Giants' Top Options to Replace Joe Judge as Head Coach After Firing

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 12, 2022

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge walks off the field after a loss to the Washington Football Team during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

The New York Giants announced Tuesday that they have parted ways with head coach Joe Judge after two seasons.

A franchise once marked by coaching stability has now been branded with turmoil. The Giants will now have hired four head coaches in six years (2017-2022), or two more than they had from 1997 to 2015, when Jim Fassel (1997-2003) and Tom Coughlin (2004-2015) ran the show.

Following general manager Dave Gettleman's retirement, the onus is on co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch to rebuild this team and get the next coaching hire right.

A frustrated fanbase hasn't seen a playoff win in 10 years, and the Giants have now missed out on the postseason in nine of those campaigns.

Luckily, there isn't a shortage of intriguing candidates out there who can guide the Giants to better days. Here's a look at eight of them, alongside a verdict for who may be the best.

Former NFL Head Coaches with Past Success

Brian Flores, Dan Quinn and Jim Caldwell are three names who come to mind if the Giants want to find people who have guided teams to success in the past.

Flores was just let go as the Miami Dolphins' head coach after three seasons despite leading the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003. An internal power struggle and disagreements with Dolphins GM Chris Grier, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, ultimately was Flores' downfall.

But Flores shouldn't be out of a job for long, simply because he did great work for a team that hasn't enjoyed consistent success in two decades. The Dolphins went 19-14 over the past two years and didn't give up this season after a 1-7 start. His players seem to love him too.

Diante Lee @PFF_DLee

The Giants should have Brian Flores as a top candidate for head coach. He has a strong track record of developing young defensive players, he and Patrick Graham have good history, and there's enough draft capital to fill the holes on this roster.

Caldwell should get an interview. Like Flores, he has experience taking a moribund franchise to greater heights, as the Detroit Lions posted three winning records during his four-season tenure from 2014 to 2017.

To put that in perspective, the Lions have had five winning campaigns in total from 1998 to 2021, a 24-season span. Caldwell had a 75 percent winning season success rate (3-of-4), and all other coaches went 2-of-20 (10 percent). That's incredible.

ChuckModi @ChuckModi1

Jim Caldwell has been best available coach for 4 years. He wins w/weak talent; is respected by all ex-players &amp; a guru at developing QBs. But NFL is too racist &amp; ageist to hire quality over Urban Meyer’s &amp; Joe Judge’s.<br><br>Wrote this 3 yrs ago. Still applies:<a href="https://t.co/Rxl0o50AUq">https://t.co/Rxl0o50AUq</a>

Caldwell also led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl appearance in 2009. The bottom fell out for him in Indianapolis when the Colts went 2-14, but they also struggled minus quarterback Peyton Manning (neck injury). You can't entirely put the blame on Caldwell there.

No team will ever be as close to winning a Super Bowl without actually getting the Lombardi Trophy than the Quinn-led 2016 Atlanta Falcons, who blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots before losing 34-28 in overtime.

Despite the heartbreaking loss, the fact that the Falcons got that far in just Quinn's second season as head coach is a testament to just how good he was in Atlanta, which has still never won a Super Bowl.

Sure, the end of his Falcons' career saw him go 7-9 twice before an 0-5 start in 2020 led to his firing. But Quinn is also a defensive wizard who guided the legendary Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom teams as well as the playmaking Dallas Cowboys' D now as their defensive coordinator.

Calvin Watkins @calvinwatkins

Dan Quinn Jersey guy. New York Football Giants. He deserves an interview.

William McFadden @willmcfadden

Just heard the story about Dan Quinn helping Kellen Moore with the head coach interview process, and I continue to be surprised by how highly I think of that man. Falcons fans, he may not have accomplished the ultimate goal, but he’s a great human being and does his best.

He deserves a look.

Hot Offensive Coordinator Candidates

There isn't a shortage of big offensive coordinator names who will be considered.

Four of the best who should be on the Giants' radar are the Buffalo Bills' Brian Daboll, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Byron Leftwich, the Green Bay Packers' Nathaniel Hackett and the Dallas Cowboys' Kellen Moore.

All of those teams are going to the playoffs. All of those teams are top 10 in scoring, with Dallas, Tampa and Buffalo in the top three. The Giants were 31st each of the last two years and 32nd overall from 2020-21. Something needs to change, and any of these OC's could be the person to do so.

Before Daboll's arrival, the Bills were 27th in scoring in 2017. Granted, the team has seen an infusion of talent since then (quarterback Josh Allen, wideout Stefon Diggs, etc.), but the Bills have been third in scoring each of the last two years. Daboll is a big part of that, and Allen is a big fan of his creativity, which is something the Giants need.

Matthew Bové @Matt_Bove

Question: How would you rate Brian Daboll’s creativity? <br><br>Josh Allen: <a href="https://t.co/68svk9JogQ">pic.twitter.com/68svk9JogQ</a>

The Buccaneers are second in scoring despite being short-handed on offense for much of the season (Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, etc.). Leftwich played a big role in keeping things stable while trying to figure out how to adapt each week.

Carmen Vitali @CarmieV

OC Byron Leftwich says the Bucs haven’t had ‘a full deck of cards’ since about week three or four. Finding new ways to win isn’t anything new to them.

Leftwich is a former NFL quarterback who played a decade in the league, and he's a Super Bowl-winning OC. He also has a huge backer in Bucs head coach Bruce Arians:

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

Bruce Arians: "I was very, very pissed that Byron [Leftwich] didn't at least get an interview this year for the job that he's done. I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady for the job that Byron has done."

No team scored more points this year's than the Cowboys, with the Moore-led offense exploding early and often.

Moore's best work arguably came in a 20-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, when backup Cooper Rush started for an injured Dak Prescott and led the team to a huge road win. The 33-year-old's intelligence has gotten praise, including from wideout CeeDee Lamb:

Jon Machota @jonmachota

CeeDee Lamb: Kellen Moore “reminds me a lot of Coach (Lincoln) Riley. It’s just like, he’s so smart. … That’s why he brings so much success to this offense. Kellen definitely does a great job of drawing things up.”<br><br>Lamb has been lobbying to throw a pass <a href="https://t.co/zbkkzWkBFg">pic.twitter.com/zbkkzWkBFg</a>

fishsports @fishsports

SMART BOMB?<br><br>'Kellen Moore is the Smartest Coach in the Room': Can <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DallasCowboys?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DallasCowboys</a> Offense Explode vs. 49ers in Playoffs? <a href="https://t.co/zPiR8iqy1L">https://t.co/zPiR8iqy1L</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/lockedoncowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@lockedoncowboys</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/JeremyBrener?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JeremyBrener</a>

Perhaps Moore is the infusion of creativity the Giants need on the offensive end, but the G-Men could look toward Hackett, who has a ringing endorsement from likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers:

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

"We gotta great coaching staff on both sides of the ball &amp; I think this is a little overdue for Nathaniel Hackett.. he is a great coach &amp; a fantastic teacher"<a href="https://twitter.com/AaronRodgers12?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AaronRodgers12</a> on the Packers coaching staff getting interviewed for head coaching jobs <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PatMcAfeeShowLIVE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PatMcAfeeShowLIVE</a> <a href="https://t.co/r5884KipGX">pic.twitter.com/r5884KipGX</a>

Hackett also has a very engaging and interesting personality, as Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post profiled when calling him a "football lifer with a Renaissance man's flair."

Nicki Jhabvala @NickiJhabvala

A short glimpse into the Nathaniel Hackett Experience:<a href="https://t.co/OxIED0as7E">https://t.co/OxIED0as7E</a> <a href="https://t.co/9c8LEezvvU">pic.twitter.com/9c8LEezvvU</a>

Hackett has been the Packers' OC for three seasons. The team notably reached the NFC Championship Game in 2019 and 2020 and earned the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs this year. Hackett is a big reason why.

The Wild Card

If the Giants want to go outside the box, then they should consider Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, who has made his intentions to be an NFL head coach or defensive coordinator clear.

Ed Reed @TwentyER

HC or DC let me be clear. <a href="https://t.co/lPecM3QYpE">https://t.co/lPecM3QYpE</a>

Sure, he has just one year under his belt as an assistant defensive backs coach (2016 Buffalo Bills) and two years as the University of Miami's chief of staff (2020-2021).

But Reed is one of the best and most brilliant football minds around. There isn't a shortage of compliments to be found about his work.

Warren Sharp @SharpFootball

it takes a lot to shock Bill Belichick...<br><br>this was one of THE GREATEST plays he ever saw in the NFL<br><br>✅ film study<br>✅ instincts<br>✅ subterfuge<br>✅ execution <a href="https://t.co/5z3tWAHQ04">pic.twitter.com/5z3tWAHQ04</a>

He was also a tremendous leader who has a respectful perspective for anyone in the locker room. Check out this story, for example.

NFL Throwback @nflthrowback

Ed Reed was the definition of a leader 🙌 <a href="https://twitter.com/TwentyER?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TwentyER</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Ravens?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Ravens</a> (via <a href="https://twitter.com/DIRECTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DIRECTV</a>) <a href="https://t.co/NykXn9DZlP">pic.twitter.com/NykXn9DZlP</a>

Reed notably helped guide the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win in February 2013. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer too.

Sure, it's not common to see people become NFL head coaches with zero prior coordinator or coaching experience. But Reed should be the exception to that rule. He deserves consideration.

The Verdict

The Giants have historically had success giving former NFL head coaches another shot leading a program, especially after rocky periods in the team's history.

In 1992, Ray Handley was coming off a tumultuous two-year tenure that saw the Giants go 14-18 after winning the Super Bowl to cap the 1990 season, which also saw Hall of Famer Bill Parcells retire afterward.

The Giants then turned to a calm, veteran leader in Dan Reeves, who proceeded to guide New York to an 11-5 mark and a playoff appearance in 1993. An overtime loss to Dallas in the season finale separated the G-Men from getting the NFC's No. 1 seed that year.

Reeves' final three years didn't go as well, though the Giants got the wrong end of tiebreaker luck in 1994 when the 9-7 team missed out on the playoffs. Still, Reeves restored Giants pride for an aging team thanks to his work.

The bottom fell out on Fassel at the end of his tenure, with the team going 0-8 to end a 4-12 season in 2003. In came former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin, a supremely disciplined man who was harsh with his players and the media alike.

It was a bit rocky for Coughlin at first, and his job was on the line after the Giants' second-half collapse in 2006 saw them nearly miss the playoffs after a 6-2 start.

But the Giants proceeded to win Super Bowls in two of the next five seasons (2007, 2011) and earn a No. 1 seed in a third campaign (2008) that seemed destined for a Lombardi Trophy before wideout Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg in a nightclub. Coughlin ultimately stabilized the franchise and got the team two of its four Lombardi Trophies.

What's that all mean?

The Giants are in another period of chaos, and they need an experienced leader who can calm the situation down and get the franchise back on track.

The 40-year-old Flores, who is from Brooklyn, could be that guy after he did so in Miami. He could also keep Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who did an admirable job with Big Blue over the past two years, on staff with the two having a close relationship.

Going for one of a pair of former coaches who have been there, done that and reached Super Bowls in Quinn or Caldwell is a good bet too.

Any of the OC candidates could be a good pick, especially given their success on playoff teams. The dreadful Giants offense needs a quadruple bypass, and any of those coaches can bring the team into the 21st century.

Still, with the way this team has performed, taking a more sure thing in Flores, Quinn or Caldwell could be a better bet.

It'd be interesting to see if anyone takes a chance on Reed despite his inexperience, though.

Simply put, he's an exception to the experience rule given his incredible success and intangibles, and the Giants should at least bring him in for an interview to see if he's the guy the team needs to shake the franchise out of its decadelong doldrums. He very well might be.