New York Giants Head Coaching Search Breakdown and Analysis

A look at the Giants potential head coaching candidates and where the search stands.

New York Giants co-owner John Mara vowed the team would hit the ground running Monday in terms of its head coaching search, and that’s exactly what it did in filing numerous consent requests with various teams who have candidates the Giants apparently desire for their next head coach.

A look at those head coaching candidates who have been linked to the Giants aligns with what new general manager Dave Gettleman emphasized as being the key to any winning football program:

“At the end of the day, it’s the same three things you had to do in ’35 that you got to do now in 2018,” he said. “You got to run the ball. You got to stop the run. You got to pressure the passer. Everywhere I’ve been and with the great teams that I’ve been associated with – those were three very big staples.”

True to his word, those are the head coaching candidates that Gettleman has reportedly assembled to interview, a diverse list that includes four men who have experience as defensive coordinators, two offensive coordinators and one running backs coach.

In addition to his core staples, Gettleman said he’s looking for a leader.

“I really believe that the head coaching job is a CEO position,” he said. “You look at the great head coaches and I’ll tell you right now, there ain’t a dumb one in the group. They all know how to lead men. And, that’s what you need. You need intelligence. You need leadership and on the assumption that you hire an intelligent guy, you’re going to have a guy with vision. Those are critical components you’re looking for.”

Here is a rundown of who the candidates are and when, per multiple media reports, they are set to have their interviews.

Steve Spagnuolo (Wednesday)

Current Team/Role: New York Giants
Age: 58
Head Coaching Experience: St. Louis Rams (2009-2011); Giants (Interim), four games, 2017
Head Coaching Record: 11-41

As expected, Spagnuolo plans to take advantage of Mara’s offer to interview for the permanent head coaching role and will lead off the process. He led the Giants to a 1-3 record this year, but managed to get them to be a little more competitive than they had been at other points in the season.

One key argument to bringing him back in the full-time role is the players familiarity with his scheme. Yes, the unit underperformed this year, finishing 31st in the NFL, but one might make an argument that injuries and a lack of speed at linebackers didn’t help matters. With healthy and upgraded talent and a defensive coordinator that shares his philosophies, the Giants could take a gamble on Spagnuolo.

But they probably won’t, nor should they. Given the struggles of his defense in two of his three seasons with the Giants (2015 and 2017), his passive approach to curb the budding feud between safety Landon Collins and cornerback Eli Apple, the disciplinary issues that popped up in the defensive secondary, and the report that the Giants assistant coaches have, per ESPN, been given permission to pursue other opportunities, Spagnuolo appears to be the longest of long shots for the job, the Giants are probably better off going in a different direction.

Eric Studesville (Thursday)

Current Team/Role: N/A (was fired Monday by the Broncos)
Age: 50
Head Coaching Experience: Denver Broncos (interim, 2010)
Head Coaching Record: 1-3

Studesville is one of two head coaching candidates that Gettleman personally knows from having worked with him. Studesville was the Giants running back coach under Jim Fassel in 2001-2003 and was instrumental in helping to shape Tiki Barber’s success.

After leaving the Giants, Studesville coached the Bills running backs, where, at the time, he coached a young Marshawn Lynch from 2007 to 2009.

Studesville went to Denver in 2010 under then head coach Josh McDaniels, and served as the team’s interim head coach when McDaniels was fired with four games left in the 2010 season. As the Broncos changed head coaches over the years—McDaniels, John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph—Studesville remained.

This year, Studesville was instrumental in helping Broncos running back C.J. Anderson have his best season as a pro (1,007 yards on 245 carries). Two other former Broncos running back who hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark under Studesville tutelage include Willis McGahee, who rushed for 1,199 yards in 2011 and Knowshon Moreno, who racked up 1,038 yards in 2013.

Josh McDaniels (Friday)

Current Team/Role: Patriots Offensive Coordinator
Age:  41
Head Coaching Experience: Broncos, 2009-2010
Head Coaching Record: 11-17

McDaniels and Ben McAdoo have a few things in common.

They’re both relatively young (in their early 40s). They’ve both spent the majority of their pro caching careers with the same boss—Mike McCarthy for McAdoo and Bill Belichick for McDaniels. They also were both named head coaches well before they were ready with disastrous results leading to their respective in-season firings with four games remaining to their team’s respective seasons.

That, however, is where the similarities end. McDaniels pro career began as a personnel assistant with the Patriots in 2001. The next two seasons, he was a defensive assistant before making the  jump to the offensive side of the ball starting in 2004.

He served as Tom Brady’s position coach starting in 2005, a role he held until 2008, his last with the Patriots before trying his hand as a head coach of the Broncos. In 2006, McDaniels was named the team’s offensive coordinator. He would continue in that dual role for one season with the Rams in 2011 before returning to the Patriots in 2012, where he’s been since.

Let’s look though at McDaniels’ first head coaching tenure. Besides not winning, McDaniels had communication issues with quarterback Jay Cutler, who lost trust in his head coach after word emerged that the Broncos were trying to acquire quarterback Matt Cassel via a three-way trade.

McDaniels was also criticized for  what the Denver Post described as “questionable personnel moves and emotional swings.”

The final straw leading to his dismissal was a spying scandal reported to have occurred prior to a Broncos-49ers game played in London.

McDaniels is believed to be wiser since those earlier days, and has also presumably honed his craft and management of people.

Given the annual success of the Patriots, who routinely seem to be at or near the top of the league in many offensive statistical categories, McDaniels’ football IQ and his ability to reinvent the Patriots weekly attack accordingly is certainly an attractive enough quality.

But then again, isn’t that what drew the Giants to McAdoo?

Matt Patricia (Friday)

Current Team/Role: Patriots Defensive Coordinator
Age:  43
Head Coaching Experience: N/A
Head Coaching Record: N/A

Patricia is the second-youngest of the head coaching candidates linked to the Giants. He’s just three years older than Ben McAdoo. But unlike McAdoo, who quickly rose through the ranks from being a position coach to a coordinator for two years and then a head coach, Patricia has been a defensive coordinator under the master—Bill Belichick—since the 2012 season.

Gettleman mentioned he likes guys who are smart, and Patricia’s background certainly would check that box off. HE holds an undergraduate degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has a rather impressive engineering background.

From a football perspective, Patricia, whose only NFL coaching experience is with the Patriots, is probably the most well-rounded of the candidates linked to the Giants.

He began his career in 2004 as an offensive assistant before spending the next season as the assistant offensive line coach, which just might appeal to Gettleman as he begins to search for “hog mollies” for the Giants offensive line.

Patricia move to the defensive side of the ball in 2006, coaching the Patriots linebackers through 2010 (another position that the Giants desperately need to revamp and get better production out of), and then the safeties in 2011 before being promoted in 2012 to the team’s defensive coordinator.

Since being promoted, the Patriots defense has never finished lower than 10th in points allowed.

While Patricia, like McAdoo, has mainly worked for one man most of his professional career, the Patriots consistent success and ability to handle adversity has likely provided the defensive coordinator with a solid background to be able to handle adversity when it strikes.

Pat Shurmur (Saturday)

Current Team/Role: Vikings Offensive Coordinator
Age:  52
Head Coaching Experience: Browns, 2011-2012, Eagles (Interim, 1 game in 2015)
Head Coaching Record: 10-23

Like McDaniels, Shurmur’s first head coaching gig—with the Browns–didn’t go very well.

But Shurmur is intriguing. He is creative—he is capable of designing and evolving a system that grows with the talent–and he believes in balance, as evidenced by the Vikings run/pass breakdown from this year being 501 to 527.

As Spagnuolo’s offensive coordinator with the Rams, Shurmur’s system helped quarterback Sam Bradford, then a rookie to his best season with St. Louis. Bradford finished the 2010 campaign throwing for 3,512 yards and had 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.

Shurmur was reunited with Bradford in Minnesota when he was named the team’s interim offensive coordinator in 2016 before receiving the full-time promotion for this year. Although he hasn’t had as much of a chance to work with Bradford on game day due to injury, Shurmur has worked his magic with the Vikings offense in general, guiding them to the league’s 11th-best passing offense in the NFL this year (234.6 yards per game).

The Vikings also have the seventh best rushing attack in the league, averaging 122.3 yards per game and the 10th best scoring offense (23.9 points per game). The biggest improvement, though, has been their offensive line, tied for seventh in fewest sacks allowed (27) with the Ravens.

Shurmur is scheduled to meet with the Lions and Cardinals on Thursday, and the Bears on Friday, so there is a chance he might not even make it to the Giants if one of those jobs proved to be attractive enough.

Jim Schwartz (This Weekend)

1/3/18 Update: ESPN reports the Giants have requested and received permission to interview Schwartz and that the interview will occur this weekend in Philadelphia.

Current Team/Role: Eagles Defensive Coordinator
Age: 51
Head Coaching Experience: Lions, 2009-2013
Head Coaching Record: 29-51

Schwartz was one of the first names to be linked to the Giants head coaching search and in fact was reported to be “the favorite” to get the job.

However, those reports appear to have been premature according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. Further, it sounds like the Eagles, who are NFC East rivals with the Giants, have some concerns about allowing Schwartz to interview with the Giants.

With the Eagles on a bye week, reports linking Schwartz to the Giants have quieted down. And that might be just as well.

As head coach of the Lions, Schwartz had just one winning season, that in 2011 when the Lions went 10-6 and made it to the playoffs, only to be one and done.

Schwartz’s Eagles defense finished fourth this season, allowing teams an average of 306.5 yards per game. His run defense finished first, allowing opponents 79.2 rushing yards per game.

They’re also fourth in fewest points allowed to an opponent (18.4) but the Eagles defense did struggle a bit down the stretch, including in a Week 15 game against the Giants in which New York gained 504 yards of offense and scored 29 points, just narrowly falling short of a win in that game.


Steve Wilks

Current Team/Role: Panthers Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach
Age:  48
Head Coaching Experience: N/A
Head Coaching Record: N/A

Wilks is the other candidate with whom Gettleman has familiarity from their time together with the Carolina Panthers. Wilks began his NFL career with the Panthers in 2012  as the team’s defensive backs coach. In 2015 he was promoted to the assistant head coach while he continued to coach the defensive backs until 2016. When defensive coordinator Sean McDermott left to become the Bills head coach, Wilks was promoted to the role.

In his first season as the Panthers defensive coordinator, Carolina finished with the seventh best defense in the NFL (317.1 yards allowed/game), and was tied for the 10th best scoring defense (with the Saints), allowing 20.4 points per game.

Where his unit really stood out this year was against the run, where it finished third, allowing 88.1 rushing yards per game, and tying for second in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (7) with Dallas and the Eagles.

In addition to building a strong run defense, which was a staple Gettleman said is essential for a winning football team, Wilks is a no-nonsense coaching prospect who commands discipline and attention to detail from his players, two things that weren’t consistently present for the Giants in 2017.

Wilks cannot interview for the job this week as the Panthers are in the Wild Card playoff round. If the Panthers lose  this weekend, Wilks will be free to interview at any point next week; if the Panthers win, he will be able to interview late next week through the Divisional playoff round.