How Turning Over the Play Calling Affected Ben McAdoo for the Better

New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo has maintained since the very first day he was given the headset with the link to the quarterback’s helmet that he enjoys calling plays.

He enjoys it so much in fact that he kept the responsibility after he was promoted from offensive coordinator, a role he held for the Giants for two seasons, to head coach in 2016.

That is until this past Sunday when McAdoo, who was coming off one of the most turmoil filled weeks in his short career as head coach, turned over his beloved play calling duties to Mike Sullivan, the team’s offensive coordinator so that McAdoo could be available to an entire team that, he told Michele Tafoya of the NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast team, “needed him.”

Monday, McAdoo was asked to expand the context of his quote, which struck many as odd considering it is generally assumed that the head coach is always needed by the entire team every week.

I felt with the things that were taking place last week, that I needed to delegate play calling duty to Sully,” McAdoo said.

“I felt like during the course of the week, I need to make sure that I was here for the entire football team and this organization anyway that I could be. We talk about doing what’s best for the team, and what was best for the team last week was for me to give up play calling duties.

As it turned out, removing the play calling responsibility from his to-do list allowed McAdoo’s true personality to come through.

“I think what can happen sometimes is, when you call plays your mentality may be a bit different,” he said.

“I felt my personality came out a little bit more (Sunday) night than maybe it normally has. I was still involved with the offense. I had a chance to buzz around and be around all the players, let my energy come out a bit more maybe than I have in the past.”

With the Giants offense having started the 2017 season slowly, there was a growing belief that the head coach was so involved with trying to fix the problems on that side of the ball that he wasn’t paying enough attention to the defense and special teams, both of whom were also struggling.

When things came to a head—cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple committed a team rules infraction that resulted in an indefinite suspension for Rodgers-Cromartie and a benching for Apple—McAdoo likely realized that he had to step away from doing what he loved to address the bigger picture.

The move benefited the Giants as well. New York rushed for a season-high 148 yards on 32 carries as Sullivan stayed committed to the ground game, unlike what McAdoo has done in the past. Sullivan also played the percentages in terms of going for field goals rather than trying to convert on fourth down.

More importantly, he featured the tight ends and the running backs in a trimmed down passing game which not only allowed the new receivers to get their feet wet in live regular-season action, but also cut down on the wear and tear of quarterback Eli Manning’s arm given that he was averaging 40.4 pass attempts this season.

“I think he did a tremendous job sticking to the plan during the ballgame and sticking with the run and putting us in position to win the ballgame,” McAdoo said of Sullivan’s play calling.

While the head coach added that “Yes, the head coach needs to be available for his team each and every week,” he also left the door open for his possible return as the team’s play caller.

“I’m never going to jump on here and tell you who’s playing where and who’s calling the plays,” he said.