The Giants formally released the names of Ben McAdoo’s new, 20-member assistant coaching staff, a group that consists of 12 names who were with the team under former head coach Tom Coughlin.
The familiar names from last year’s coaching staff include Craig Johnson (running backs), Kevin M. Gilbride (tight ends), Lunda Wells (assistant offensive line), Ryan Roeder (offensive assistant), Tim Walton (secondary/cornerbacks), David Merritt (secondary/safeties), Rob Leonard (defensive assistant), and Markus Paul (assistant strength & conditioning) and Joe Danos (performance manager).
Mike Sullivan, who had been the team’s quarterbacks coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator, the role previously held by McAdoo. Steve Spagnuolo (defensive coordinator) and Tom Quinn (special teams coordinator) will also be back in 2016.
“This is a new staff,” McAdoo said in a statement released by the team that made the moves official. “Nobody was retained, there were no holdovers; everyone was hired. When I sat down with everybody on the staff, that was one thing I wanted to make clear. No one was retained, no one was a holdover. Everyone was hired here as part of a new staff.”
The new faces include Frank Cignetti Jr. (quarterbacks), Adam Henry (wide receivers), Mike Solari (offensive line), Patrick Graham (defensive line), Jeff Zgonina (assistant defensive line), Bill McGovern (linebackers), Dwayne Stukes (assistant special teams) and Aaron Wellman (strength and conditioning), the only one of the assistant coaches McAdoo worked with previously (at Michigan State in 2001) prior to joining the Giants.
“You have a nice group of guys who I’ve worked with in the past, and then there’s some I haven’t worked with, and some I’ve admired from afar. There’s a nice mix. We talked a lot about putting a staff together that fits, number one, that has great diversity, great personality, and great character, a staff of people who can teach the game. We feel we’ve done that.”
McAdoo’s staff consists of a nice blend of both youth and experience. The youngest of the new assistant coaches is Graham, 37 years old, and the oldest is Solari, 61 years old.
“I think we have a nice mix of youth and experience,” McAdoo said. “Even our young guys tend to have some experience when you look at it. I think we have good teachers who have high character and get the game and understand what we’re looking for from a vision standpoint.”
Of note, Zgonina becomes the first defensive line assistant in quite some time, a position that McAdoo felt important to have on his staff.
“When you have four guys out there at a time – maybe more, maybe less, depending on the personnel group you’re playing with – having a couple sets of eyes and ears comes in handy,” McAdoo said.
“Guys being able to play off of each other on the coaching staff will help. Most staffs now have two offensive line coaches and most staffs, if you’re a 3-4 (defense), have an interior coach and an outside backer coach. The way it’s gone with the four-down line teams, you either have two coaches there, or a coach and an assistant. But they’ll work hand-in-hand.”
The addition of Wellman might be the biggest move of all given the Giants’ tendency of late to be at or near the top of the league of injuries. Over the years the Giants have tried different things to avoid soft tissue injuries, many to no avail.
In replacing Jerry Palmieri with the 41-year-old Wellman, the former strength and condoning coach at Notre Dame, McAdoo is finally hoping to reverse the team’s fortunes in the injury department.
“Aaron’s a guy that is a forward-thinker,” McAdoo said. “He’s advanced in the sports performance arena, but he also has an edge to him. He can be tough when he has to be. That’s hard to find in this business these days. He’s got a nice combination of both. We feel that he’ll provide a nice lift to our program.”
While McAdoo acknowledged that it will take some time to get his new assistants, many of whom came from different systems, on the same page regarding speaking the same language, he’s optimistic and ready for the challenge.
“At the end of the day, that’s not what drives any of the decisions. Systems are systems. You can go to K-Mart and get a good system. It’s more about the leadership, the character, and the fundamentals that are being taught,” McAdoo said.
“We like what we see there. We like what we have there. We felt that going forward in that direction was the way to go. We just have to train everyone to speak the same language, and teach the same from a fundamentals standpoint. That should give us a head start.”