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New York Giants coaching candidates: Potential replacements for Tom Coughlin

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be head coach of the New York Giants in 2016? Quite honestly, there is no way to know right now with four games to payed in the 2015 season. That, however, isn't going to stop anyone from speculating about whether or not Tom Coughlin will be back, and listing candidates for the job if he isn't. We might as well join the party.

In-house candidates

Coughlin -- Yes, he's still on the list. Coughlin has pulled plenty of rabbits out of his hat during his 12 years with the Giants. If he pulls out another one -- like, for example a four-game winning streak that nets the Giants a 9-7 record and an NFC East title -- there won't be any more talk about the Giants replacing him. At least not wanting to replace him. The last two seasons you can argue that Coughlin got everything possible in terms of wins out of sub-par rosters. This year, everything Coughlin touches seems to turn to, well, to use a family-friendly word, mush. It makes you wonder if the magic is gone.

Mark this down, though. I do not think the Giants fire Coughlin. I think if there isn't some sort of turnaround that gets the Giants to the playoffs Coughlin could retire. And he may do it willingly, whether the Giants make the playoffs or not. As much as he has professed to love the job, seeing him and listening to him makes me wonder if he is tiring of the grind.

Ben McAdoo -- When the Giants hired him two years ago it was assumed he might be the successor to Coughlin. Now? I believe he's on the list, but I don't believe his star shines nearly as brightly. Coughlin has, from what I can gather, largely stepped out of McAdoo's way this season and McAdoo's play-calling and game management have been problematic. Regardless of that, the bottom line is that an offense expected to carry the Giants has too often let the team down. Off what we have seen it is difficult to believe McAdoo is ready to be a head coach.

Steve Spagnuolo -- I have believed since the day Spagnuolo was re-hired by the Giants that he had leap-frogged McAdoo in the in-house pecking order for possible Coughlin successors. He's beloved inside the Giants organization, he has head-coaching experience and his temperament is far more suited to handling the NY media storm than is McAdoo's. Problem is, Spags' recent track record isn't good. His tenure as head coach of the St. Louis Rams didn't end well. His time with the New Orleans Saints as defensive coordinator was a disaster. The Giants' current defense is terrible. All of that failure makes him a tough sell as the Giants next head coach.

Current NFL coaches

Sean Payton -- One of the reasons the Giants have always given for keeping Coughlin is that they could find anyone as good or better. Well, Payton's time with the New Orleans Saints might be up after this season. If it is, he has to be on the list.

Payton has a Super Bowl title and five double-digit win seasons in nine years as Saints head coach. You can compare him to Coughlin also in that he is finding out everyone, even the best coaches, have a shelf life. His last two seasons in New Orleans haven't been good. Payton has one other thing that fits the Giants' style. He has a connection to the organization as an assistant under Jim Fassel.

Coordinator candidates -- So many of these. Hue Jackson (OC, Cincinnati Bengals), Adam Gase (OC, Chicago Bears), Sean McDermott (DC, Carolina Panthers), Josh McDaniels (OC, New England Patriots), Doug Marrone (Assistant HC, Jacksonville Jaguars), Teryl Austin (DC, Detroit Lions). Impossible to say who out of these guys would really be a candidate and who wouldn't. Or, if some other assistant coaches would be in the mix.

College coaches

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame -- There was a report early in the season that Kelly would be amenable to moving to the NFL, and that he would be at the top of the Giants' list as a potential Coughlin successor. Personally, I have always thought Kelly is a guy who would end up with an NFL head-coaching job one day.

David Shaw, Stanford -- Another highly-respected college coach. Shaw runs a pro-style program at Stanford and has been highly successful with three Pac-12 titles, including this season. SB Nation's Rule of Tree fully expects the NFL to come calling for Shaw soon, calling his accomplishments there "incredible:"

It is not often that a coach as talented as David Shaw remains away from the pros for a lengthy amount of time. He clearly enjoys being the man at the helm for the Cardinal, but it wouldn't shock me at all if an NFL franchise enticed him with the right looking pay increase and other tempting incentives.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M -- The Aggies coach is well-respect and considered an excellent offensive mind, but he has come under some scrutiny after the Aggies faded from 5-0 to 8-4.

David Cutcliffe, Duke -- Has a long-time connection as a mentor to Eli Manning. If you want to make a change from the only NFL head coach he has ever had more palatable for Manning -- and I'm not saying that should be part of the thinking -- Cutcliffe is the guy who could do that.

Chris's list

McAdoo, Spagnuolo, Payton, Jackson, Shaw, Sumlin

Alex's list

John Gruden (FA), Teryl Austin (DC - DET), Sean McDermott (DC - CAR), Paul Guenther (DC - CIN), Bill O'Brien (HC - HOU, If available), Adam Gase (OC - CHI), David Shaw (HC - Stanford), David Cutcliffe (HC - Duke), Mark Dantonio (HC - Michigan State), Gus Malzahn (HC - Auburn)

Final thoughts

This is all "pie in the sky" at this point. We don't, truthfully, know what is going to happen. We know some things about the Giants' history. They are a conservative organization that makes changes only grudgingly. They like coaches who have a connection to their organization. They like the division of power, having a coach be a coach and having a general manager make final decisions of draft choices and free agents. That will probably preclude them from seeking guys who would ask for control over personnel, not to mention huge financial commitments. If they are looking for a new head coach after this season, GM Jerry Reese is almost certain to be the guy doing the looking. He has never had that opportunity before, so we don't know exactly what he will look for.

It is certainly fair to speculate at this point. There is still, however, one-fourth of the current season to be played and no certainty the Giants will even be looking to make a change, regardless of the mood of the fan base right this minute.

If a change is made, though, who the next coach should be will be hotly debated. We might as well officially begin discussing the possibilities.