What Makes Ben McAdoo A Front-Runner?

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Ben McAdoo. (USA Today Sports)

When Ben McAdoo had an opportunity to interview for the Browns’ head coaching job in January of 2014, Aaron Rodgers had nothing but a ringing endorsement for McAdoo, who was still Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach at the time.

“I sent him a text, I said, ‘Make sure you put me down as a reference,'” Rodgers said.

“I thought having a guy who played the position was right for me at that point,” he continued. “But I told [McAdoo] this yesterday, ultimately I need and have always needed a guy who gets me prepared every week, that can give me the opportunities to reach my potential. Ben did that every day the last two seasons for me and the other quarterbacks in the room.”

With ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying Wednesday that he senses McAdoo is a front-runner for the Eagles’ head coaching job, it felt like the right time to delve into the Homer City, Pa., native’s background and find out what makes him a potential fit.

McAdoo got his first real coaching gig at Michigan State in 2001, when he was graduate assistant for special teams and offense under Bobby Williams. Two years later, after a stop in Fairfield, he earned another graduate assistant position, this time under Walt Harris at Pitt.

He nearly accepted a position at Akron the next season, but instead accepted his first NFL job, offensive quality control coach for the Saints, who were coached by Jim Haslett at the time. He interviewed with Mike McCarthy, then the Saints’ offensive coordinator. When McCarthy became the Packers’ head coach in 2006, he scooped up McAdoo and named him Green Bay’s tight ends coach, which is when McAdoo’s career started to blossom.

During his six years as the Packers’ tight ends coach, he left an indelible mark on McCarthy’s offense.

He helped get the most out of veteran tight end Donald Lee, and was the mastermind behind Jermichael Finley‘s breakout season in 2009, when Finley exploded for 676 yards and five touchdowns. That season, Packers tight ends caught 99 passes for 1,048 yards, both franchise records. In 2009 and 2011 combined (he missed the majority of 2010 with an injury), Finley caught 110 passes for 1,443 yards and 13 TDs in just 29 games.

After helping the Packers’ offense to a Super Bowl in 2011, McAdoo fielded plenty of interest from teams around the league, but Green Bay retained him by promoting him to quarterbacks coach, pairing him with one of the best in the league in Rodgers.

In McAdoo’s two years as quarterbacks coach, Rodgers was efficient and largely mistake-free. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 56 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt. He compiled a 106.9 rating in those two seasons.

Eventually, the evidence was too strong that McAdoo deserved a shot as an offensive coordinator, and Tom Coughlin gave him that opportunity with the Giants in 2014.

New York was coming off one of its worst offensive seasons in recent memory; in 2013, the Giants ranked 28th in points scored, and Eli Manning in particular was struggling mightily. The veteran quarterback completed just 57.5 percent of his passes in 2013, throwing 18 touchdowns to 27 interceptions, and averaged 6.9 yards per attempt, his lowest mark in five years.

McAdoo made short work of Manning’s troubles, leading him to the best two-year stretch of his career. In the last two seasons, Manning has completed 62.8 percent of his passes, and thrown 65 touchdowns to 28 interceptions while averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.

And the offense as a whole? After ranking 28th in points in 2013, the Giants vaulted to 13th in the league in 2014, and finished sixth in the league in points this season. In 2015, Manning and the Giants threw the most touchdown passes of any team.

McAdoo also helped the offense quell its turnover problem; after turning the ball over 44 times in 2013 — the most in the league — the Giants’ offense turned the ball over 28 times in 2014, and just 21 times in 2015, ranking 13th in the league.

Despite spending six years as Green Bay’s tight ends coach, McAdoo is still a relatively young candidate. He parlayed a graduate assistant position at Pitt into a tight ends coach job with the Green Bay Packers in just three years, an impressive leap.

He has shown he can produce impressive results and tight, clean quarterback play at each stop.

The question now is whether the 38-year-old McAdoo is ready to take the reins of his own team.