New York Giants Coaching Search: Making a Case for an Offensive-minded Head Coach

The New York Giants are believed to have completed the first round of their head coaching interviews—six in all—the process wrapping up with Wednesday’s meeting with former Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville.

Now comes the hard part for the Giants brass—team co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams—who must whittle down the candidates and decide who among them has emerged as a serious enough candidate to warrant a second interview.

As we wait for the puff of blue smoke indicating a decision has been made from the pool consisting of Studesville, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the rumors are flying faster than the snowflakes did during Winter Storm Grayson last week.

For example, ABC15 in Arizona has reported that Shurmur is the favorite to become the Cardinals next head coach. And the New York Daily News has not backed down in its assertion that Patricia has emerged as the favorite for the Giants job, this coming a week after Pro Football Talk reported that Patricia was a favorite for the Lions’ vacancy and on the heels after a report emerged even before the Giants began interviewing that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who ended up not even interviewing with the team, was an early favorite for the Giants job.

As we wait for clarity on who the actual favorite is—and that clarity will come in the form of an announcement from the team—what the Giants should do at head coach is hire an offensive minded coach and not look back.

There are several reasons for this. First, the Giants offense has struggled to score 30 points in the last two years—in fact it’s struggled to do much of anything as far as sustaining drives and making the plays to carry its end of the bargain in games.

Let’s talk about scoring, shall we? Once upon a time, in 2015 to be precise, the Giants offense averaged 26.2 points per game, the eight highest average in the league.

That average has slid down the tubes ever since Ben McAdoo became the head coach. In 2016, the offense averaged 19.4 points per game (26th in the league); in 2017, it averaged 15.4 points per game (31st in the league).

It’s probably safe to say that’s not the direction the Giants management brass anticipated the offense going.

What about overall production? The Giants offense finished 21st in the league last year, averaging 314.2 yards per game—a decrease, by the way, from the 330.7 average yards per game they averaged in 2016.

If that’s not bad enough, consider the Giants offense was supposed to be better in 2017 with the additions of receiver Brandon Marshall and the upgrade at tight end with Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram.

The most important reason the Giants should hire an offensive-minded head coach and not even think twice about it is because they are at a crossroads with their quarterback.

Eli Manning has, at best two years left given his current contract. Davis Webb may or may not be the future, but they won’t know unless they have a strong quarterback whisperer on staff.

And with the Giants drafting No. 2 overall, they are in a great position to take a franchise quarterback if they don’t feel that Webb is their guy.

Although Gettleman said that a head coach is more like a CEO—a guy who is going to run the entire operation, let’s not kid ourselves.

Every CEO has an area of specialization, be it Information Technology, Finance, Marketing, Communications, etc. The same holds true in football where every head coach at one point in his career spent the majority working on one side of the ball as he worked his way up through the ranks.

Given the crossroads of where the Giants offense is—and you can throw in the fact that they’re going to shake up the starting offensive line as another reason why it’s vital to have an offensive-minded head coach in place capable of helping to set the foundation for the team for years to come—this decision should be a no-brainer as to who is eliminated from consideration and who makes it to the next round.

Still not convinced? Here’s why a defensive minded coach doesn’t make as much sense.

Last year the Giants’ biggest problem on a defense that basically returned most of the same guys who were on the top-10 unit in 2016 was its lack of depth.

We saw that come into play when the linebackers—a unit already on shaky ground to begin with—started losing guys at a rapid pace, specifically at middle linebacker where the Giants seemed to put all their eggs in the basket of B.J Goodson after the team decided initially to not ring back Kelvin Sheppard, the starting middle linebacker from the 2016 defense.

We also saw that come into play at the cornerback spot, where initially the depth behind the top three guys on the depth chart—Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—was of great concern, at least until the Giants wisely acquired Ross Cockrell from the Steelers before the start of the regular season.

And need anyone mention injuries, which no one can plan for?

With a few tweaks, the Giants defense isn’t in nearly as bad shape as the offense. Get both Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul healthy; add a speedy outside linebacker and re-sign Devon Kennard to go along with Goodson; consider moving Rodgers-Cromartie to free safety; re-sign Cockrell; and then all Gettleman has to worry about is adding depth on that side of the ball.

On the offense, well, are there more important positions than the quarterback and the left tackle, two spots that might very well undergo a change if not this year than certainly in a year or two at the most? And what about the vast drop off at receiver after Odell Beckham Jr. went down for the year?

Can the Giants continue to rely on the tight ends, a group that was a bright spot on offense, knowing that opposing defensive coordinators are likely to catch up with what Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram have been able to do?

And can we talk about the running game? Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman breathed some life into the running game, but it still wasn’t enough to scare opposing defenses.

Yes, the next head coach needs to be a CEO. But is there any question that whoever he is, his background should include being able to work wonders with quarterbacks who came into the league as being far from a sure thing as Webb and a potential draft pick would be, and who have experience designing creative offensive systems that can optimize what talent is there while minimizing what isn’t there?

While you can’t rule out a defensive minded head coach naming a strong offensive coordinator, time isn’t really on the Giants side, especially as other teams begin to fill their staffs or fill openings that might exist on the offensive side of the ball–witness Norv Turner getting snatched up by Ron Rivera in Carolina.

Come on Giants. The direction should be crystal clear.