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What if Sunday is Tom Coughlin's final game? Potential replacements

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What if the Giants do decide to replace the veteran coach? Who would be next?

Ben McAdoo
Ben McAdoo
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

All signs seem to point toward Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles NOT being the last of Tom Coughlin's coaching career, at least with the New York Giants. Most expect the league's oldest coach to return for his 12th season with the Giants in 2015.

What, however, if he doesn't? What if Coughlin, who will be 69 next season, decides he hs had enough? Or, the Giants decide they have had enough of him? Who would be the next coach of this proud, conservative franchise? With that in mind, let's name drop a little.

The Heir Apparent

Ben McAdoo -- Almost since the day he was hired to replace Kevin Gilbride as offensive coordinator, many have looked as McAdoo as a rising star in the coaching ranks who could be the successor to Coughlin. "I think he's definitely on that track," said his former boss, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, asked about McAdoo as an eventual NFL head coach.

Is McAdoo ready now for that step after just one year as a coordinator? If the Giants' job is open it will be interesting to see if the organization thinks so. If Coughlin stays for another year it certainly wouldn't be a shock to see McAdoo get a handful of interviews for head-coaching vacancies, even if maybe he isn't quite ready for that step.

The Hot Coordinators 

Every year there are several coordinators who are considered most likely to move up to head-coaching jobs. Here are a few of those, with some thoughts on each.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles seems to be at the top of everyone's list. SB Nation's Revenge of the Birds writes that Bowles "has head coaching experience as an interim, he has proven to be a top notch coordinator and everyone in the building in Arizona sings his praises."

Bowles might fit with the Giants, especially if they want to keep Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator even while replacing Coughlin. There are a couple of problems. Bowles recently signed a lucrative contract extension through 2017 with Arizona. Also, it seems like Bowles is on everyone's list, meaning he will have a ton of suitors and his price tag will be exorbitant.

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase is another guy likely to be hotly sought after this off-season. SB Nation's Mile High Report writes:

"A premiere head coaching candidate, the Broncos' OC has interviewed for head coaching jobs in each of the past two offseasons. His resume is impressive when you consider he was the QB Coach for both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning and won the AFC West in every year as QB coach/OC. As OC since 2013, he and Manning broke all the records in his first year, and there were rumors the Cleveland Browns were willing to wait for Gase and the Broncos to finish their postseason run to hire him. He was that in-demand.

"A lot of what Manning does is all Manning. But in Gase's first year as offensive coordinator, he and Peyton broke all the records and got the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Now he's leading a run-first offense as the Broncos go for another playoff run. Even though he's only 36 years old, his success speaks for itself."

From the Giants' perspective, the problem is that Gase is an offensive guy. If the organization is as high on McAdoo as it is believed to be, would the Giants really push him out the door by hiring an offensive-minded head coach? The fact that it would force Eli Manning to learn another new system also weighs against the hiring of Gase.

The same could be said for Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.

SB Nation's Stampede Blue writes that Hamilton is "smart, a good guy, young, has shown the ability to adapt offenses, and has done a good job overall in Indy, especially this year. My expectation is that he will be a head coach somewhere next year."

It just doesn't seem like in New York, at least with the Giants, would be that "somewhere."

The College Guys 

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame -- The Fighting Irish coach has always seemed like a guy who is destined to eventually be an NFL head coach. NFL.com's Charles Davis says Kelly is "organized, efficient, thinks outside the box and finds ways to adapt. ... His hands-on-CEO style could translate well at the next level."

David Shaw, Stanford -- The Stanford head coach is often looked at as a guy who could move to the NFL level. He has tons of experience in the NFL as an assistant coach. He is, however, not expected to leave Stanford.

Nick Saban, Alabama -- We have talked about Saban before, the belief being that the highly-coveted Giants' job would be one of the few that might tempt Saban to leave Alabama. He failed in his first stint in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, and NFL.com's Davis writes that "Whether he admits it or not, I think he burns to prove himself at the next level."

Final Thoughts

We will find out soon enough, but while this is a necessary conversation I think it is one that will soon be moot. With everything we have been hearing lately it would be very surprising if Coughlin does not return for at least one more season. If, somehow, he does not return I believe the Giants would turn to McAdoo, even though that might not be the ideal scenario for them. Ultimately, I believe the Giants want to give McAdoo at least another year to grow before handing him the keys to the castle.