Last summer in Giants workouts, receiver Odell Beckham Jr., was constantly exalted. His radiant rookie season was complete. His encore was eagerly anticipated. Ben McAdoo, then the Giants offensive coordinator, was one of few who spoke forcefully about the need for Beckham's feet to remain grounded.
McAdoo told me then: "He does have a special gift and it is a special situation. But the game still revolves around the team."
McAdoo entering last season was intent on not being swooned. He would coach Beckham hard. He would coach the offense hard. He would mold it all into a united front. He would feed the star player but demand he live within team concepts.
But McAdoo got seduced, too.
The Giants finished 6-10. A signature moment was a December home loss to Carolina where Beckham and cornerback Josh Norman tangled in an ugly, personal, selfish display. Beckham's role in it included three personal fouls.
Yet, he kept playing. Nobody yanked him. Then Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't see it. McAdoo said he didn't pay attention to it. The inaction was a "homer" moment and an affront to coaches everywhere on every level.
McAdoo has replaced Coughlin to become the 17th head coach in franchise history.
He knows offense. He knows players. He has a plan.
But this is one reason why McAdoo could grow into a successful NFL head coach -- he is comfortable being uncomfortable. He is direct and real even when uncomfortable.
When he was named Giants head coach on Jan. 14, he addressed his Beckham mistake in the Carolina game. He did it again with me this week.
"I will do better," McAdoo said. "I learned from that situation. Odell and I have a lot of respect for each other from that situation. I respect him as a player. It's a relationship where I can do more to help him and I will. It won't be easy. He is a fiery competitor. But he's got to do better. I do. We all do."
McAdoo understands actions must match words for an NFL head coach.
None can lead effectively without that. The fact that he is so blunt about it, so real about it sets him on an optimistic, tidy track. That has been his approach in his new role since the first day. The Giants coaches see it. The Giants players see it, too.
* * *
McAdoo grew up in Homer City, Pa., a small town where he says work ethic and football are important.
He worked in NFL offenses for New Orleans (2004), San Francisco (2005) and Green Bay (2006-2013) before becoming the Giants offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. All of the Giants brass interviewed him. Coughlin made the final choice.
And Coughlin liked the "Homer City" in him.
"He's got dirt under his fingernails," Coughlin said.
Giants co-owner John Mara said he was looking for a coach strong in intelligence, determination, work ethic and leadership for "a new era of Giants football." McAdoo swayed them all with his four-point plan for championship football: Strong leadership with talent and integrity, create a positive working environment stocked with teaching and learning, communicate and build a comprehensive structure that functions.
Through the Giants camp workouts that ended on Thursday and resume on next Wednesday, McAdoo is turning heads.
Early impressions are he is humble, a hard worker and communicates effectively with players from this era and with people in general.
"He's popped his head into my office three times this year already," one Giants office staffer said. "Tom (Coughlin) never did that once in 12 years."
An Giants assistant coach added, "These young players, you've got to let them know they are being heard. That something they have to add is useful and is at least considered. They can't get everything they want, but you can listen and find something that works for both of you. That goes for on the field, in the games, in the locker room, on the plane, at the team hotels, the whole thing. It goes for things as little as the music they just asked for in practices that he just gave them. Now, they know, they owe him something a little extra in return."
It's the Homer City way. It's McAdoo's, who said he has always coached with input, not just output.
"I'm probably a little closer in age to the millennials than some coaches in the league," he said. "I've never been too much older than the players I've coached. Players today want to have input. Everyone in this business has egos. They wouldn't be here if they didn't. You've got to manage that. Help them hold each other accountable, but not talk down to these guys.
"We've thrown them out there," he said, seeking to find who is comfortable being uncomfortable. "The twos and threes with the ones. Mixing it up. Jump in. See who can rise and handle it. Fast, tempo, energy. I see all three phases of the team looking to attack and not just talk about it. You can go to K-Mart and buy a system. But the mindset, the play has to be fast. And communicate."
* * *
McAdoo has a variety of football coaching one-liners he can spew in a snap. Must be the Homer City in him.
"It's (football) not for the faint of heart ... evolution, not revolution ... we'll throw away the rear-view mirror and look out the windshield ... keep the main thing the main thing, that's football ... you got to do what you got to do sometimes ... obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe dedication."
He is asked what is his favorite?
"That football," he said, "is a people business that must rely upon respect, humility and dedication."
Add leadership to that.
Because that will be the primary early question for McAdoo. When the NFL season unfolds, will he be able to look beyond his play-calling sheet and lead the entire Giants team? The entire organization? He likely will call the offensive plays again, but his leadership now must be large-scale leadership.
He does not have to do it all -- but he sure must see it all and affect it all.
And know like the 16 Giants head coaches before him, Giants football results fall squarely on the head coach more here than in most places.
I sense that McAdoo knows that large-scale leadership is not solely a game day trait.
"The teams that win in this league learn how to practice within the new rules of the game," McAdoo said. "They play physical and heavy-handed and tough and smart. You look around the league and games played in September, October and November are one thing but the ones in December and beyond are at a different level. That's championship football.
"It all starts with communication," he added. "And that can't be a one-way street. Input, output with everyone in the building, not just the team. And get everyone in the building to chase championships."