When the Giants' offensive players got their first look at the new system headed by first-time NFL offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, the enthusiasm among the players was unanimous.
Practically every player who was asked about the system spoke about how much more streamlined it would be, how it had the potential to resurrect an offense that last year finished 28th in the league and how much simpler the responsibilities were for the receivers.
So where is the offense after 12 spring practices and five weeks of training camp?
“I think it’s still trying to get it exactly the way we want it. It’s a work in progress,” quarterback Eli Manning told reporters last week. “It’s not the final product right now. It’s going to be, the more games, the more plays we get, the more practice...there’s definitely room for improvement, and that will be a season-long situation, which is, I think, normal.”
The question, though, is how much patience will the front office have if the offense does indeed take all season to start firing on all cylinders?
The Giants, remember, have only been to the playoffs once in the last five seasons, a fact that didn’t sit well with general manager Jerry Reese or team co-owner John Mara when they both addressed reporters at the end of last season.
Then there is a matter of head coach Tom Coughlin, the man who led the Giants to two Super Bowl championships. Coughlin, who just turned 68 years old on August 31, isn’t getting any younger. If this offensive system sputters, and the Giants again limp to the finish line, what will become of him in 2015?
Those questions aside, there have been signs that the players, despite their embracing of McAdoo’s modified West Coast offense, are still not comfortable.
For example, Manning and receiver Rueben Randle still appear to have issues with reading each other’s body language to where Randle is in the spot that Manning expects him to be.
There are also times when Manning has made rookie-like decisions with the ball by trying to force it into tight quarters. In fact, the only time Manning has truly looked comfortable throwing the ball this preseason was in the two-minute offense against the Jets—a series in which some of what Manning was asked to do was from the previous offensive system, as Newsday’s Bob Glauber pointed out.
"When you look at it and say, 'Gee, I've seen that play before,' that's basically where you are," Coughlin told Glauber. "There's a lot of detail involved, where you're not going to know what [the play] is about, but much of what you see could be easily attributed to. That's to be expected."
With all that said, the Giants offense appears to be at some sort of crossroads as McAdoo and Coughlin continue to adjust their system to fit what best suits Manning’s strengths.
There’s no question that the previous offense had grown stale and that change was needed. The question that must be answered, though, is this: Did the Giants change too much too quickly, and will they in fact be ready for opening night to where they're not ready for the start of the season?
Here's what Manning told reporters:
"Don’t get me wrong, we’re ready for Week 1, but I think as a season goes on, you’re always looking to improve, whether you’ve been in a system for 10 years or not, whether you have young guys and need guys to step up or you have new players, it’s still, there’s always room for improvement.
"You don’t want to alarm people and say, ‘We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep getting better.’ That’s just part of it. We’re going to keep getting better, but we can still go out there and be successful and do good things and win games but still strive to make improvements within our offense."
One improvement that Manning thinks the offense can make right away is to get back to playing football.
“Everybody’s trying to do everything perfect, do everything like it is in the book, do everything exactly how they’re being coached, instead of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to play some football.' We’ve got to run around and we’ve got to just get back to playing football and making plays."
The future of many people within the organization depends on them doing just that.