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Giants’ defensive coordinator search: What we know so far

Four interviews reportedly held Saturday, more could be on tap Sunday

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles
Jim Schwartz
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

With Patrick Graham having moved on to what he believes is a better opportunity with the Las Vegas Raiders, the New York Giants are searching for a new defensive coordinator. Head coach Brian Daboll has wasted no time attacking that need. Let’s take a look at what we know thus far.

Graham took the Las Vegas job Friday night. Daboll moved quickly, reportedly conducting four interviews for the job on Saturday. Daboll reportedly spoke with Pittsburgh Steelers’ senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin, former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai and Tennessee Titans’ defensive consultant Jim Schwartz.

Former Denver Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio, a long-time defensive coordinator, could also be a candidate.

We talked about several of these candidates on Saturday.

Martindale was fired after a four-year tenure in Baltimore, the first three seasons of which were highly successful. He is well-respected by the Giants after interviewing for the head coaching job before Joe Judge was hired.

Schwartz, 55, has been coaching in the NFL since 1996. He was head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2009-2013. He spent 2021 as a senior defensive coordinator (a fancy title for consultant) in Tennessee. He was defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-2020. He was defensive coordinator for the Titans from 2001-2008, and for the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

Schwartz coaches a 4-3 system. He is not a blitz-happy coordinator.

“I’ve been there before where you can’t get pressure and you have to blitz, and it’s not a great feeling,” Schwartz admitted. “You want to blitz on your terms. You want to be able to blitz when you want to when the situation is right, not, well, we can’t generate a pass rush unless we do. So allowing those guys to keep it simple, to be able to pressure with four and not make yourself skinnier so to speak in coverage can also take some of the big plays away from offenses. And I think big plays.”

Here is more about Schwartz’s defensive philosophy.

Austin, 56, might be a familiar name. He interviewed for the Giants’ head coaching position back in 2016 before Ben McAdoo was hired. He is currently senior defensive assistant/secondary coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Austin could be in line to ascend to the Steelers’ defensive coordinator role, which makes his Saturday interview with Daboll and the Giants even more intriguing.

Austin served as Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator from 2014-2017, and filled that role for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

Here is a little bit of background on Austin:

“He’s awesome. It’s just, he’s down to earth. He’s around. If you got a question, he’s there to answer it. I mean, he’s about his job. He’s in here, he’s coaching us, he’s teaching us,” Steelers safety Jordan Dangerfield said on Austin.

As far as his defensive mindset Austin has said on multiple occasions that he isn’t, “married to anything,” as far as identity. Austin has been on a lot of defensive coaching staffs that feature a bevy of schemes, like Baltimore who have consistently ran a 3-4 as opposed to Austin’s traditional 4-3 setup.

One thing Austin has consistently emphasized to his defenses however, is takeaways. Defenses coached by Austin have consistently been among the NFL’s leaders in takeaways.

Fangio has been coaching in the NFL since 1986, except for a one-year stint at Stanford. Fangio has been defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers (1995-1998), Indianapolis Colts (1999-2001), Houston Texans (2002-2005), San Francisco 49ers (2011-2014) and Chicago Bears (2015-2018).

Fangio’s name has been connected to several defensive coordinator openings in recent weeks.

Desai, 38, worked for the Bears 2013 until the end of the 2021 season. He began as defensive quality control coach, was promoted to safeties coach in 2019, and became defensive coordinator for the 2021 season.

The Chicago Sun-Times said Desai’s first season as a coordinator provided “mixed results,” but added that “Desai hasn’t been in over his head.”