Among a whole host of changes the Giants made during the 2014 offseason, none was any bigger than the introduction of Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. How did the Mike McCarthy disciple do in his first season as New York’s play caller?
Passing Game Performance:
Eli Manning’s 2014 season was one of his best. He broke the 30 touchdown pass mark for just the second time in his career while also cutting his league-leading interception total from 2013 in half and setting a career best in completion percentage. The connection between he and Odell Beckham was immediate and set the league alight, although issues came when Manning had to look elsewhere. Cruz went down just as Beckham entered the lineup, Randle did not provide a viable complementary target for most of the season, and Donnell’s hot start could not be sustained. This was the area where McAdoo was supposed to show his expertise though and he did not disappoint, getting the most out of Manning to make up for a lack of running game.
Running Game Performance:
The performance of the run game this year must have been disheartening for Jerry Reese. After introducing three new starters to the offensive line and completely revamping the backfield, the improvements ultimately were minimal from 2013. In fairness, injury ruled out prized free agent signing Geoff Schwartz for the majority of the year who would have been a commanding interior presence. McAdoo was clearly most comfortable scheming with Rashad Jennings healthy, being able to keep the well-rounded back in during obvious pass situations and create a more natural balance in McAdoo’s favored three receiver sets. The Giants were able to do some good things with a healthy Jennings, including an outstanding day against Houston in week three, but ultimately the talent wasn’t there to get a running game going consistently.
How much credit should McAdoo get for the dynamic first season of Odell Beckham? The 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year is a special talent, but at the least McAdoo deserves some credit for fast tracking Beckham into the lineup and building the offense around him by season’s end after his late entry onto the practice field. For other young players, it was less flattering. Larry Donnell’s hot start was nothing more than a flash in the pan, and he’ll have to make significant strides to hold onto the starting position in 2015. Weston Richburg struggled at guard and Justin Pugh did not take the leap forward others were expecting, though a thigh injury that ruled him out late in the year may have hampered him all season long. Rueben Randle struggled for much of the season, though a hot end to the year for he and also Andre Williams could be a sign things were beginning to click. Ultimately though, McAdoo’s big test was reinventing Eli Manning and he achieved that resoundingly.
If McAdoo could be at fault anywhere, it may be not trusting Eli Manning and the passing offense even more. Despite the poor efficiency of the rushing offense, the Giants were in the top ten in carries-per-game. The Giants were hardly in many “run to win” situations during the season so it seems especially strange that they would not ride the hot hand even more than they did. Still, you got the feeling that the long term development of McAdoo’s offense was very much a work-in-progress due to the talent at his disposal, and the team never really found an identity until the offense became the Odell Beckham show toward the end of the year.
Red Zone Efficiency:
This is another notch in the belt for McAdoo, as the Giants made a huge leap in this area from 2013 to 2014. One of the worst touchdown converting red zone teams in 2013, the Giants finished 2014 in the top ten. Some of McAdoo’s strategies were scrutinized (i.e. four straight fades versus the 49ers), but the efficiency is impressive particularly for a team that struggled to get a push at the line and it is yet another positive indication of the work McAdoo has done with Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack.
The Giants’ inability to establish an effective run game against almost every opponent they played made gameplanning difficult. The Giants played the Cowboys and Colts at a point in the season when their run defenses were both being scrutinized and it was something the Giants were unable to take advantage of. The Jacksonville debacle may have never happened if the Giants could have relied on a running game to coast through the second half. Things became easier in terms of gameplanning once Beckham exploded onto the scene and proved he could handle the responsibility of being the number one receiver. The offense wisely became built around him at the expense of Rueben Randle. As I wrote earlier in the playcalling section, the Giants likely would have been better served planning more around Eli Manning and short passing to supplement the running game further than to try and force the running game in as often as it was. Ultimately though with so many moving parts throughout the season and just not enough talent to run a balanced offense, McAdoo deserves more sympathy than criticism.