Sullivan faces new challenge as Giants QB coach
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Mike Sullivan might have done the best coaching job of anyone on the New York Giants last season.
Faced with the loss of veterans Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, Sullivan turned a group of young, inexperienced receivers into sure-handed targets that become the catalyst of the offense.
Tom Coughlin has a new job for Sullivan this season, and it might even be a little tougher.
Sullivan has replaced Chris Palmer as quarterbacks coach and been told to make Eli Manning even better. It’s no small task, considering Manning is coming off what might be considered a career year.
“From the standpoint of my role, it’s to make sure that from a consistency standpoint, that those great performances we’ve seen him have in the past, and some of the great things he has done, that we stay out of those valleys and that he keeps that performance consistently at a higher level,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan is no stranger to Manning. The two joined the team six years ago when Manning was the first pick overall in the draft and Sullivan was among the first hires by Coughlin.
Manning said the transition has been going well, noting that there has been a lot of give-and-take between him and Sullivan over what drills to use and how to work on things like foot work, mechanics and movement in the pocket.
“It hasn’t been a big transition because he has been with this offense,” Manning said. “We came in the same year and before that he was with coach Coughlin (in Jacksonville) and knows this offense very well. A lot of it is communication, how I see things, how I read things from a quarterback perspective. He is more used to a receiver perspective.”
Sullivan said it has been interesting to question Manning about plays after workouts.
There have been times when he felt Manning might have missed something and was surprised to hear the quarterback tell him something that he didn’t realize. There also have been times when Manning agreed that he should have stayed with a receiver longer or done something differently.
“It is foolish as a coach if you are not constantly trying to get a player’s perspective,” Sullivan said. “They are the ones doing it. Our job as a coach is to put them in position to make plays and help them see things in a way they can’t see themselves.”
The give and take with Manning is different than a year ago, when Sullivan worked with the likes of Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Dominek Hixon, Sinorice Moss and Ramses Barden, all who had four years or less experience.
What Sullivan said was basically gospel and the receivers were great in helping Manning throw for 4,021 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The success prompted Sullivan to ask Coughlin about the quarterback coaching job after Palmer left the team to become the new coach of Hartford in the UFL.
“While I enjoyed my time with the receiver corps and couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments last year, the fact I could expand my horizon and coach a new position, a position that is involved in every aspect of the play calling, the run game and pass game, it gives me the chance to sink my teeth into more of the offense and I’m excited about that.”
In becoming a quarterbacks coach, Sullivan has combined things he has learned from other coaches, talked to Coughlin, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, an old coaching buddy from Jacksonville.
Sullivan has not decided whether he will keep some of Palmer’s quirkier drills, including the one in which the quarterbacks tried to hit colored targets or a dodgeball game. But he may just use them if Manning wants it.
“It makes my job easy when you have someone who is so committed to trying to improve,” Sullivan said.