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Giants coaching rumors: First look at top candidates to replace Tom Coughlin

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Several coaching candidates have already been linked to the Giants' open head coach position. As the Giants set out to hire a head coach for the first time in a dozen year, let's take a look at some of the top candidates.

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When Tom Coughlin stepped down as the head coach of the New York Giants on Monday, it was not unexpected. Speculation had leaned in this direction since the Giants' listless performance against the Washington Redskins coming out of their Week 10 bye.

That being said, the opening of the Giants head coaching position represents nothing less than a seismic shift in the coaching market's landscape.

Coaching in the NFL is considered the pinnacle of the profession, and there are only 32 in the world. That makes any head coaching vacancy an attractive one.

However, the Giants' job is the best and should be the most sought after. They will have their pick of coaching candidates.

The Giants have a tremendous number of things working in their favor. They have one of the most stable ownership situations in the league, an ownership that believes that stability and continuity are keys to long-term success and are willing to give a head coach time. They also have a veteran, Super Bowl-winning, franchise quarterback in his prime and in place. To go with Eli Manning is an electrifying wide receiver with whom Eli has an incredible rapport.

The common consensus is that the Giants will have candidates lining up at the door.

Internal Candidates

The New York Giants value consistency and continuity in their coaching staff. Because of that, they may opt to promote one of their two coordinators to the head coaching position.

Ben McAdoo -- The Giants' second-year offensive coordinator has already drawn interest from the Philadelphia Eagles. McAdoo has been a rising star in coaching circles after helping to refine Aaron Rodgers' mechanics and then brought in to fix Eli Manning's. Since his arrival in the Meadowlands, Eli has had two of the best statistical seasons of his career in McAdoo's take on the West Coast Offense. The two have reportedly "clicked" and the Giants are reportedly loathe to let him walk out the door.

Steve Spagnuolo -- One of the knocks on McAdoo is that he has no experience as a head coach, and only two seasons of experience as a coordinator. He is in the same situation that Spagnuolo was when he left New York to be the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. That experience, as well as the Giants' well known love for him, could make Spagnuolo a serious candidate for the head coaching position. Spags' honest and outgoing personality makes him a favorite of the notoriously fickle New York media, and he has also won support from his defensive players.

External Candidates

Given the rigors of coaching a flagship franchise in a media market like New York, the Giants may place head coaching experience high on their list of qualifications for their candidates. Fortunately, there are several potential candidates outside of the organization who could fulfill that requirement.

Sean Payton -- The current coach of the New Orleans Saints is meeting with the team's owner and has postponed his post-season press conference until Wednesday. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport has reported that he is "monitoring the situation with the Giants. Very Closely." Payton was the Giants' offensive coordinator under Jim Fassel, and would reportedly be very interested in becoming the next head coach of the New York Giants. However he is still under contract with the Saints, and the general feeling is that if a team wants him to be their next head coach the Saints will require compensation in the form of draft picks -- believed to be a minimum of a second-round pick -- for Payton's services.

Josh McDaniels -- After a disastrous stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, McDaniels returned to the New England coaching staff a humbled man. He was reportedly advised by Bill Belichick to be highly selective in what opening he applies for as his second chance as a head coach, because he likely wouldn't get a third. He has reportedly learned from his mistakes in Denver, and would reportedly be very interested in the Giants' job should it become available. The Giants tend to prefer offensive minded coaches, and McDaniels has been the mastermind behind some of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. McDaniels could also be influenced by Belichick, who has always had a very good relationship with the Mara family.

Hue Jackson -- Not just a "Rooney Rule Interview" Jackson has talent and head coaching experience, having taken the Oakland Raiders -- at Al Davis' worst -- to an 8-8 record. He has also had a hand in building the deepest roster in the NFL in Cincinnati, a roster that has also been one of the healthiest in the league this year. In Cincinnati, his offenses have been among the league's best, and remained good enough to win with A.J. McCarron, while Dallas floundered its way to a top-5 draft pick without their starting quarterback.

Sean McDermott (DC, Carolina Panthers) -- McDermott has yet to be linked to the Giants, and doesn't have head coaching experience, but he has assembled one of the great defenses in the NFL today. After fielding one of the worst defenses in league history, the Giants may turn to a defensive minded head coach to help fix that side of the ball.

College Coaches

Not many college names have been connected to the New York Giants, however, two should be called and made to say "No" before the Giants' coaching search is over.

David Shaw (HC, Stanford) -- Shaw loves coaching at Stanford. After 10 years coaching in the NFL, he knows what that life is like and doesn't seem to have much interest in leaving his current job for an NFL head coaching job. In fact, he has already reportedly turned down the San Francisco 49ers' job. However the allure of coaching in one of the biggest stages in the league, with a great ownership and quarterbacking situation, could be tempting. Shaw is one of the few college coaches running a "pro-style" offense and manages to compete with other football powerhouses despite Stanford's stringent academic requirements.

Nick Saban (HC, Alabama) -- He's preparing to play in the College Football National Championship next Monday, but the Mara family has long been infatuated with Saban. He has experience coaching in the NFL, and he probably still would be if he had been able to sign Drew Brees, but Saban is deeply entrenched in Alabama. While he has nothing left to prove in college, he also has little reason to leave. He is well paid, gets the best recruits, and often lives up to championship expectations. However, if he wants another crack at conquering the NFL mountain, the New York Giants represents the best possible base camp.