Giants coach Ben McAdoo is at the intersection of Route 74 and Nowhereville. His legacy will be defined by how he manages his floundering left tackle Ereck Flowers. Despite all of the drama contrived by the New York press this week, McAdoo’s negative comments about the performance of his QB Monday night will have no effect on how Eli plays. No amount of criticism can faze Manning. Don’t let the Opie Taylor appearance and demeanor fool you; Eli is tough as nails inside and out.
Still, the Giants have real problems as they teeter over the abyss, facing a must-win situation in Philly this weekend. McAdoo has already backed off some of his negative statements about Manning from earlier this week. There is talk of turning over the play calling to offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, but McAdoo is still noncommittal.
While McAdoo’s reputation as an offensive innovator is questionable—as quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers, he was the beneficiary of an offense that featured Aaron Rodgers at QB, and the play calling of head coach Mike McCarthy—Sullivan’s resume is interesting. Sullivan’s NFL career began in 2002 as former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin’s defensive quality control coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, later assuming the role of offensive assistant. Following Coughlin to the Giants, Sullivan served six seasons as wide receivers coach, then two coaching Manning in the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl championship seasons. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator in 2012, Sullivan’s offense set franchise records with 5,820 yards and 389 points. The offense featured QB Josh Freeman and RB Doug Martin, hardly household names. The attack was balanced, ranking 10th in passing yards (248.9 per game), 15th in rushing (114.8) and ninth overall (363.8). Sullivan didn’t have Ereck Flowers at LT, but the results achieved with Freeman at QB were impressive. On the other hand, McAdoo’s early success as offensive coordinator with the Giants was inflated by the emergence of superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and a weak schedule.
Whoever calls the plays, all eyes will be on Flowers as he goes against the formidable Eagles pass rush of Vinny Curry at defensive end, and Fletcher Cox at tackle. Flowers has the commitment and full support of his head coach, usually a good thing, but there is a sense that McAdoo believes that with enough encouragement and praise he can talk Flowers into playing well. The reality is that Flowers seems ill-suited to the position and should probably be moved inside to tackle, or benched. With the injury to Hart, the line is already thin, so the latter is not an option.
Which brings us to general manager Jerry Reece; much of the blame for the lack of talent on the offensive line falls to the patchwork that I’ve labeled Reece’s Pieces, a term Giants beat writer for the New York Daily News, Ralph Vacchiano, has used in the past as well. Flowers was chosen 9th overall in the draft three years ago, and any decision that McAdoo makes that doesn’t include Flowers at left tackle will place him firmly nose-to-nose with the man who hired him. McAdoo’s resolve to coach on his own terms, even if his philosophy flies in the face of his boss, will define McAdoo’s future as a head coach in the NFL.