Cognitive development studies have shown that innovative brain activity peaks in the late 30s, and then slowly trails off. In the hyper-competitive NFL where innovation is at premium, you don’t see many coordinators in their 60s.
Like we saw with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers in 2013, when fresh offensive minds replace entrenched regimes, skill players often benefit from coaches with a new perspective. Younger coordinators can offer struggling players a new technique or mental approach that can help to turn around their careers. These coordinators also craft personnel packages, configure formations and call plays to better leverage individual skill-sets and create matchup advantages that older coaches either do not perceive or appreciate.
In San Diego, 41-year-old Mike McCoy replaced that of 61-year-old Norv Turner. When McCoy arrived in San Diego, everything changed. During his time with the Denver Broncos, he was regarded as an innovative offensive mind and quarterback whisperer. Under McCoy’s guidance, Kyle Orton outproduced his talent level in 2009 and 2010, incredibly rising to fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game. In 2011, as Broncos’ offensive coordinator, McCoy scrapped Denver’s entire offense to accentuate Tim Tebow‘s strengths as a runner while concealing his flaws as a thrower.
As the Chargers head coach, Mike McCoy implemented creative screen passes and short timing patterns, which are key features of the West Coast offense. These tactics were a revelation for Philip Rivers who was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013. Ryan Mathews also rejuvenated his career under McCoy, and wide receiver Keenan Allen was easily the most productive rookie receiver last season.
Though the New York Giants are still led by 67-year-old Tom Coughlin, they are architecting an offensive renaissance that actually parallels the San Diego Chargers of 2013. 36-year-old Ben McAdoo was recently hired away from the Green Bay Packers to replace 62-year-old Kevin Gilbride as offensive coordinator. He has promised to bring an up-tempo, attack-style scheme to a deliberate, ineffective Giants offense.
During his quick rise through the NFL coaching hierarchy, McAdoo was exposed to numerous offensive systems and philosophies. He is known for a diligent worth ethic which was needed in 2013 as the Packers as a team posted 4,538 passing yards and a 91.7 quarterback rating despite starting four different quarterbacks during the season. McAdoo’s resume may not be as impressive as McCoy’s, but he is regarded as a forward-thinking offensive mind. And at 36-years-old, his creativity is currently peaking.
Interestingly, the offensive production from Giants’ players this past season was eerily similar to the 2012 Chargers. Quarterback Eli Manning bottomed out, finishing 2013 similar to how Rivers finished 2012. Giants’ running backs, when healthy, were only productive in spots. Even the steady Victor Cruz could not crack the NFL’s top 25 wide receivers.
How good could New York’s offense be in 2014?
With a more structured, timing pattern-based offensive system, look for Manning to be more comfortable and efficient. After being traded for each other during the 2004 NFL Draft, Manning and Rivers will always be linked and have strikingly similar careers. With McAdoo’s tutelage in 2014, look for Manning’s improvement to mimic Rivers’ recent bounce-back campaign.
West Coast offenses heavily rely on slot receiver hot routes in blitz situations, so look for Cruz to become a target monster under McAdoo and threaten 100 receptions in 2014.
The Giants have not had an All-Pro tight end since Mark Bavaro. Ben McAdoo was the Packers’ tight ends coach from 2006-2011 and helped Jermichael Finley become one of the league’s premier pass catching tight end. Giants developmental tight end Adrien Robinson ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at his Pro Day before heading into the 2012 draft. Only a handful of NFL tight ends can match his speed, size and athleticism, and with McAdoo’s guidance, he is a legitimate 2014 breakout candidate.
The Giants have the required ability on the field and the necessary creativity on the sideline to exceed all expectations on offense next season.