The best of them try to find a way to see eye-to-eye with their students, even if they cannot actually stand up and see eye-to-eye with any of them.
Marc Colombo will not have a problem looking directly into the eyes of the offensive linemen in his charge. Not Kevin Zeitler, the 6-foot-4 right guard. Not either of the rookie tackles, Andrew Thomas (6-5) or Matt Peart (6-7). Not even Nate Solder, who at 6-8 is a towering physical presence in a locker room full of oversized athletes.
This is not about intimidation or flexing or posturing. It cannot be conveyed in the remote learning the Giants have engaged in for months. No Zoom meeting on a laptop or tablet screen can properly distill what it will feel like to finally get into the building or, more importantly, onto the practice field and take in what was triggered in one of the best to ever suit up for the Giants the first time he was in proximity to Marc Colombo.
“He scared the s–t out of me,’’ Chris Snee told The Post.
Joe Judge did not hire Colombo as the Giants’ offensive line coach to inject fear into the biggest men on the roster. Colombo was brought in to cajole the players to play big, to play mean, to play smart and to play with a verve that leads to dominance. This has not been the way of the Giants offensive line, not for years, and the decline is not necessarily a reflection on the coaching at the position. Pat Flaherty served as line coach for both of the most recent Super Bowl triumphs before he was replaced; his former players sing his praises. Mike Solari was hired by Ben McAdoo and is a respected, veteran assistant. Hal Hunter, brought in by Pat Shurmur, had a long (but not overly impressive) run as a college and NFL line coach but did not distinguish himself in his two years with the Giants.
Colombo, 41, brings a different dimension, and not only because he stands 6-foot-8. He spent 10 years in the NFL, entering the league in 2002 as a first-round draft pick of the Bears. He got the coaching bug in 2016 and Jason Garrett — the offensive coordinator when Colombo played for the Cowboys — added him to his Cowboys staff. Clearly, Garrett has great trust in what Colombo can do, which is a main reason why the two are reunited, this time with the Giants.
As a high school senior from Montrose, Pa., Snee was already committed to Boston College when on his official visit to the school was assigned to Colombo, an upperclassman tasked with hosting and sizing up the new recruit.
“He was actually one of the first guys I saw at BC,’’ Snee said. “He scared the s–t out of me. Just the size of him and his demeanor.’’
Ah yes, the demeanor.
“I remember being in his dorm room, we went to dinner, we came back, hung out in his room,’’ Snee said. “Sitting there, like 1:30 in the morning, we’re watching TV and he says, ‘How about we order some Chinese food?’ And I said, ‘I’m not really hungry, we just had a big steak.’ And he goes, ‘We’re ordering Chinese food!’ I was like, ‘OK.’ We sat there, we didn’t say a word.’’
Colombo, while coaching with the Cowboys, was blessed with a cast of Pro Bowlers on an offensive line known for power and technique. The challenge is greater at his second coaching stop, inheriting a group with no Pro Bowls on anyone’s résumé. Solder and Zeitler are veterans, Will Hernandez is entering his third season and Thomas is the No. 4-overall pick in the draft. If Spencer Pulley is the starting center, at least he brings plenty of experience.
It is Colombo’s job to make it all right.
Shaun O’Hara, the former Giants center, started his NFL career with the Browns as a teammate of Paul Zukauskas, who played alongside Colombo at Boston College.
“They were good buddies so I got to know him through osmosis,’’ said O’Hara, who came to the Giants in 2004, the same year Snee was drafted. “I felt like I was buddies with [Colombo] even though I never played with him. I’m a big fan of him as both a guy, as a player and a coach.’’
Judge was adamant when putting together his staff, insisting on hiring “teachers, not presenters.’’ Colombo will get his hands dirty and he will be aggressive and passionate about how he gets it done.
“Plus, he’s a tough son of a gun,’’ O’Hara said. “He’s got the Boston accent, he’s got his gruffness, it’s a good fit from a culture standpoint, from a philosophy standpoint, and he’ll be good with those guys.’’
Cam Fleming, the veteran swing tackle signed this offseason by the Giants, spent the past two years with the Cowboys and is well-versed on Colombo’s intensity.
“He really does love what he does,’’ Fleming said. “He comes in with so much energy, so much juice every single day, week after week, throughout the whole season. I don’t think there is ever a lull in it for him. He’s just a damn good coach.’’
Fleming characterized the vibe given off by Colombo as “electricity.’’
Snee said he “respected the hell” out of Flaherty and he particularly enjoyed it when Flaherty brought in former top-level players such as Tony Boselli and Tunch Ilkin (to teach the “Tunch Punch’’) for tutorials.
“If you’re a true pro you’re soaking up every word,’’ Snee said.
With Colombo, the Giants get the best of both worlds — someone able to not only teach it, but also show it.
“The fact he’s played at a high level and guys, once they hear his message and how he delivers it, I think they’ll buy in right away and they’ll respect that,’’ Snee said.
“That respect will happen right away. He’ll demand that respect and he’ll get it. I do expect this group to get much better. There’s so many coaches and so many guys trying to change the way the game is played, as far as the offensive line goes. But to me, you can’t replace physicality, that requirement. That will be demanded by Marc and he’ll get it.’’
O’Hara says he is “100 percent sure’’ this year’s Giants line will better than last year’s line. Snee started one year at Boston College alongside Colombo and reveals it is from that pairing that he gleaned his greatest football inspiration.
“He was a guy, honestly I tried to play like him,’’ said Snee, who scouted offensive linemen for the Jaguars the past few years. “Always with a chip on his shoulder, always physical, always played hard and was very hard on himself. That’s what made him successful as a player. He’s still that motivated now.
“We spoke about college linemen when we hung out and guys on the current roster. I shared my thoughts and he shared his. You just sensed the passion that he wants to make this unit what we had back in our heyday.’’
Colombo is on board to make the heyday every day around the Giants offensive line.