I don't know how Ben McAdoo is going to do as New York Giants head coach. Neither do they, and truth be told, neither does he. I'm sure he and they believe McAdoo's ready for the job, but there's no way to be sure. This is, to a large extent, a big leap of faith.
It's a hopeful, optimistic leap, though, and that's why I like it.
The most commonly cited reason the Giants might have decided to promote McAdoo instead of hiring someone from the outside to be Tom Coughlin's replacement is going to be the continuity factor with quarterback Eli Manning. But while the fact that Manning played well in McAdoo's two years as coordinator matters, it's not the reason to make McAdoo the head coach. Success as a coordinator doesn't guarantee success as a Head Coach, capital H, capital C. The qualities required for the two jobs are not identical.
The reason to give McAdoo this job, the details of which he and the Giants were finalizing Wednesday night, is because the Giants think they have in him a future coaching star. Having just sent one of the true, proven Head Coaches, capital H, capital C of the NFL out the door last week, the right move for the Giants is to swing for the fences in trying to replace him. They might end up being right or wrong about McAdoo, but they believe in him and his potential. So they're putting their chips on his number and casting a hopeful eye at the wheel of NFL fate.
Former Falcons coach Mike Smith, who interviewed Monday, would have been the do-no-harm choice. Everyone likes Mike Smith. He's well respected. He had great success in Atlanta, knows how to run a meeting room and hire a staff. Since he couldn't finish the job with the Falcons, he'd likely have come with something to prove, which would have been a bonus. But a vote for Smith would have been a vote for comfortable competence. He was probably the least likely to turn this thing into a total mess.
Former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who interviewed Saturday, would have been the shake-things-up choice. Marrone likely would have swaggered in with a new-sheriff-in-town vibe and a goal of making everyone uneasy in the intense pursuit of success. Word on Marrone is that he's a good coach with a strong, assertive personality that looks great when things are going well but might tend to rub people the wrong way when the losing starts. Might not have been the easiest dude with which to work, and that matters to the people who run the Giants.
McAdoo, again, is a risk, because he's never done this before. Heck, he'd never been a coordinator until the Giants hired him two years ago. He's 38 years old and alarmingly untested, but the Giants have seen enough glimpses of what they look for in a leader to entrust him with this thing.
McAdoo has demonstrated some of that comfortable competence, impressing Coughlin and his fellow coaches for the past two years with his work ethic, his intelligence, his sense of big-picture responsibility. But he's also shown a willingness to be aggressive and take chances with his playcalling. His is not a dull competence, and his lack of experience means he has everything to prove.
He has demonstrated some of that intensity, exhibiting a Coughlin-level focus during practices and in meetings. But he's also, the players say, big on individual relationships and knowing which specific buttons work best or worst when pushed on which specific guys. His training under Coughlin, and Mike McCarthy before him, has stressed the importance of coaching the individuals for the good of the whole. Since they've worked with him for two years, the people running the Giants don't worry about what he's like to work with.
Is he a real Head Coach, capital H, capital C? No idea. We need time to tell us that. But he sure looks like he can be. And while you as a Giants fan might not roll into work this morning beating your chest between the 1 and the 3 on your Odell Beckham Jr. jersey and hollering, "Yeah, Baby!! We got McAdooooooo!!!!", I think you have reason to look at this move with hope and optimism.
The Giants of the next couple of years could well continue to take their lumps as they continue to rebuild their roster. And McAdoo, as a new head coach, might need to take some lumps as well. But he's got the qualities and the caliber you want in a coach, and if he makes good on those things, the Giants have a chance to have something special. When you're replacing a coach like Tom Coughlin, you have to at least shoot for something special.