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Ben McAdoo, America’s Gym Teacher, Might Win NFL Coach of the Year

The Giants coach can motivate his players, but maybe doesn’t understand dogs

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ben McAdoo is a special kind of NFL coach. Two weeks ago, Vegas oddsmakers had our man at seventh in the running for Coach of the Year. Since then, his Giants dropped a game to the Steelers before toppling the Cowboys for the second time this season; New York has handed Dallas its only L’s in the 2016 campaign. As a result, the chatter about McAdoo, who is in his rookie year as head coach, has grown louder — could he, the man with the dorky glasses, oversize play sheet, and no known suits that fit, be in line for Coach of the Year honors?

Sure, it’s unlikely that in the waning weeks of the season he will manage to surpass the competition, namely Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, and Jack Del Rio — but here we are, and we are not alone in having this conversation, and that’s a victory in its own right. I do not think it’s unreasonable to say that if you possess McAdoo stock, now might be a good time to sell.

His methods — to set aside, for a moment, his persona, and the fact his look has been compared to that of a Boy Scout troop leader, mattress salesman, and Denny’s manager — are, shall we say, a little unconventional. And yet, somehow, they seem to be working, as the Giants are 9–4. So let’s take a stroll through the antics of our dearest mustachioed friend and the lessons he’s tried to impart on his players, and see what we can learn along the way.

Lesson 1: Dogs Are … Something

It is difficult to look at McAdoo’s engagement with man’s best friend and not wonder what point he is trying to get across. He seems, like our president-elect, to believe that dogs are something other than cheerful, loyal, food-mad companions. Let us consider what I like to call the McAdoo Unifying Theory of Dogs.

In September, before the Giants’ season-opening matchup against the Cowboys, McAdoo decided to fire up his team with the help of a thoughtful, inspirational, time-tested video clip showcasing all that is great about the human spirit: [CENSORED] getting eaten alive by starving dogs in Season 6 of Game of Thrones. “[I]t was just about being hungry, and coming to work every day,” one Giants player told the New York Post, apparently choosing to bypass the fact that the hunger here was not for work but instead for human flesh.

Then, in October, McAdoo turned to another masterpiece of cinema featuring canines (sort of): the scene from Step Brothers in which Will Ferrell is forced to lick caked dog feces off the ground. I apologize for writing that sentence; trust that I have done my journalistic due diligence and can confirm that … yes, this happens. “Basically he said was, ‘They’re gonna try to come in and try to bully us,’” wide receiver Dwayne Harris told the Post, which really seems to have the weird movie/Giants beat locked down, of McAdoo’s methodology. “We’re at our house, and we gotta come out and just play like it’s our house.”

And before last Sunday’s 10–7 victory over the Cowboys, McAdoo showed his team an extremely-for-sure-a-hoax video of a kangaroo seizing a dog by its throat, holding it briefly hostage, and then getting punched in the face by a man attempting to free said dog.

By way of explanation, McAdoo told — where else? — the Post, “We have to stay hungry. We have to be hungry, and it’s time to … it’s time to eat.”

In this scenario, that makes … the Cowboys the kangaroo? And the dog is victory? Or the football? And it’s up to the Giants to punch them in the nose? And MetLife Stadium is the Outback: bleak, desolate, full of dangerous creatures, and — huh. All right.

In conclusion: Praise dogs. Fear them. Clean up after them.

Lesson 2: Millennials Are Precious, Delicate Souls in Need of Protection

McAdoo, who at 39 is one of the youngest head coaches in the NFL, has gone out of his way to look after the fragile egos, unfettered screen addictions, and goldfish-on-meth attention spans of the millennials under his care. In July, he made headlines for retooling training camp to better suit the wee lads on his team. The Giants increased their number of daily meetings, cut meeting length, and put an emphasis on [bikram yoga teacher voice] wellness.

At the team’s preseason practice facility, “concert-stage sized loudspeakers” were installed; timeouts were indicated with the theme songs of shows including House of Cards and Happy Days. Because nothing says “Gatorade break” like Sunday, Monday, happy days …

Lesson 3: Actually Be a Gym Teacher

Many People Are Saying that McAdoo, with his thick mustache, ruffled and Chris Christie–criticized hairdo, and unusual fashion choices, looks like a schoolteacher in (poor) disguise. Maybe he teaches chemistry; maybe he instructs kids on the finer points of scooter hockey. It turns out that the international man of mystery actually is a gym teacher, or at least is exceedingly qualified to be one: He studied health and physical education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from Michigan State. “He’s a football coach, but he considers himself a teacher first,” NJ.com concluded in September.

So what can we learn from McAdoo’s Coach of the Year candidacy? That, perhaps, it sometimes pays to be a weirdo — even in a league that actively discourages it. And that productivity might just skyrocket if we all saw [CENSORED] get eaten alive by dogs one more time.