The Giants didn't have to look far for a successor to departed quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer.
Just a glance across the line to the receivers position. That's right. Wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan will be Eli Manning's new position coach, with offensive quality control coach Sean Ryan moving up to replace Sullivan in handling the wide receivers.
Offhand, I'd say it's kind of an odd switch. But then again, Sullivan already jumped across the line with the wide receivers the last six years, considering he was a defensive back at Army. And Manning stated at the Super Bowl that he didn't really need a position coach to mold his mechanics, per se. He needed more of a quarterback's conscience behind him, a football Jiminy Cricket of sorts, who will get in his ear and tell him if his on-field decisions were pointing in the right direction.
"I talked to Coach Coughlin about this. I feel very comfortable with Coach Sullivan," Manning said. "I knew he was in the mix. I feel very good about him moving to the quarterback position. He's a guy who knows what we do and we can grow as an offense. I think he'll be good in the meeting room, giving me different ideas and things we can work on and I look forward to that."
Sullivan was well-liked and respected by the wide receivers, knows exactly what offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride wants and expects, and should work well with Manning. The only question is whether he can continue to develop third quarterback Rhett Bomar, who made some definite strides under Palmer.
He's never coached quarterbacks before, but said coaching the wide receivers involved a lot of interaction with Manning, anyway.
"I feel very proud of everything we accomplished as a wide receiving group and I enjoyed my experience working with some tremendous players over the years," said Sullivan, who was first hired by Coughlin in Jacksonville in 2002. "But this is a new challenge and a chance to grow professionally and stretch myself as a coach. It's exciting to move to the quarterbacks, particularly to work with Eli Manning. We've been together for six years and we've worked together to develop our knowledge of the scheme and the pass game particularly. And just to take that next step and have that one-on-one relationship with him and work with him and try to become the best possible player is really an exciting challenge for me.
"We spent a lot of time just by the nature of the positions, the receivers and the quarterbacks, not just out on the practice field but in the meeting room and many areas. In many cases that transition is one that is a lot easier than someone coming from the outside that doesn't know the system and doesn't know how we operate and doesn't have years of experience in a relationship built up. From that standpoint, it makes it a lot easier."
The only candidate the Giants are known to have spoken to was Buffalo's quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. But he signed with Tampa Bay.
Tom Coughlin had no reservations about moving him, however.
"The major reason that I felt strongly about Mike Sullivan coaching the quarterbacks here is that Mike has been with us for all six years and he's been an integral part of the progress of our pass game," Coughlin said. "He was the position coach for the wide receivers last year and worked very closely with the quarterbacks and the offensive coordinator. He has a very good understanding of our passing game. He did the majority of the work in assembling our first and second down pass game. He is an industrious, very hard-working, very intelligent coach who looks forward to each challenge.
"In the words of Eli, he knows exactly what we can expect from Sully and that Mike is a grinder. Mike is going to work extremely hard in the face of any challenge - and his challenge is to continue the development of Eli."
Ryan will move to wide receivers after three years of breaking down the opposition and his own team in the film room, writing reports, and contributing to the gameplan in the coaches meetings. He does have experience with them, however, as he served as a kind of unofficial wide receivers assistant in training camp.
As Sullivan is now charged with advancing Manning, Bomar, and perhaps David Carr if he doesn't move on in free agency, Ryan will have a new challenge in advancing a young receiving group that surprised everybody with their production in 2009.
"Obviously, it's a younger group of guys, but a younger group of guys who have playing experience, which is a great combination," Ryan said. "There's excitement and room to grow for these guys. There's a ton of potential left to reach. At the same time, they're coming in with real game experience.
"I have three years of being in the room and hearing it taught and seeing what works for them and being able to carry on and knowing what Coach (Kevin) Gilbride (the offensive coordinator) and Sully and everybody is trying to get done within the offense - having that to work off of is an incredible advantage. You don't skip a beat. Obviously, I'm going to have my own way of teaching. I won't copy everything Sully did. But to have that as a background and have that kind of knowledge going in is going to make a great transition."
With Perry Fewell in as the new defensive coordinator and Robert Nunn handling the defensive line, it would appear the offensive restructuring should take care of staff save for the addition of an offensive quality control coach. Those positions are usually manned by younger coaches as a way of entree into the NFL from the college ranks. According to Mikey G at the Star-Ledger, Gilbride's son could be in line for that. Also named Kevin, he is currently Temple's wide receivers coach.
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