EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In four short months, Ben McAdoo, a quiet man from a tiny town in western Pennsylvania who had never been a head coach at any level in any sport until taking over the New York Giants this season, has become something of a cult figure. And it has little to do with football.
On social media, especially during Giants games, nothing about him seems to go unnoticed — not his retro hairdo, baggy sweatshirt, bushy mustache, outsize headgear or the multicolored sheet the size of a New Jersey diner menu that he holds over his face when calling plays.
For all this, McAdoo is extravagantly praised, teased, glorified, impersonated and parodied.
"I'm not really sure," said McAdoo, who is better known on Twitter as McAdeity, McAdauntless, McAdozy, McAdaring (he likes to gamble on fourth down). It being Twitter, he has also been called McAdope and McAdork.
But the greatest proof of relevance is imitation. At the Giants' final regular-season game last week at FedEx Field, Washington's home, a 12-year-old boy showed up in the first row dressed like McAdoo. He also had on a fake mustache and was holding an extra-wide play-call sheet complete with an attached yellow Post-it (because the real McAdoo likes to add six or seven sticky notes as an addendum).
The impostor was Peter Costigan, a sixth-grader from Wayne, Pennsylvania, who comes from a family of Giants fans. When an ESPN reporter, Jordan Raanan, tweeted a picture of Peter, calling him "Little Ben McAdoo," the post was liked or retweeted thousands of times. Fox Sports, which was broadcasting the game, trained its cameras on Peter as well and put up several comparisons of Peter and McAdoo.
McAdoo, who has a good sense of humor, had high-fived Peter before the game.
"The fact is Peter does look like Ben McAdoo, and we thought we'd create a fun memory," Peter's father, Mike, said in a telephone interview. "It was a way to celebrate the Giants being in the playoffs, and we knew the players would get a chuckle out of it."
And indeed several Giants approached Peter.
"Players kept coming over and saying, 'Coach McAdoo, why aren't you on the field?' " Peter said Thursday.
The McAdoo costume was made of a $7 toy mustache bought on the internet, black duct tape molded to look like a headset mouthpiece, headphones that came with the family minivan and, to resemble the play-call sheet, a poster board decorated with items snipped from a diner menu.
Before the game, in the stadium parking lot, Peter counted 93 Giants and Washington fans who stopped him to take selfies.
"It didn't matter which team they were rooting for, they would just say, 'Hey, it's mini-McAdoo,' " Peter said.
Inside FedEx Field, it seemed as if every security guard took a picture of Peter.
At least one high-profile person, however, probably won't be dressing as McAdoo.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey recently asked on WFAN radio in New York, "Do you think Ben McAdoo will get a real haircut if they make the playoffs?"
Later, Christie, who is a Dallas Cowboys fan, referred to McAdoo's "haircut and cheesy mustache."
McAdoo, 39, whose team will face the Green Bay Packers in a wild-card game Sunday, tends to brush off talk, good or bad.
He says he works 16 to 18 hours a day devising game plans and practice regimens, yet he seems aware of what is said and written about him, at least in mainstream news media outlets. He also has a dry wit and is not easily rattled.
When he was asked about Christie a day after the critique, as the Giants were preparing for a game against the Detroit Lions and their quarterback Matt Stafford, McAdoo paused and deadpanned: "Again, Matt Stafford does a nice job."
"Is Stafford your stylist?" a reporter pressed.
McAdoo did not flinch.
"They're playing well up front on defense," he said of the Lions. "They can get after the quarterback." (The Giants won, 17-6.)
The social media community has not been drawn exclusively to McAdoo's sideline presence. Since all Giants post- and pregame news conferences can now be viewed on multiple websites, it has been easy for fans to chronicle a collection of McAdoo-isms.
McAdoo's proclivity for referring to a football as the Duke, as in "We've got to protect the Duke," became a rallying cry painted on banners at tailgate parties.
The phrase got more notice when McAdoo's players began parroting it in daily briefings with reporters. This most likely happened because McAdoo, who regularly instructs his team in football history, knows that NFL footballs are embossed with "The Duke," in homage to the former Giants owner Wellington Mara, whose boyhood nickname was Duke.
McAdoo also speaks of a desire for the team to be "heavy handed," and likes players who "get their jersey dirty." He encourages his charges to keep their focus on what they can control, or as McAdoo characteristically puts it: "Farm your own land."
And as almost every Giants fan, or McAdoo fan, must know by now, almost any question to McAdoo, regardless of the topic, might elicit this response: "We want a team that is sound, smart and tough, and committed to discipline and poise."
With the Giants' record a surprising 11-5 this season, by next year there may be several McAdoo copycats on NFL sidelines. They won't be 12 years old, but newly hired, first-year head coaches who will be, so to speak, in McAdoo's image.
If the internet can handle that.