The Man Behind the Giants Running Game
Why are the New York Giants so good at pounding the rock?
The New York Giants have had tremendous success running the ball over the past few years. Historic seasons by Tiki Barber; Brandon Jacobs crushing defenders; Madison Hedgecock clearing holes; Derrick Ward eluding and erasing tacklers; and, a bruising Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots that included the diminuitive Ahmad Bradshaw dragging defensive tackles like sacks of laundry. That power running game continued in 2008. How about 207 yards rushing vs. the Baltimore Ravens defense?
The team will not be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks, but they did accomplish many things they set out to do this year. There is a face behind this success and I hadn’t seen it until I did some hunting around online.
There are plenty of friendly jabs and genuine conversations at the dinner table on almost every Friday night during the season. That’s when Ingram and the running backs go out to dinner to discuss more than just football.
“You know how the folks talk about the running-back controversy — like a quarterback controversy? That’s what it keeps out,” Jacobs said of the weekly get-together. “It keeps all that confusion down. We’re closer on the field than we are off and (the dinner) takes out all of that stuff.”
But it was at a recent dinner with a non-teammate during which Jacobs understood the impact Ingram can have. Sitting across the table was Barber, who has been openly critical of Coughlin since retiring after the 2006 season.
“He was saying how great of a coach Jerald was,” Jacobs recalled.
“He said, ‘Listen to Jerald. He won’t steer you wrong.’”
From the Giants website:
Jerald Ingram is in his fifth season as the Giants’ running backs coach and he has mentored a 1,000-yard rusher in every one of them. Ingram, who joined the Giants on Jan. 13, 2004, has 24 years of coaching experience, including 15 as an assistant to Tom Coughlin.
The running backs overcame the loss of three-time Pro Bowler Tiki Barber and several injuries to average 134.3 rushing yards a game, the fourth-highest total in the NFL. In addition, fullback Madison Hedgecock didn’t join the team until Sept. 12, but became a vital member of the backfield as a blocker and receiver.
Third-year pro Brandon Jacobs, elevated to the starting position, led the team with 1,009 rushing yards, despite missing five games and most of a sixth with knee and hamstring injuries. It was the sixth year in a row the Giants had a 1,000-yard rusher (Barber had the first five). The San Diego Chargers are the only other NFL team with a 1,000-yard rusher each season since 2002. LaDainian Tomlinson had all six 1,000-yard efforts.
In addition to Jacobs, Derrick Ward rushed for 602 yards and averaged 4.8 yards a carry before fracturing his fibula at Chicago on Dec. 2. Rookie Ahmad Bradshaw helped clinch a playoff berth with an 88-yard touchdown in Buffalo, the third-longest run in Giants history. Bradshaw also led the Giants in the postseason with 208 yards.
In Ingram’s first three seasons with the Giants, Barber emerged as one of the very best running backs in the NFL and one of the finest players in franchise history. Barber, who retired following the 2006 season, had never played in the Pro Bowl prior to Ingram’s arrival. But he was voted to the NFC team each of his final three seasons. In those three seasons, he rushed, in order, for 1,518 yards in 2004, a team-record 1,860 yards in 2005 and 1,662 yards last season. Barber, who rushed for 5,409 yards in his first seven Giants seasons, ran for 5,040 in just three years under Ingram to finish with a franchise-record 10,449 yards. Barber set the franchise record with 234 rushing yards at Washington in his final regular season game, breaking the mark of 220 yards he had set the previous season.
Ingram also helped make Jacobs one of the NFL’s best short-yardage and goal-line backs in limited playing time his first two seasons. In 2004, Jacobs was the first Giants rookie to score seven touchdowns since Bobby Johnson in 1984 and the first to rush for seven touchdowns since Bill Paschal ran for 10 scores in 1943. The following season, Jacobs rushed for 423 yards and nine scores to establish himself as Barber’s successor.
Prior to joining the Giants, Ingram was the running backs coach under Coughlin at Boston College and Jacksonville. The Jaguars were the only NFL team to rush for more than 2,000 yards in each season from 1998-2000, including an NFL-high 2,091 yards in 1999. Under Ingram’s direction, Fred Taylor rushed for more than 1,200 yards three times, including a team-record 1,399 yards in 2000, when he missed 3½ games. Taylor had nine consecutive 100-yard games, tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history. In 1998, the Jaguars rushed for a team-record 2,102 yards. Ingram is also known for turning his running backs into fine blockers and receivers; when he left Jacksonville, running backs had two of the three longest touchdown receptions in team history.
Ingram joined the Jaguars on March 3, 1994, 18 months before the franchise played its first regular season game, and stayed in Jacksonville until Coughlin left following the 2002 season. He was one of four assistant coaches who were with Coughlin during his entire tenure with the Jaguars.
Prior to his time in Jacksonville, Ingram spent three seasons as the running backs coach at Boston College. He began his coaching career in 1984, as a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan, his alma mater. The following year, he joined the staff at Ball State, first as tight ends coach, then as the running backs coach for five seasons. In 1991, he joined Coughlin at Boston College.
A fullback at Michigan, Ingram earned three letters and played on two Wolverines teams that won the Big Ten championship and advanced to the Rose Bowl. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in general studies.
Ingram was born in Dayton, Ohio. He grew up in Beaver, Pa. He and his wife, Kathleen, have a son, Julian.
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- January 21, 2009 / 12:54 pm