Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who face off Sunday in Green Bay, have a long history together.
McAdoo worked under McCarthy in Titletown for eight years and also in two previous stops -- San Francisco and New Orleans.
Over that period, McAdoo learned what it takes to be a head coach in this league, learning first at the side of McCarthy and then Tom Coughlin in 2014 and 2015 as the Giants' offensive coordinator. McCarthy has left more of an impression on McAdoo than Coughlin, which is not a bad thing.
McCarthy (122-68-1) is second only to Bill Belichick in wins among active coaches. Belichick has gone as far to say he thought McCarthy was one of the best coaches in the league a few years back. The Packers have been a force in the NFL under McCarthy, qualifying for the psotseason in nine of his eleven seasons as head coach, winning the NFC North six times and the Super Bowl once.
There is no mistaking that McAdoo is a strong descendant of that coaching tree. As the Giants' head coach, he has made as good a debut as one could expect. His 11-5 record in his first season tied the franchise mark set by Dan Reeves back in 1993, although Reeves was technically not a rookie head coach.
McAdoo and McCarthy have many similarities. Both coaches made their bones as offensive assistants. Both men lean on strong coordinators to run their defenses. McCarthy has entrusted Dom Capers to handle his defense since 2009. Capers has a long resume of success in the league as both a coordinator and a head coach. McAdoo made the wise decision to keep Steve Spagnuolo on as his DC. Spags has also been a coordinator and head coach during his career.
One of the major similarities is the close control kept on the offensive playcalling. McAdoo is now infamous for the "diner menu" play card he totes around on the sidelines. He clutches that card like the Mad Bomber clutched his briefcase.
McAdoo has been reluctant to relinquish the playcalling duties to his offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, providing cagey answers to the media when questioned about the subject. Sullivan has called plays at points during the season, but it's clear that McAdoo is the one in charge.
That might be due to what happened in Green Bay in 2015. McCarthy delegated the duties to one of his assistants, Tom Clements, and the results were not what he expected. The Packers' offensive production declined to the point where McCarthy took back those responsibilities. In 2014, Green Bay led the NFL in scoring and yards per play. The Packers finished 15th and 29th in those areas respectively in 2015.
It's debatable whether or not McAdoo is doing a good job calling plays this season. Last year, with McAdoo calling the plays as the OC, the Giants had the eighth-best offense in the NFL and averaged 26.2 points per game. This season, they dropped to 25th overall and scored 19.4 points per game.
Perhaps the most visual similarity between the two men is their focus and professionalism. McCarthy has been known as a no-nonsense guy who stresses team-first. We've seen McAdoo exhibit much of that trait this season. In fact, just this week, McAdoo craftily handled the situation in which his receiving corps attended a star-studded party in South Beach after the team's final regular season game. He did not allow the event to grow and fester as the team prepared for its playoff game. He was baited, but did not bite.
He also downplayed his relationship with McCarthy, saying it wasn't the time or place for that conversation, even though it is a very relevant factor in this week's wild card showdown.
McCarthy did talk of his former assistant this week, saying it was "no surprise" that McAdoo has seen early success as a head coach. Knowing the pedigree McAdoo has been weaned from, it's no suprise to anyone. As far as role models go, it doesn't get any better than McCarthy and Coughlin.
So, will these styles clash when the two men meet this Sunday? You bet. They are ultimate competitors and will use whatever intel they know and can gather against one another. Strange as it may seem, however, it will be the defenses that will likely dictate a game between these two accomplished offensive minds.