. That’s the mentality you have to have. It has to be, ‘OK, cool, you know I’m running a slant. I’m going to beat you inside and I’m going to catch this ball and get seven yards.’ Whatever you’re going to get. It just has to be that mentality. You have to have it. Now is the time you have to have it. It’s not that we’re pressing, but now is the time.”
McAdoo made it clear that his pared down scheme is for all phases of the game, not just the offense. “Playing simple, fast football and focusing on blocking, tackling, catching, punting, kicking,” he said.
It may be most needed on the defense.
“I feel there’s been some hesitation with the guys,” safety Landon Collins said. “We’re not playing sound, not playing like we’re trusting what we’re doing.”
Simplifying things, to Collins, means relying on a smaller set of plays that the unit, almost all of which returned from last year, has mastered.
“Doing what we do best, and that’s what we know best and the play calls we know how to play at 100 percent and have awareness of what we’re supposed to be doing,” Collins said. “We play simple, we play great. We play faster because we know what we have to do.”
The Giants aren’t the only team taking this “less is more” approach. Out in Los Angeles, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he is employing the same strategy for his 0-4 team heading into Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium.
“We are going to cut back a little bit and try to take our best game plan to New York,” Lynn said. “I want them to play fast, be physical and execute better, and my way of doing that is cutting back a little bit.”
As if a matchup between 0-4 teams wasn’t unenticing enough, now it seems that both sides are reverting from chess to checkers.
Giants defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, though, said it did not feel as if the playbook was “dumbed down” in practice Wednesday.
“We have to be able to handle it,” Casillas said. “Last year, the playbook was wide open and we had the guys to do it and besides a couple guys, we got everybody back. So, we have to be able to handle it. We have to be able to go out there and stop people, get up the field and not let people catch balls behind us and not leave people running on the field wide open. Can’t do stuff like that.”