EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is printed on oversized paper. It is laminated and even sports ringed binding.
It is not the menu from a New Jersey diner that we’re talking about here. It’s the extensive and encyclopedic play card of New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo.
“I can see how it’s like a diner menu,” said quarterback Eli Manning, who gets a similar version during the week. “A lot of pages. Sure.”
It may be practical. It may be efficient. It also does look like a menu from one of Jersey's finest diners.
“It does with the gloss and finish on it,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said while chuckling. “It really does.”
The kicker is that the play card, often in front of McAdoo’s face during Giants games and sometimes even covering him completely, is littered with Post-it Notes. That part made even Manning chuckle when the topic was broached this week.
McAdoo’s play card has become a popular topic during game broadcasts and on social media.
“Have I heard that?” McAdoo asked after conceding that he re-watches the game broadcast. “There are certain things I listen to, certain things I don’t."
McAdoo’s menu-like play card isn’t completely unique. His mentor Mike McCarthy uses something similar in Green Bay. Andy Reid, who also possesses a Green Bay background, works a bit more horizontally than vertically but is a member of the same Oversized Play Card Anonymous.
It’s not an isolated playcaller problem. It appears to be more of an epidemic.
Detail-oriented NFL coaches take preparation and organization to unique levels.
“Yeah, the first time it seemed like a lot, a ton of stuff,” said Manning, who receives an even bigger version during the week before it’s cut during a ranking day of the Giants' favorite plays. “It all makes sense, and now you see the reasoning for it.”
The McAdoo play card is extensive. It has different sections and pages, hence the need for ringed binding. Some of the content is redundant. It’s organized by situation -- whether it’s first down, second down or red zone -- and seemingly based off where the Giants have the ball. Each page is its own section of the field.
“It’s a map of the field,” McAdoo said. “It’s more of a thought process than a play sheet.”
The goal is for the Giants coach and playcaller to be more efficient in the moment.
With only 40 seconds in between plays in an NFL game, playcall decisions must be made quickly. The coach or coordinator has only several seconds to analyze the situation and select an appropriate play for the given down and distance. It then needs to be relayed through the headset to the quarterback, who must then have ample time to align his unit and make any necessary pre-play adjustments in order for it to run efficiently and effectively.
All this must occur in a matter of 40 seconds or less.
The play card is the tool that helps McAdoo make it happen, and it has become somewhat of its own sensation. But inside the Giants' locker room, most of the players haven't blinked.
“I thought it was normal,” backup quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “What can I say? We have a lot of good plays. I’m sure he wishes he could call them all.”
The sheer enormity of the play card isn’t anything new. McAdoo’s version since joining the Giants as offensive coordinator in 2014 has always been large -- just maybe not quite this large.
“It has evolved as situational football has evolved,” McAdoo said.
It's also that head coach McAdoo is a much more common target of the camera during games than offensive coordinator McAdoo. When the Giants have the ball this season and the camera pans to the sidelines, there is McAdoo, not Tom Coughlin. And maybe you can see McAdoo's face if it’s not behind that oversized menu.
Or maybe not. The play card can shut out the camera.
“It’s healthy, man,” Cruz said. “He’s got the full gamut on there. He has to be able to get to any given play at any given time.”