This is a tricky time for the Giants. They can look but they cannot touch when it comes to reaching out for their next head coach. And so, the Giants are fans of the Saints and Titans this weekend, as the Vikings and Patriots’ elimination from the playoffs makes things a whole lot easier as this search nears two weeks in duration.
Make no mistake, though, the Giants are not sitting idly by and they are not going to allow Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels or Pat Shurmur to make agreements with other teams as they sit back and strictly adhere to the letter of the NFL law.
If the Patriots do as expected and beat the Titans Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game, the Giants will figure out a way to get word to Patricia, the Pats’ defensive coordinator, if he is their guy. It will be the same with Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. If the Vikings protect their home field and beat the Saints Saturday night, the Giants will somehow get in touch with Shurmur, Vikings offensive coordinator, or his representation, if he is deemed the right man for the job.
The situation is far tidier if these teams lose, allowing the Giants to speak with their three candidates at any time. If not, the next opening for interviews is after the NFC and AFC Championship games title games, during the Super Bowl bye week. The Giants do not want to wait that long to secure their next head coach, especially considering all three candidates could have other options: Shurmur with the Cardinals, Patricia with the Lions and McDaniels with the Colts.
Co-owner John Mara plays by the rules, but he is not going to watch other teams poach the guy he wants.
Steve Wilks, the Panthers defensive coordinator, made a positive impression in his interview with the Giants but is not being considered for the head coaching vacancy at this time. Could the Giants circle back to Wilks if they get shut out of their top three choices? Sure. Is that scenario likely to happen? No.
The Wilks interview is the only one co-owner Steve Tisch attended and Tisch will definitely be in the room the next time the Giants meet with their top choice.
The Giants realize there is no perfect candidate. Patricia has never been a head coach but he is a longtime coordinator, which checks off one of Mara’s boxes. A Giants insider not directly connected to the coaching search is drawn to Patricia because his persona could turn into the personality of the team: Gritty, smart, scrappy, defensive-minded.
The key questions with Patricia: Can he make the jump from mad-scientist coordinator to see-the-big-picture head coach? Who will he hire as his offensive coordinator — the second most important staff member, given Patricia’s background on defense?
There is no doubt Patricia’s interview with Mara, general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams included a briefing on a potential coaching staff and it is likely Brian Daboll’s name came up as offensive coordinator. Daboll, 42, and Patricia, 43, are contemporaries from the same region (Rochester for Daboll, Syracuse for Patricia). Both attended, played football and graduated from upstate private schools (economics major at the University of Rochester for Daboll, aeronautical engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy for Patricia).
Patricia and Daboll worked together for six years with the Patriots and thus both are indoctrinated in the ways of Bill Belichick. Daboll is coming off a national championship as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, working for Nick Saban, a Belichick disciple. So, there are plenty of dots to be connected with Patricia and Daboll.
The Giants insider prefers Shurmur to Patricia and prefers Patricia to McDaniels, lauding Shurmur’s work with the Vikings, while heavily criticizing McDaniel’s tenure as head coach of the Broncos. The insider also praised Shurmur for his two years as head coach of the Browns, stating he “did the right thing’’ by going with young, homegrown players, an approach that produced only nine wins and eventually got him fired.
“He is solid,’’ the Giants insider said of Shurmur.
Hiring Shurmur could allow Steve Spagnuolo to remain as defensive coordinator. The two got their NFL initiation in 1999 on Andy Reid’s staff with the Eagles and spent eight years together in Philadelphia.
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