The 2017 New York Giants offense was predictable to the point that star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. implied that opposing defenses knew what was coming after the team’s early October loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was talking to (Buccaneers cornerback Vernon) Hargreaves after the game,” Beckham explained. “He was just like, ‘You know, we know a lot of what you’re doing’.”
With a new era officially underway, the Giants are seeking to avoid such an embarrassing pratfall.
Change continued to be the theme at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Wednesday, as the Giants introduced the assistant members of their new coaching staff. At the forefront on the proceedings were the respective new offensive and defensive coordinators, Mike Shula and James Bettcher.
The performance of Shula will be particularly scrutinized, as the Giants’ offense enters perhaps one of the most important years in franchise history.
Modern times have not been kind to the unit, as they have not scored 30 points in a game since the 2015 season finale. The son of NFL royalty, as his father Don remains the winningest coach in NFL history, Shula immediately promised an era of adjustments and unpredictability in his first public comments as the Giants’ offensive boss.
“Without getting into specifics, we want to use multiple personnel and make the defense defend the whole field, and, like a lot of other offenses, get the most out of the guys that you have, put them on the field and find out who can do what and put them in positions to make plays for us,” Shula explained. “So, obviously we want to be productive and we want to be balanced and be as unpredictable as we can be.”
Shula’s desire for unpredictability was perhaps ironic considering the Giants’ offensive lineup is far from etched in stone.
Shula spent the past seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers, the final five of which as the offensive coordinator. In his debut years in Charlotte, serving as the quarterbacks coach, Shula oversaw the development of Cam Newton, the top overall selection in 2011 draft.
It’s entirely possible Shula will have another young arm to groom, as the Giants are selecting second overall in this month’s draft. With the Giants hosting several quarterback prospects in the coming weeks, Shula took the time to explain his rookie scouting process.
“You just keep gathering information in every aspect. What’s their personality? What’s their demeanor like? You can talk a little football. We’ve seen them workout now. Just reestablish that relationship,” he said.
“Those guys have been pulled in every different direction by a lot of different teams from the end of the season, obviously, especially since the combine, physically and mentally. So it’s like anything else, when you’re looking and getting ready to invest a lot in somebody, you want to find out as much as you can in every aspect of their life.”
Those expecting an inside look at which potential quarterback the Giants were leaning toward taking with that second pick were sorely disappointed. While Shula was asked about UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold by name, the former Alabama quarterback and head coach played coy.
“I think both of those guys are going to be really good quarterbacks,” Shula praised. I think they’re talented, they’re a little different in the way they go about things, but I think it’s an exciting time in the draft because of the guys that are coming out. It’s exciting to have an early pick, but hopefully this will be the last time we have an early pick.”
Shula also talked about the Giants’ current throwers, including cemented starter Eli Manning. With the long-time signal caller entering his 15th season, it’s possible Shula could be the last offensive coordinator Manning works with. While Shula stated he’s still learning about Manning through film, he’s excited to work with the two-time Super Bowl champion.
“I think there are going to be some things terminology-wise that are going to be different, but he’s been around and seen a lot and been exposed to a lot. So it’s just going to be a matter of he may have called things differently, but it’s really the same thing,” Shula said when asked how his offense will be different for Manning.
“That’s why it’s important once we get going that we’re really clear on exactly what we want to do and I know he’s going to pick things up well and lead us in that aspect as far as understanding the whole offense.”
Shula, who previously guided Trent Dilfer and David Garrard to career-best numbers in respective assistant stints with Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, was slightly more mum on the evaluation of Davis Webb, calling it “harder” to truly process his work. He did mention that the sophomore quarterback could get a chance to shine at the team’s upcoming veteran minicamp, set to be held just before the draft on April 24-26.
Inevitably, Shula was asked about the rumors swirling around Beckham, whose name has been dropped in countless hypothetical trade proposals this offseason. Like John Mara last week, however, Shula operated under the impression that Beckham would be in the Giants’ future plans.
“He’s such an explosive player. We’ve watched what everyone else has seen what he can do on the field and I’m really looking forward to being able to work with a guy like that,” Shula said in awe. “We’re going to try to continue to build on that.”
He did add, however, he was in the process of creating plans to ensure that Beckham is not the only weapon on the field when the Giants have the ball.
“I think that he’s obviously a vital part of our offense and when you have guys that can make plays and put points on the board, you want to try to feature them as much as you can.
“But, you also have to realize that you’ve got other components and hopefully some more as we more forward into the offseason and the draft, where we can put players on the field and we’re not going to be predictable,” Shula explained. “If teams want to try to take Odell away, then we’ve got other answers, and good answers.”