Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 04-04-18

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


By Dave Klein

Mike Shula, the Giants' new offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach), has been around the block more than a few times. In fact, he has been talking football and learning football since he was a toddler, since his father is the iconic Don Shula.

So now he's faced with managing an offense that was, frankly, a disappointment of the highest quality last season as the Giants stumbled to a 3-13 record. The offense was riddled with injury and when most of the regulars were able to play, it just wasn't good enough.

"The offense," he said Wednesday, "will be what coach (Pat) Shurmur wants it to be. My job is to make sure it all comes together, and I'm excited about the players we have - and will have once the draft and the free agency period is over."

The offense will revolve around several players, one of them being wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the bad boy of the NFL but a kid with untapped and indefinable talent. Three days after being named OC, Shula had a sit-down with Beckham, and came away smiling.

"We had a nice visit," he said Wednesday when the entire staff of assistant coaches gathered for mass interviews. "The thing is, coach Shurmur is going to basically run the offense too, so my job is to be an extension of his vision."

Like so many NFL coaches, Shula had admired Beckham's achievements from afar when he was the Carolina Panthers' coordinator. He didn't need that conversation to confirm the obvious - he's excited to have an opportunity to coach the sensational three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

"He's such an explosive player," said Shula, "I have watched what everyone else has seen, what he can do on the field, and I'm really looking forward to being able to work with a guy like that. Talking to the guys that have had to defend him at Carolina, and just how explosive he is and how he can get the ball in the end zone well, we're going to try to continue to build on that."

Shula came to the Giants from the Carolina Panthers, the team that also provided Shurmur with Shula, and he said, "I think he's obviously a vital part of any offense. When you have guys who can make plays and put points on the board, you try to feature them as much as you can.

"But you also have to realize that you've got other components as we move forward into the offseason and the draft, where we can put players on the field and we're not going to be predictable

. "And if teams want to try to take Odell away, then we've got other answers, and good answers."

And that, fans, is the crux of the immediate problem Shula must face. There are teams that want Beckham, and there are several sources that insist Beckham doesn't want the Giants - not unless they come up with $20 million a year under a new contract.

Will they do that? Gettleman must make that decision, or the decision on whether to listen to the few offers he has received (and will receive) prior to the draft. Getting a few extra picks, even if they turn out to be another pair of first-rounders, as owner John Mara has insisted will be necessary, the loss of Beckham would be an offensive dilemma.

Shula will also coach the quarterbacks this season. And the quarterback in question is Eli Manning, who is preparing for his 15th year in a Giants uniform.

"It's a different dynamic," Shula said. "I'm getting ready to coach a guy who has great experience, is in great shape, has won two Super Bowls and a bunch of playoff games. I remember admiring him for the way he handles questions, never getting too high or too low. We talk to our players about that all the time. Whether or not it's in the game, with the media, when you walk into the building, when you're out of the building, and I think he does that probably better than anybody. That's one of the many reasons why he's had the success that he's had."

But it might be argued that Manning is a far more effective quarterback with No. 13 split out wide, or running those crossing patterns, or jolting straight ahead from the slot and doing his best to terrify potential defenders.

Of course, he has to be reined in just a little, and that job will fall to Gettleman, Shurmur, Shula and his teammates. Being totally out of emotional control is not good for the team, any team, regardless of the skill set he brings to the field.

Shurmur and Shula plan to make more use of last year's rookie, Evan Engram, the tight end, wide receiver and H-back, and wideout Sterling Shephard will be utilized far more than he was under the departed Ben McAdoo. But it still starts with the offensive line, which is where Gettleman has been focusing his attention - he calls them the "hog mollies" while the late general manager George Young referred to them as "dancing elephants."

And you have probably heard offensive linemen referred to by various other terms.

It's Shula's job to do the hammer-and-nails construction, it's Shurmur's job to call the plays and make it all work, and it's Gettleman's job to put the pieces together so that the head coach and the OC can do their jobs.

It looks like it's going to be an interesting season.

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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