Things appear to have taken a serious turn in the New York Giants search for a head coach to succeed Joe Judge. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, believed to be a favorite of Giants ownership, is in East Rutherford, N.J. for an in-person interview on Thursday. Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, believed to be the first choice of new general manager Joe Schoen, could be considering the Miami Dolphins coaching vacancy.
“I’m not going to call anybody the favorite right now,” co-owner John Mara said on Wednesday.
Regardless, most of the chatter has focused on Daboll and Flores. Let’s assess where things stand.
Who is making this decision?
When the Giants announced Schoen’s hiring, co-owner John Mara made it clear that Schoen “will lead the search for head coach.”
On Wednesday, though, Mara made it clear that ownership is not going to simply rubber stamp whatever Schoen wants to do.
“It’s a collaboration,” Mara said. “Listen, he’s not going to hire anybody that we don’t want and we’re certainly not going to hire anybody that he doesn’t want. But ownership always has the final approval over any decision like that. That’s just not going to change.”
Does Schoen, the first GM with no ties to the Giants that the organization has hired since George Young in 1979, have more control over the final decision than Dave Gettleman or Jerry Reese did when coaching changes were made?
“No. I don’t think so,” Mara said. “Our system has always been the same. We rely on the general manager. We rely on his advice, but at the end of the day, ownership has to approve it.”
Schoen echoed during his introductory press conference that he knows he isn’t making a unilateral decision.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be a collaborative effort between John, Steve (Tisch), myself. We’re going to come together, we’re going to talk about the candidates,” Schoen said. “If we’re different in certain areas, we’ll continue to do our research, we’ll continue to make our calls. Ultimately, it’s going to be a collaborative effort between ownership and myself.”
Schoen said previous head coaching experience, or the lack thereof, will not be a deciding factor.
“All of our candidates bring a different skillset to the table. I’m not concerned if they’ve been a head coach before or if they haven’t. I’m concerned with getting the best head coach for the New York Giants. If they’ve had previous coaching experience, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine,” Schoen said. “It’s going to be imperative that it’s somebody that’s in lockstep with me that I can work with, we can have constant communication and we’re going to be aligned in our vision as we build a football team.”
Frazier’s interview is the final one scheduled. A decision could come as early as Saturday morning.
Competition for Brian Daboll
The 46-year-old Bills offensive coordinator worked with Schoen for four seasons in Buffalo. He also worked with him in 2011, when Schoen was scouting for Miami and Daboll was the Dolphins offensive coordinator.
There were reports Wednesday night from Pat Leonard of the Daily News and Pro Football Network that the Dolphins have strong interest in Daboll. PFN wrote that “Daboll has emerged as a top target — and potentially the top target” for the Dolphins.
Daboll worked with Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa when Daboll was offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2017. Grier was Miami’s director of college scouting in 2011 when Daboll was offensive coordinator.
Kevin Nogle of SB Nation’s The Phinsider told me that Daboll is “probably their number one” candidate in Miami.
Daboll has also interviewed with the Chicago Bears.
Flores takes center stage
Flores gets his chance on Thursday with an in-person interview. He has some work to do to convince the Giants that he is the right man for the job.
The biggest question — can he and Schoen work together?
They have never worked together, and this is the first time they have met in-person. Can he be “in lockstep” with a general manager he doesn’t have a previous relationship with? Maybe, but he is going to have to convince Schoen and Giants ownership of that.
He is also going to have to convince the Giants that he can work within their traditional top-down power structure.
Mara made it clear on Wednesday that whoever is named head coach will report to the general manager. The GM will not be subservient to the wishes of the coach.
“That is fair to say,” Mara admitted. “That’s the structure that I believe in with the head coach reporting to the general manager.”
Flores did a good job on the field in three seasons with Miami. He never reached the playoffs, but his teams had 10-6 and 9-8 records the past two seasons, and the 2021 Dolphins had a seven-game winning streak.
Ulltimately, inability to build relationships off the field and a power struggle lost to Miami GM Chris Grier cost him the job in Miami.
From an ESPN analysis of Flores’ firing:
“An organization can only function if it’s collaborative, and it works well together,” [Miami owner Stephen] Ross said. “And I don’t think that we were really working well as an organization [the way] it would take to really win consistently at the NFL level.” ...
As ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported, Ross’ decision was about relationships and Flores’ inability to sustain them. His time with the Dolphins featured constant turnover — different offensive coordinators in each year, two defensive coordinators and four offensive line coaches, one of whom was fired days into training camp.
The decision to keep Chris Grier as general manager represents Ross picking a side, and his glowing review of the roster Grier assembled serves as an indictment of Flores’ ability to extract the most out of it.
Flores also had what ESPN called a “deteriorating relationship” with Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
All of those things could be major hurdles for Flores.
“That’s certainly one of the things that we’re going to ask Brian,” Mara said. “I discussed it with him briefly when I spoke to him a week ago, but we’re going to spend some time on that when he comes in tomorrow.
“It’s obviously something that we’re going to have to discuss.”
Schoen worked alongside Grier for several years in Miami. You can be certain that he has spent time getting to know Grier’s side of why his relationship with Flores went sideways.
The last thing the Giants want to do is set up what might be an acrimonious relationship with new coach and GM not on the same page. Especially after Mara admitted Wednesday that “The communication hasn’t been the greatest in the building over the last couple of years.”
[UPDATE 4:21 p.m.:]
The Giants have announced completion of their Thursday interview with Flores.
Flores met at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center with team president John Mara, chairman Steve Tisch, senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara and Joe Schoen, who was formally introduced Wednesday as the Giants’ new general manager. He also met with other members of the front office and toured the team’s facility.
The rest of the field
What do the Giants do if Daboll chooses Miami and they aren’t comfortable pairing Schoen with Flores? Or, if Giants ownership decides it really isn’t comfortable with both a rookie general manager and a first-time head coach?
The choice then might be between former Minnesota Vikings head coach and current Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and former Atlanta Falcons head coach and current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Frazier gets his second interview for the job on Friday at the team’s headquarters.
The 62-year-old Frazier is widely respected and has had a distinguished career as an NFL player and coach. He spent the last five seasons as defensive coordinator in Buffalo. His only head coaching job came with the Minnesota Vikings, and he compiled a 21-32-1 record with one playoff appearance in three-plus seasons.
Frazier’s temperament draws comparisons to Tony Dungy, who he considers a mentor:
Frazier once explained his coaching philosophy to The St. Paul Pioneer Press. See if you can detect a bit of Dungy — or maybe more than just a bit:
“It [winning a Super Bowl with Dungy] reinforced my beliefs, that you could be who you are and do it the way I wanted to do it, as opposed to the other model that the majority of people recognize as a coach — a guy who is a screamer, maybe profane in his language,” Frazier said. “That’s how you motivate. Well, to do that, I would have had to change my personality, and I wasn’t willing to do that.”
Quinn, 51, went 43-42 and took the Atlanta Falcons to two playoff appearances in five-plus seasons. He has been sought after by many of the teams seeking head coaches after a year coordinating the Dallas Cowboys defense. [UPDATE: Quinn has taken himself out of consideration.]
Quinn has interviewed twice with the Chicago Bears. He was also considered a finalist for the job with the Denver Broncos, who are reportedly hiring Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Quinn also interviewed with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.
One major question for both defensive-minded coaches is who they would bring in to run their offense. Quinn had current San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel on his staff in Atlanta.