The Giants Guys

McAdoo Speaks Frankly on What He Learned From His Giants Experience

Peter King has moved his weekly column from Sports Illustrated to NBC Sports. In his first column, which contains a litany of vignettes and factoids from around the NFL, King  posts snippets of his interview with former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was fired late last season after losing control of the team.

Here is what McAdoo told King he learned from his time with the Giants

“The first thing I learned about getting fired? People don’t know what to say to you. They still don’t, seven months after I was let go as Giants coach,” said McAdoo. “I was at a family wedding in Washington last month, and one of the guests said to me: “I feel so sorry for you.” Well, it’s tough, going from 11 wins in 2016 to Super Bowl aspirations in 2017 to being fired, exposed for all to see … I see how it’s hard to find the right words. But don’t feel sorry for me. I’m blessed. I’m the son of a coal miner from southwestern Pennsylvania, and growing up, I thought I’d probably be a coal miner too. But I ascended in the football business to be the head coach of the New York Football Giants! I’m one of the most fortunate people in the world.”

Here some more specific points McAdoo touched upon…

I do understand the reality of this business I chose. You’ve got to win, and I didn’t win enough in my two years. So from the moment I got fired last December, I started compiling a book on myself. I’ve asked lots of people—coaches, former coaches, smart football people—how I could improve. It’s my manifesto. It’s up to 209 pages now. What I’ve learned so far (and it’s not over):

I learned I need to handle players, and work with players, better. Take Odell Beckham Jr. I needed to be better for him personally, as a coordinator and head coach. I was too busy trying to scheme ways to get him the ball, especially early in my time in New York, that I didn’t step back and see the big picture the way I should have. Odell’s so passionate, and cares so much, and that emotion hurts him at times on game day. I should have seen my job with Odell was more than simply X’s and O’s; it was also helping Odell the person. He is not only a generational talent, but also bright and well-read, and I let him down early in his career. I will not make that mistake again.

I learned that I was born for this, which is one of the big reasons why I want to improve and get another shot. Andrew Jackson said, “I was born for the storm, and calm does not suit me.” I learned I have the broad shoulders to live with my decisions. I need that pressure; it brings me to life. Stress makes my nerve endings tingle. I learned that I’m not afraid of making the tough decision.

I learned the hard way how not to handle success. I failed to convince the players and coaching staff that nothing carries over in the NFL after we won 11 games in 2016. The most important message after finishing any season is to hit the reset button. You have to have the willingness to put your body and mind through everything that it takes to play team-oriented winning football year after year. High expectations mean nothing. When you start listening to the prognosticators, it’s poison. We had too much of that around our team in 2017. That will not happen to a team I coach again.

I learned that my “survive and advance” philosophy of handling the media needs to be overhauled. I grew up in this business seeing media as the enemy. To me, press conferences became the only thing where I was not in it to win it; I just wanted them to be over. I asked one of my friends in the game about it, and he said, “You’re smart. But when you answer questions from the press, you sound like an oaf.” I’ve studied how some coaches handle the press, and I’ve learned how smart it would be for me, for the media and for the fans if I expand on my answers without giving away any secrets. That way, I can teach people interesting things about this great game. That investment of my time won’t be natural for me, but I think it’s important.

Finally, I learned there’s no easy way to make the truly tough decisions. Right or wrong, I am at peace with how I handled the decision to play quarterbacks other than Eli Manning down the stretch of last season. At the time, we were 2-9, beat up, and I told Eli we wanted to see the other quarterbacks on the roster—including our promising rookie, Davis Webb. I was not ending Eli’s career with the Giants; I was making sure we knew what we had behind him with a high draft choice prior to a big quarterback draft. I gave him the option to start the games to keep his streak alive. I understand why he said no, and he was a true pro about it. My bedside manner hurt me that week. I’m working on that. I do think it was special how his former teammates and the fans rallied around him that week. But if there’s one thing I want fans of the Giants to know, it’s that I made this call to try to make the Giants stronger for the future. It probably got me fired, but I believe I did the right thing for the right reasons.

One more thing: It hurt to watch the impact on the families of the men who lost their jobs because of my firing, but I will not be a disgruntled former employee of the New York Giants. The logo and the people will always hold a special place in my heart. In this year out of football, I’ll continue to add to my manifesto. I’ll continue to learn. I’m sure after how it ended in New York people think I’m down and out. It’s just the opposite. I’m improving every day, and I believe my best days are ahead of me. My vision hasn’t changed one bit: I still see myself standing on stage on Super Bowl Sunday, handing the Lombardi Trophy to a proud owner of a team.


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