EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's easy to say, after the worst season of his career, that New York Giants Eli Manning could stand to be "fixed," and that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf are charged with that assignment. The Giants would dispute that, saying that the new offense and the coaches that come with it are here to "energize" Manning and tap into his natural excitement about learning new things.
All of that said, some things about the way Manning has played his entire career will have to change in this new offense, and the most significant may be his footwork.
"I think it's more kind of the footwork based on the route, and whether you're under center or in shotgun, just how it changes," Manning said. "There's more shotgun footwork and mechanics and kind of listening to your feet. You're going to take this type of drop out of the gun, and if it's not open on that first step you've got to listen to your feet, get through your progression so when you have to scramble you're in a good position.
"Some of those things are taught differently than what we've done in the past. I like it. I think it makes sense. You can rely on it, but it's not only remembering the play and the protection but also remembering, 'Do I take a step with my right foot first or my left foot?' Those things have to become second-nature."
Learning all of the details and minutiae of what the new offense asks him to do has been Manning's focus since his ankle healed from surgery and he was able to get on the field and practice in May. McAdoo's offense will demand that Manning get to the line of scrimmage more quickly, get the play off more quickly and work to dictate tempo to the defense. Part of the way that happens is that the footwork on the drops are in perfect sync with the routes and the play that's been called.
"We want our footwork to match what's going on downfield," Langsdorf said. "If our footwork is correct, it's telling you, 'Okay, it's time to throw the ball.' We want to trust our feet and know that it's time to either get rid of it or get out of there. We don't want him standing back there holding the ball, taking sacks. We want him to take his drop and make sure his feet are telling him it's time to do something."
The idea of asking a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback to change something as fundamental as his footwork in his 11th season in the league sounds daunting. But after a 27-interception, 18-touchdown season, Manning is open to change. And Langsdorf doesn't think it's all that cataclysmic anyway.
"Part of it is having an understanding and being comfortable with where to go with the ball," Langsdorf said. "He's got a receiver in progression when we're going to the first read, and in progression to the second, to the third, and his feet are telling him which time to move on. So there's some transition from what he's done in the past, but everybody has some sense of timing in their offense. It's just a matter of matching it philosophy-wise with what we're doing."
The timing is still a ways from being perfect, and a lot of that has to do with practice time. The Giants remain six days away from their first preseason game and six weeks away from their first real game. So there's time to get it all figured out. But get the footwork figured out and they will, because it's fundamental to the West Coast-style offense they're now committed to running.
"The very basis of this scheme is having your feet in position to make a play at the right time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's something this offense has relied upon since Bill Walsh."
New for Manning and the Giants, but Manning's hardly the first to have to learn it. The Giants have every expectation that he will, and that the results will show up in his play.