Pepper Johnson appears to be next up on the New York Giants list of candidates for their vacant defensive coordinator position.
Giants have requested permission to interview Bills DL coach Pepper Johnson for their DC job. Interview will happen early this week.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 10, 2015
That interview will take place on Monday, per a source with knowledge of the situation.
Johnson was a second-round pick by the Giants in 1986, and was a key linebacker for them for seven seasons. He coached under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots from 200-2013, alternately handling the linebackers and the defensive line. He left the Patriots and became defensive line coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2014.
The Giants began the search Friday with an interview of Raheem Morris, current Washington Redskins defensive backs coach and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. There were reports that WFAN's Mike Francesa said the interview did not go well. Make of that what you will. What matters is how head coach Tom Coughlin felt it went.
Morris has a solid supporter in former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, who worked with Morris from 2002-2011 as Morris ascended from defensive quality control coach all the way to head coach.
"You get in a room with him, you'll love him,'' former Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber told The Post on Friday. "He's the most charismatic coach, person I've ever been around. He engages any and every one. You might be able to find a few but you'll be hard-pressed to find anybody that doesn't like him and doesn't attract to him. He has that kind of personality.' ...
"He's a unique guy, that's all I can say,'' Barber said. "He doesn't conform to the model of coaching. He didn't read the coaching 101 book and fit into that mold and did things that way. He kind of does things his own way.''
Former Giants defensive coordinator and current Baltimore Ravens defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo also has plenty of supporters, including players he coached during his first tour with the Giants.
"I never have really met anyone quite like him in regards to what he was able to do and the things he would do on the fly," defensive end Osi Umenyiora told The News. "It was crazy. You'd come in with a game plan and something wouldn't be going right or something we were doing was getting shredded, and he'd literally - right there on the sideline - come up with something different."
"He's perfect for a lot of reasons," [Antonio] Pierce added. "When I think about what the Giants need, they need a pulse. You need someone that when they talk, guys respond."
ESPN's Dan Graziano opined that whoever he chooses, Coughlin won't make a short-sighted, selfish decision regardless of what the future holds for him:
This is where I think people get it wrong about Coughlin. There's an assumption that everyone acts only out of self-interest, and there's a fair bit of evidence in the world today that the assumption is safe. But I don't think that's the way Coughlin coaches the Giants, and I think the fact he's looking for a new defensive coordinator one year after hiring a new offensive coordinator demands we give him the benefit of the doubt.
Coughlin has coached the Giants for 11 years. He's won two Super Bowls as their coach. He is a significant part of the franchise's history, and as such he is invested in its long-term success. Whether he's the coach for one more year or two more years or five more years or eight more years, Coughlin is bound by his sense of professional duty to do what's best for the Giants -- not for himself.