Ben McAdoo always has said the Giants' offense works from the players to the playbook, and not the other way around. It is, the coordinator reiterated Thursday, "personnel driven." There are no unbreakable commandments in the system, no rigid tenets that must be adhered to.
So now that the personnel has changed dramatically -- the Giants are going to face the Cowboys on Sunday without their best wide receiver and their best running back -- how will the offense change?
"We're going to do what we can to get our players in position to be successful," McAdoo said of game-planning without Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings. "We've been training guys within the system since April 21. We'll tailor it to their strengths and we'll go from there."
There really isn't much time for reinvention. It took the Giants more than an entire preseason to grasp the offense; McAdoo isn't going to chuck it into the dumpster and start over.
"Our philosophy when an injury happens," he said, "is next man up."
That next man isn't Cruz, though, which changes things in terms of play-calling and reads. The next man up isn't Jennings, and that changes things in terms of pass protection and routes. So of course the offense will look different. But those tweaks will be within the overall sphere of the McAdoo offense.
"I don't think it's going to change a whole lot," Eli Manning said. "I think each week we'll have some different thoughts on how we want to attack the opposing defense and also putting guys in certain positions to do what they do well. You might run a few different plays, but it's all still stuff that's in the system, so I don't see it changing in that aspect."
Probably we've already seen some of the adjustments. When the Giants faced third-and-1 on their first possession Sunday night against the Eagles, McAdoo decided to try a pass play instead of pound the ball with rookie running back Andre Williams (who had just run for 8 bruising yards). Manning was sacked and fumbled.
McAdoo said it was closer to 2 yards than 1 for a first down in that situation, but it's a fair assumption he would have been more likely to run the ball with a veteran like Jennings available.
"You can second-guess every call from Sunday," McAdoo said. "I have."
Now the Giants move forward without Cruz. They'll have Odell Beckham Jr., but McAdoo warned against asking too much of him as he prepares for only his third NFL game. There's Preston Parker, who is likely to take Cruz's reps in the slot initially. McAdoo said newly acquired receiver Kevin Ogletree "contributed" in practice Thursday, but realistically, much can't be expected from him.
"It's still the same," said Rueben Randle, the only remaining receiver who has started every game this season. "I think everybody can be interchangeable at the position. I don't think [McAdoo] would change the offense around just because of an unfortunate situation."
Not the offense. But certainly the game plan.
"I think we'll have a couple guys doing a couple different things depending on what they do best and what they feel comfortable with," Manning said of the process of replacing Cruz. "Somebody will be in the slot and have to run the routes that Victor ran just because those were part of our plays that we have."
The difference now, though, may be McAdoo's reluctance to call those plays. Or Manning's reticence to throw it there.