Nobody knows when New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin will step aside. From what we've read and heard, not even Coughlin seems to know for sure. But what we do know is that, at 66, Coughlin is the NFL's oldest head coach. We also know that he's entering the penultimate year of his current contract, and that the Giants typically extend their coaches before lame-duck seasons.
That could mean that Coughlin will be presented with a natural opportunity to retire after this season. In an in-depth article published Saturday, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News suggested that this could indeed be his last campaign, but based only on the facts above.
More from Vacchiano, addressing the mentality possessed by general manager Jerry Reese and co-owner John Mara:
In a business where planning for the future is so important, both Reese and Mara insist they really have no idea how much longer Coughlin will occupy his office, and neither of them wants to ask. They may wonder what kind of coach they’d have to hire to replace him, and both men insist they have a “short list” ready. But when Mara sees Coughlin in action he sees a man who’s healthy, determined and “has the same energy level he had when he was an assistant here in the 1990s.”
So who might be on those short lists? Four of the five coaches the Giants have hired in the last 30 years came through the system, so we'll start with current staffers before touching on some wild cards.
Kevin Gilbride: He'll be 62 later this month, is coming off a bit of a down year as offensive coordinator and hasn't been a head coach since he ran things in San Diego in 1998. He'd feel like a stopgap head coach at this point in his career. Then again, Coughlin didn't start experiencing any real success with the G-Men until he was in his 60s.
Perry Fewell: He's a good candidate with experience as an interim head coach in Buffalo. Plus, he's only 50 years old. The problem might be that he hasn't had a ton of success as a defensive coordinator. In seven years in that role with the Bills and Giants, Fewell has put together a top-10 D only once and has finished in the bottom 10 five times.
Bill Cowher: You can't write an article like this without mentioning Cowher. People have been speculating that he's been waiting for an opening here ever since he walked away from the Steelers in 2006. He's still only 56 and he definitely possesses plenty of Coughlin-like traits.
Mike Sullivan: A hard-nosed disciplinarian with an army background and a nose for offense. Sullivan is a mini Coughlin and a Coughlin disciple. He worked on the Giants' offensive staff for eight years before splitting to become an offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay in 2012. Vacchiano thinks the 46-year-old will be high on New York's wishlist, and I agree.
Steve Spagnuolo: He bailed on being the heir apparent in 2009 and fell on his face with the St. Louis Rams. To follow that up, his defense in New Orleans last year was horrendous, so Spags will have to reestablish himself before getting a chance like this. The 53-year-old has time, and the organization definitely likes him.
Peyton Manning: I'm kidding, I think. No, I'm definitely kidding. But still! This was raised on Reddit, and I found it too good to resist. Imagine Peyton retiring in a year or two and teaming up with Eli for his twilight years in blue?