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Baylor’s Matt Rhule tops list of potential Pat Shurmur replacements

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Let’s go through a very preliminary list of Giants’ head-coaching candidates

Baylor v TCU
Matt Rhule
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With the New York Giants sinking ever closer to one of the worst seasons in franchise history and the future of head coach Pat Shurmur becoming cloudier by the week (minute?) we have reached that time. What time is that? Time, of course, to consider an initial list of potential candidates to replace Shurmur should the Giants choose to move on.

The top dog

Matt Rhule, Baylor

No offense to Shurmur, but if Rhule signals the Giants that he would be interested in the Giants job this one — in my view — is an easy call. Rhule appears to be the perfect fit. He has New York roots, Giants connections and the right resume.

The Giants need resurrecting, and Rhule, 44, has now resurrected two downtrodden college programs.

Temple went 4-7 in 2012 before Rhule, then assistant offensive line coach for Tom Coughlin and the Giants, left to take over the Owls. Temple improved from 2-10 his first season to 10-4 and 10-3 with conference titles and bowl appearances his last two seasons.

Rhule then moved to scandal-ridden Baylor in 2017. After overhauling the program, the Bears went 1-11 in his first season. This season, Baylor is 11-1 and ranked among the top 10 teams in the country.

Rhule was raised in New York City. He played linebacker in college. He has coached both sides of the ball — linebackers, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, quarterbacks and called plays as an offensive coordinator. That experience on both sides of the ball, and a CEO-style approach to the job, are huge selling points for me. It works for some, but I’m not a big fan of one side of the ball head coaches.

It’s clear Rhule has an eye on the NFL. He interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts head-coaching job two years ago and appeared to be the leading candidate for the New York Jets job last season before the Jets refused to allow him to hire his own staff of assistants.

Rhule signed an extension with Baylor this year that lasts through the 2027 season, but he could buy his way out of that deal for the right job.

Could that be with the Giants?

NFL retreads

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

I know, I know. This one makes many of you want to hold your nose. We know that word recently filtered out that Garrett, 83-65 as Dallas coach since 2010, would like the Giants gig if he loses his current one.

There have been reports that the Giants were interested in Garrett several years ago. To what extent, I don’t know. Would they be interested this time? Again, right now I don’t know. I believe the Garrett-Giants chatter is coming from the Garrett side at the moment.

Garrett was a Giants backup quarterback for three seasons, and connections to the franchise always seem to matter. I seriously doubt that Garrett would be anyone’s first choice, but he has to be on the list.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

[UPDATE: The Panthers have fired Rivera. Ex-Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will take over as interim head coach.]

Dave Gettleman did not hire Rivera in Carolina. He did, however, choose to keep him as head coach when he became Panthers GM in 2013. Carolina went 12-4 that year and two seasons later went 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl.

Rivera could be headed for a second straight losing season with the Panthers, and could find himself out the door. If Gettleman remains as GM, the connection between the two, which led to a Super Bowl appearance and three season of 11 wins or more in five years, would have to make Rivera a candidate.

Mike McCarthy

I am putting him here simply because he is a Super Bowl-winning head coach and he’s available. After the Ben McAdoo experience, though, I have serious doubts that the Giants would have interested in traveling the Green Bay road again. We learned from McAdoo that McCarthy wasn’t an offensive guru with an amazing system. He was a coach fortunate enough to guide teams led by two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the position in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Other names

Dan Campbell — This 43-year-old former Giants tight end (1999-2002) is going to get a chance to be a head coach at some point. He went 5-7 as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015, and will probably be on the short list for most NFL teams looking for a new coach in a few weeks. He has been assistant head coach/tight ends coach under Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints since 2016.

David Shaw — The Stanford head coach is always mentioned for NFL jobs at this time of year, and always chooses to remain at Stanford and not pursue them. This is Shaw’s first losing season in nine years at Stanford, so this might not be the right time. Still, you know his name will be discussed.

Other hot assistant coaches — I really don’t know yet what this list looks like, but there will likely be several coordinators and assistants from playoff teams that — at least — get interviews. So, certainly, if the Giants are looking for a new head coach in a few weeks you will hear some names that are not on this list.

The name I’m not putting on the list

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Yeah, I know. By mentioning him I am kinda, sorta putting Harbaugh on the list. This one, though, doesn’t seem realistic. Despite his failure to beat Ohio State during his five seasons at Michigan Harbaugh is 47-17 overall with bowl appearances each year. Recent reports out of Michigan have been that the school intends to bring him back for a sixth season, and that he could actually be in line for a hefty pay raise. So, dream if you are a fan who wants Harbaugh, but he doesn’t appear to be available.