By all accounts, Ben McAdoo is a good football man who believes in the value of an honest day's work. He received strong endorsements from Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning before the New York Giants hired him to be Coughlin's replacement, and the odds of him becoming a successful NFL head coach are no worse than the odds of him becoming a complete bust.
But as much as the Giants sold him Friday as a slam-dunk choice, as a guy destined to go down as the highest-scoring McAdoo since Bob, the truth is he caught a major break in landing what he called "the opportunity of a lifetime." How many 38-year-olds who have never been a head coach on any level, and whose teams were 12-20 in his only two years as an NFL coordinator, land one of the very best jobs in professional sports?
McAdoo is lucky he works for an owner, John Mara, who believes in stability, continuity and loyalty even when making a dramatic change. The Giants are a family store. It just so happens that Forbes estimates this family store to be worth nearly $3 billion.
Though Mara shot down the notion that the six candidates he interviewed represented an uninspiring lot, well, let's just say he has never felt the need to embarrass anyone when it wasn't necessary. The Giants got into the Hue Jackson game a bit too late, and chances are they would've hired McAdoo anyway because that's how the Giants conduct business. McAdoo did good work with Manning and the offense and, despite the record, he was rewarded for that work.
Mara thinks he might have another Mike Tomlin on his hands, another coach who comes out of nowhere to do great things, and it's fitting that he brought up the Pittsburgh Steelers. You don't need Rooney Mara to tell you that Pittsburgh -- a franchise forever looking for reasons to keep people rather than for reasons to fire them -- is the franchise the Giants admire most.
McAdoo showed up at his introductory news conference wearing a suit that was too large for him, a fashion statement for an assignment that might end up being, you know, too large for him. He has Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. on his side, but the defense is a complete mess. If general manager Jerry Reese wasn't embarrassed by the defensive personnel he handed Coughlin this season, he should've been.
While McAdoo was calling himself "the right man for the job," he also took the blame for Beckham's emotional meltdown against Carolina, a scene that did Coughlin no favors. But McAdoo has other prominent Giants to worry about, too, like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who frustrated some of his bosses by the number of times he temporarily removed himself from games.
The new coach thinks he can handle it, and only time will tell. If Ben McAdoo didn't really earn a job this big this fast, the good news is he gets the chance to prove he was the right choice regardless.
Here's a ranking of where McAdoo stands among the recent coaching hires, with the Tennessee Titans still on deck:
1. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: The Browns have managed 15 losing seasons in the 17 since they returned to Cleveland in 1999, which is nearly impossible to pull off in a league built around the principles of parity, and yet somehow they made the most impressive hire of the offseason. The 50-year-old Jackson was a head-coaching candidate out of central casting, a man in the prime of his life whose winning work with offenses (generally) and quarterbacks (specifically) left him projecting a vibe of extreme confidence.
Before leaving a Bengals staff that won at least 10 games in each of his four years, Jackson pieced together an 8-8 season as a rookie head coach in 2011 for a Raiders team that hasn't had a winning season since 2002 -- a performance that should've earned him some sort of civic commendation rather than the pink slip handed to him by the new GM, Reggie McKenzie. The Browns' New School leadership, under owner Jimmy Haslam, wisely pushed Jackson for an answer on its offer before he boarded a plane for his scheduled interview with the Giants, who were already leaning toward McAdoo. Burned by the Raiders and guaranteed nothing by the Giants, Jackson couldn't take the chance of losing this second crack at the top job that he has craved.
His can-do personality and agreeable approach to public relations were needed in this proud but beaten-down market. Jackson immediately showed he gets it on day one by meeting with Browns employees in the lobby of their offices and promising them he would "chase greatness." Now he can fit Johnny Manziel for a new wig to wear to the airport for his one-way ticket to wherever, and hire a defensive coordinator (Ray Horton?) good enough to complement the major reconstructive surgery Jackson has to perform on the offensive side of the ball.
2. Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers: Kelly's record suggests he should be No. 1 on this list. He has three years of NFL head-coaching experience behind him, including two 10-6 seasons, and went 46-7 while tilting major college scoreboards at Oregon. But of course, Kelly treated too many of his grownup Philadelphia Eagles as if they were still teenagers on scholarship, and in the end he was an unmitigated disaster as overlord of personnel.
Some people believe Kelly will learn from his mistakes, and frankly that would be an easier claim to buy if he took a year off, found himself a mirror and did some serious self-testing before returning to the NFL sidelines in 2017. On the other hand, he is unquestionably an innovative offensive mind who finally has a quarterback with a top-tier skill set, albeit a broken one in Colin Kaepernick. If Kelly fixes Kaepernick, and adds a more human touch to his playbook when dealing with employees and employers alike, he has a real chance to restore San Francisco as a credible NFC contender.
3. Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins: A case could be made for Gase ranking ahead of Jackson and Kelly, but his youth (youngest head coach in the league at 37) and relative inexperience render him a bit more of a gamble. The positives? Gase helped guide an aging Peyton Manning to a record-shattering season and the Super Bowl in Denver, he helped Jay Cutler post a career-high quarterback rating (92.3) in Chicago, and he was smart enough to reject the 49ers' offer last year when they reportedly demanded he keep Jim Tomsula as defensive coordinator.
The negatives? Manning is pretty damn good at coaching himself, Cutler's Bears went 6-10 and ranked 23rd in the league in points and, oh yeah, John Elway decided against promoting Gase when he fired John Fox. If nothing else, Gase has a blind belief in his ability to lead. In one of his many job interviews over the past two years, Gase was asked by one executive if he knew his personal record against Dan Quinn, the Seattle defensive coordinator who became the head coach in Atlanta. "It's 0-2," Gase responded, "and I'm going to tell you something right now: He's never going to f---ing beat me again."
4. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He gets the nod at No. 4 over McAdoo primarily based on experience. The 56-year-old Koetter was a head coach for nine fairly successful seasons at Boise State and Arizona State (McAdoo wasn't even a head coach on the high school level), and he has been an NFL offensive coordinator for nine years. Though Lovie Smith got a raw deal here, Koetter did turn Jameis Winston into a 4,000-plus-yard passer as a rookie and elevated the Tampa Bay offense from a league ranking of 30th in 2014 to fifth in his first year on the job.
5. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants: See above for more on McAdoo's evaluation.
6. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles: Pederson spent most of his 10 NFL seasons as a backup quarterback (3-14 as a starter) before becoming a high school coach and then an assistant in Philly under Andy Reid, who brought him along to Kansas City. Pederson has spent only three years in the league as a coordinator, all under a head coach who is a dominant offensive voice. Maybe Pederson has the "emotional intelligence" that owner Jeffrey Lurie is looking for and that Chip Kelly allegedly lacked, and maybe not. But after Coughlin pulled out of the chase and McAdoo canceled his second interview, Lurie didn't have much to choose from and figured Pederson might bring a little Andy Reid football back to the Linc. It feels like a reach.