EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mike Sullivan has become the new face of the New York Giants’ offense.
After more than a year as the team’s offensive coordinator, the 50-year-old Sullivan was given the job of calling the plays on offense after the Giants lost their first five games in Ben McAdoo’s second season as head coach.
McAdoo had called the plays since arriving as the offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin in 2014. He kept doing the job when he became the head coach last season.
With the team struggling and facing injuries to star receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, McAdoo handed the job to Sullivan last week.
The result was an immediate success. The Giants’ pass-orientated offense turned to the run and gained 148 yards in stunning the Denver Broncos 23-10 on Sunday night.
Sullivan refused to take any credit Thursday as the Giants (1-5) finished their second day of practice for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks (3-2).
It was a team thing, he said. It also was the answer everyone expected from the 50-year West Point graduate, who comes off more like a professor than a coach.
Watch him on the sideline, and the glasses that he usually keeps in his pocket come out to read the play card.
The play-calling job is nothing new for Sullivan. He did it for two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers under Greg Schiano. He also does it every day in practice.
“The goal, first and foremost, is always to win,” Sullivan said. “Whatever the responsibility I have, whether to calls the plays or assist Ben in calling the plays, that’s what I want to do to the best of my ability.”
Until last weekend, Sullivan had spent the past 22 regular and postseason games helping McAdoo. He would listen to what plays were called, made observations and then got feedback from the players and other assistant coaches before offering suggestions to the head coach.
McAdoo said he walked into Sullivan’s office this past week and told him he was letting him call the plays. Sullivan took it in stride and just prepared.
The surprise was seeing the Giants run against what until last week was the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. The running attack had gained 152 yards the previous week against the Chargers, but this was supposed to be a lot tougher opponent.
It didn’t matter.
“That was just a mindset of just trying to grind them down and do something that they weren’t necessarily expecting, hadn’t necessarily prepared for,” Sullivan said.
“And again, just couldn’t be more proud of all of the players, for going out there and being persistent for four quarters.”
McAdoo refused to say earlier this week whether Sullivan would continue calling the plays, but the NFL Network’s Kim Jones reported on Thursday that would indeed be the case against Seattle.
The linemen have enjoyed the new focus.
“I guess it’s just more of the mindset changing,” guard D.J. Fluker said. “Guys are really wanting to run the ball more and it stopped being so much of a pass finesse team. We do have big guys who can run the ball. It’s not like we couldn’t do it.
“You have to feed the guys (receivers) at the time when we had all of them. You had to feed everybody, keep everybody happy. Right now, pounding the ball has been going good for us. We have done a good job with it and coach Sully has done a good job with it, a great job.”
Center Brett Jones would not be surprised to see the Seahawks stuff the box this week.
“I think when we have six blockers or whatever, they are going to have seven, and when we have seven, they will have eight,” Jones said.
“We are always going to be outnumbered. That’s just the way it is going to be. As long as we keep relying on the run, teams are going to adjust so we have to be ready.”
Sullivan will be ready.
NOTES: Cornerback Eli Apple returned to practice after being excused Wednesday for personal reasons. He did not say what happened but he said he was OK. … DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) remained inside for treatment Thursday after being limited in practice Wednesday. LB Jonathan Casillas (neck), LB Calvin Munson (quad) and C Weston Richburg (concussion) did not practice again. S Landon Collins (ankle), RB Paul Perkins (ribs), WR Sterling Shepard (ankle) remained limited. G John Jerry (tooth) practiced fully after missing Wednesday’s workout.
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