EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was no shying away from his sky-high expectations. Ben McAdoo went straight to the mountaintop. He mentioned adding a fifth Lombardi Trophy to the trophy case on Thursday before concluding his opening statement to the media at his first training camp as the New York Giants ’ head coach.
Tom Coughlin’s successor is aiming to immediately step into his mentor’s massive shoes. And why not? There’s no harm in eyeing the ultimate prize in professional football. It’s what every team does each spring and summer when it's undefeated.
But McAdoo knows that Super Bowls aren’t won at podiums. They’re captured through hard work and on the field.
“Those are words,” McAdoo said. “We need to back them up.”
It began back in January when McAdoo was tasked with transforming a team that has finished with a losing record each of the past three years. He started by making changes in the spring, and he’s looking to continue by making progress at training camp this summer.
But his to-do list is quite extensive, and includes a plan that is quite detailed.
“We’re going to start off smart. We want to build them up, build the team up into a strong team," McAdoo said. “We want to get out of camp healthy, so we’re going to be smart early on, get better as we go and get a step better every day.
“But again, it all goes back to our identity: sound, smart and tough, committed to discipline and poise. Fundamentals will be important. They’ll be important when we get the pads on, not just for the big guys, but for the perimeter as well."
The injury aspect has been a focus ever since McAdoo was hired. He brought in a new strength and conditioning coach, overhauled the weight room and is set to run drills designed specifically to limit the risk of injury.
But he knows injuries are part of football. The Giants already have three players on the physically unable to perform list before even taking the field for a practice. It’s an unforgiving game and McAdoo is hoping his first training camp is “real physical.” It’s just that the physicality will come with a tinge of precaution.
“We changed some things with the schedule. We’re going to build [the players] up similar to the way we built them up in the offseason, and we’re going to just add pads,” McAdoo said. “Football is football, so we’re going to go out and play the game the right way. The game looks a little different than it has in the past, but at the end, the teams that are standing at the end are the physical teams and the heavy-handed, tough teams. The game may look a little bit different, but that part hasn’t changed and it never will.”
What has changed is the head coach. McAdoo replaced Coughlin after a 12-year run that netted two of those four Lombardi trophies that sit in the Giants' trophy case.
But there’s no need for McAdoo to do anything extreme this training camp to put his stamp on the team. The players believe that already was done. Any shock or awkward moments with the realization that Coughlin was no longer their head coach already occurred when the Giants reported for their offseason workout program.
“I think we had that moment collectively as a team [in the spring]," running back Rashad Jennings said. “I am sure everybody on the staff and organization that has been here for a really long time with him may feel that way. We understand.
“He is a coach that is there in spirit anyway. He understands what is going on and every single guy out here is ready to compete, fight for a championship, come earn a spot and do it the Giants way, so that is kind of our focus.
“But there will always be small laughter and talks about Coach Coughlin in the locker room and around this building.”
The clocks still remain on Coughlin time -- five minutes fast -- as a reminder of the discipline and poise the former coach instilled in his teams, something McAdoo hopes remains. But this is now McAdoo’s team. He can’t wait to see what the roster general manager Jerry Reese has assembled can do this summer. It has him itching for real football.
“I like to see how they push through. The offseason is the offseason, but I can’t wait,” McAdoo said. “I went in and we circled the first day we’re going to put the pads on and practice. We can’t wait for it. That’s when you start finding out about the group of men in the locker room, and I hope they’re looking forward to it as much as I am.”