Monday will make one full week since the New York Giants announced that Tom Coughlin would not return as head coach. The Giants have interviewed five candidates since then, are expected to interview a sixth on Monday. Let's assess the search thus far.
Both offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have received interviews for the job, and it seems to remain possible that either could end up with the job.
Depending who you believe, McAdoo could still be the front-runner for the job. During an appearance on ESPN Radio a few days ago, co-owner-John Mara did reference the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers promoted Mike Tomlin to replace Bill Cowher despite Tomlin only having been a coordinator for one season.
One thing is certain -- much of this search and who the Giants ultimately choose as head coach is a referendum on McAdoo. The Giants could choose him as head coach, which would tell us they believe in his work and his future. They could choose a head coach who tells the Giants he would be happy to keep McAdoo as offensive coordinator. Spagnuolo might be a guy who does that. There have reported that Doug Marrone may also be amenable to keeping McAdoo. They might hire a coach who wants to hire his own coordinators, something Mara has repeatedly said a new coach has every right to do.
Focus on former head coaches
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport posted an interesting tweet on Sunday morning:
"I’m told Giants are searching for a proven head coach which right now in this climate of candidates really limits their options." @RapSheet— NFL Media (@NFLMedia) January 10, 2016
That would make you think that Spagnuolo will receive strong consideration. It also means don't scoff at the notion of Marrone or Mike Smith becoming the next head coach. Both come with question marks, but both have proven to be quality coaches and everyone I have spoken with says both are well-regarded in NFL circles. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that both are candidates for the job. Smith, like Coughlin, is a CEO type head coach. Marrone brought moribund programs at both Syracuse and the Buffalo Bills back to respectability.
While Josh McDaniels has yet to take interviews the Giants' apparent focus on candidates with prior head-coaching experience could also keep him in play. The New England Patriots offensive coordinator went 11-17 as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010 before being fired with four games left in the 2010 season. McDaniels, though, has not made himself available for interviews. Per league rules, the window to interview assistant coaches whose teams have byes in the first round of the playoffs closes after Monday. Thus, unless the Giants are willing to wait, McDaniels appears to be taking himself out of the running.
What about Lovie Smith? The recently-fired former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears is the only available coach of recent vintage (Forget Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden) other than Coughlin to have taken a team to the Super Bowl. Smith has an 89-87 regular-season record in 11 seasons with three playoff appearances.
The Giants have also not yet been connected to Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who went 8-8 as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2011.
A focus on candidates with head-coaching experience would seem to take Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, whom the Giants interviewed, out of the running. It would also likely take fan favorite Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator of the Patriots and other untested candidates out of the running.
Here is part of what Mara said this week on ESPN:
"It's the toughest decision that you ever make in this business far and away trying to project who your next head coach is going to be because until they've actually done it and done it successfully in the league over an extended period of time you really have no idea whether they're going to be a successful head coach or not."
Could you also interpret that as bad news for McAdoo's candidacy? Maybe.
What about college coaches?
Despite speculation about David Shaw of Stanford, Nick Saban of Alabama, Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M and others there has not been a peep during the past week about the Giants showing interest in a college coach. Saban tried and failed once in the NFL, and while he's known as an outstanding coach would probably want more money and authority than the Giants would be comfortable giving him. The others are pure projections as to how they would make the transition to the NFL. It sounds like the Giants don't want to go down that road.
The Giants haven't reached the playoffs in four years. Going farther back, their 2011 Super Bowl run is all that stands between seven straight seasons without a playoff appearance. That means the Giants have largely wasted the prime years of Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who is still a championship-caliber quarterback. Manning is 35, and the window of opportunity with him at his best is short.
That means the Giants have to get this hire right. If they don't they risk throwing away the rest of Manning's best years. Do I know if McAdoo is the right choice? No, I don't. Should they choose Marrone or Mike Smith? Wait for McDaniels? I don't know.
What I do know is that this is a critical juncture for the franchise. And I think Mara and Co. know it, too.