The New York Giants' head coaching search will continue in the coming week, as chief operating officer John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese continue to conduct initial interviews with prospective candidates.
Thus far, the Giants' list of candidates, all of whom were confirmed by the team, has included three offensive-minded coaches—Ben McAdoo, Adam Gase and Doug Marrone—and three defensive-minded coaches—Steve Spagnuolo, Teryl Austin and Mike Smith.
While it remains to be seen if the Giants will continue to add candidates to what Mara promised would be an “extensive” search, and while people remain split regarding the direction the Giants should pursue, at this point in the organization’s timeline it probably makes the most sense for them to lean more toward a defensive-minded head coach, the last of which was Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.
Let’s look at four reasons why.
The Offense Has a Foundation in Place
Let’s back up for a moment. On the offensive side of things, the Giants are in better shape. They appear to have four-fifths of their offensive line in guards Justin Pugh and Bobby Hart, center Weston Richburg, and tackle Ereck Flowers. Each of those players is between 21 and 25 years old and should be a staple of the team for years to come.
They have a core playmaker in receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and a franchise quarterback in Eli Manning. Running back Rashad Jennings showed he still can be the workhorse while Orleans Darkwa, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen can be contributors, if used properly.
At tight end, the Giants have some very promising young talent in 24-year-olds Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham and 23-year-old Matt LaCosse.
In short, the Giants have a more stable core on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, they could use another receiver or two, and yes, they need a right tackle if they move on from Will Beatty.
While the next head coach will have the final say in who he adds to his staff, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that one of the questions Mara and Reese are asking their head-coaching candidates is what the plans are for continuing the progress made by the offense these last two seasons.
Continuity in the Offense
Bob Glauber of Newsday points out that all of the assistant coaches left behind from the Tom Coughlin era are still under contract for another season.
Although offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has already interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, there have yet to be any reports of him receiving a second interview or having been requested by any of the other teams looking for head coaches.
If McAdoo doesn’t get the job in Philadelphia, it probably wouldn’t be a stretch for Giants management to recommend to the next head coach—assuming that it’s not McAdoo—that he retain the man responsible for quarterback Eli Manning’s resurgence over the last two seasons.
Obviously the new head coach will have the final say regarding his staff, but that person is sure to not only give interviews to many, if not all, of Coughlin’s former assistants, but to possibly end up retaining one or two as well.
If McAdoo does move on, don’t rule out the possibility of Mike Sullivan, the Giants' quarterbacks coach in 2015, being among the select few who are retained just to maintain continuity for Manning.
Sullivan could also potentially earn a promotion as an offensive coordinator if the new head coach wants to continue what has been built over the last two seasons.
Fusing the New Defensive Talent is Key
It’s rare that there is a unanimous consensus regarding the problem of a team, but in the case of the Giants, both Mara and Reese agreed with the popular belief that the defensive side of the ball just didn’t have the talent necessary to be competitive.
It’s naturally a realistic expectation to think that Reese is going to spend a great deal of his projected $38 million cap space, which could swell upwards of $50 million once some dead wood is trimmed off the books, on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s realistic to think that the 2016 draft class will have a heavy defensive flavor to it given the team’s needs at linebacker, cornerback, defensive tackle and defensive end.
The defense isn’t as lucky as the offense. If Spagnuolo isn’t hired for the head-coaching job—and it would be a surprise if he is—2016 would be the third system in as many years for the Giants defenders to learn.
This time, however, it shouldn’t be as big of a deal. Unlike the offensive side of the ball, the Giants' core on defense under contract as of this writing includes just a small number of players such as defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker J.T. Thomas, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Landon Collins.
With potential defensive newcomers coming in across the board, it’s high time that the Giants have some consistency in the defensive system they run. A defensive-minded head coach, while turning the day-to-day planning over to a coordinator, is likely to be more involved in the development of the new defensive system.
In the case of the Giants, with an offensive system already in place that seems to work, why fix what’s not broken?
The defense, on the other hand, is broken and in need of a lot of fixing. A defensive-minded head coach is a start.
Defense (Usually) Wins Championships
High-scoring offenses might be sexy to watch, but when push comes to shove, defenses usually win championships.
Of the last nine Super Bowl champions, five of them have had head coaches who came up through the coaching ranks via the defensive side of the ball: Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.
Of those winners, the last three Super Bowl champions all had head coaches from the defensive side of the ball—the Ravens, Seahawks and Patriots.
This isn’t to suggest that, if the Giants hire a defensive-minded head coach, they’re a lock for a Super Bowl run. Obviously, personnel is a key issue.
According to data in the New York Giants 2015 Media Guide, Bill Parcells, the last Giants head coach to come from the defensive side of the ball, had a .611 regular-season winning percentage—better than Tom Coughlin’s .531.
So Who’s It Going to Be?
The only people who have an idea who the front-runners in the coaching search are Mara and Reese, neither of whom are going to comment publicly about who they like.
It’s also not out of the question that another candidate or two might be added to the mix as well after Mara promised an “extensive” search.
In the end, Mara, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch and Reese are no doubt looking for a coach who, at the very least, has a plan to help get the franchise back to .500 in 2016.
For the sake of the franchise’s future, let’s hope that whoever gets to put that plan in place also happens to be from the defensive side of the ball.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.