As we wait for that puff of blue smoke signaling the identity of the next New York Giants head coach, I thought it might be fun to put together a list of assistant coaches who have one thing in common other than a coaching background: they are all one-time Giants players.
As you take this walk down memory list, you’ll find that some of these former Giants are or have been NFL assistant coaches at some point in their career. Some haven’t made it that far, but because of their leadership qualities and their skill set when they were with the Giants, they made the list.
So without any further delay, let’s jump right into the “All-New York Giants Assistant Coaching List.”
Offensive Coordinator: Gary Brown
Former NFL running back Gary Brown spent two seasons with the Giants (1998-1999), his playing career cut short at age 30 due to a motorcycle crash. Brown went on to try his hand at coaching, spending the 2000-2002 seasons as the offensive coordinator for Williamsport Area High School. He joined Susquehanna University as its offensive coordinator in 2006, where he remained for two seasons.
After a one-year stint at Rutgers as its running backs coach, Brown made the jump to the NFL coaching ranks, serving as the running backs coach for Cleveland (2009-2012) and Dallas (2013 to present).
Quarterbacks Coach: Jeff Rutledge
If you blinked, you probably missed former Giants quarterback Jeff Rutledge’s short-lived NFL coaching career with the Arizona Cardinals, a team he was with during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
However, during his tenure with the Cardinals, Rutledge worked with future Hall of Fame (and one-time Giants) quarterback Kurt Warner, who took the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers.
The Cardinals ended up losing that game 27-23, but it’s probably worth noting that in the 2008 season under Rutledge’s watch, Warner completed 67.1 percent of his pass attempts and set career highs in pass attempts (598) and completions (401) while throwing 30 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.
Rutledge, for those who don’t remember, was the backup to Phil Simms from 1983-1989.
Running Backs: Tyrone Wheatley
Wheatley has been a NFL running backs coach since 2013, spending two seasons with Buffalo before spending two years with Michigan as their running backs coach.
Wheatley returned to the NFL in 2017 with Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin at the Jaguars where he worked with Leonard Fournette, who finished eighth in the NFL this year in total rushing yards (1,040).
Wheatley was the Giants first-round pick in 1995, the 17th pick overall in the draft.
Tight Ends: Dan Campbell
A third-round pick by the Giants in 1999, Campbell was a human brick wall in the day, having learned his craft in part from another human brick wall who played the position, Howard Cross. Campbell, whose playing career after the Giants included Dallas, Detroit and New Orleans, got his start as an NFL coach with Miami in 2010 as a coaching intern.
The Dolphins hired him as its tight ends coach in 2011 before promoting him to interim head coach in in 2015. Campbell, who by the way was coached by the now retired legendary NFL tight ends coach Mike Pope, is currently the Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach with Sean Payton, who was his offensive coordinator with the Giants from 2000-20002.
Receivers: Ike Hilliard
Hilliard, a Giants first-round pick in 1997 (seventh overall) was a fearless possession receiver back in the day. He spent eight of his 12-year career with the Giants, appearing in 98 games with 92 starts and catching 368 passes for 4,630 yards, and 27 touchdowns for Big Blue.
Since calling it a career in 2008—he spent four seasons with the Bucs from 2005-2008—Hilliard jumped right into coaching, beginning his career with Florida as its receivers coach.
In 2011, he made the leap to the pros where he has been the receivers coach for three NFL teams, including two stints with Washington (in 2012 and again in 2014 to the present). Hilliard also coached with Miami and Buffalo.
Hilliard’s receivers had a banner season in 2016. The receivers set single-season team records in yards per game (403.4), yards per play (6.40), net passing yards (4,758), completions (407), passing first downs (226) and 500-yard games (three).
That year, he had two receivers—Pierre Garçon (1,041) and DeSean Jackson (1,005)—top 1,000 receiving yards, the first Washington duo to accomplish this since Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook in 1999.
Offensive Line: Rich Seubert
You want a coach who back in his day was the very definition of being a tough, “hog mollie”? Look no further than Rich Seubert.
Seubert, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Western Illinois signed by the Giants in 2001 was so impressive as a rookie that he was one of the very few undrafted rookies to be personally introduced to the late Wellington Mara during rookie minicamp.
Despite his lack of a draft pedigree, Seubert worked himself into a top offensive lineman for the Giants. the gritty ex-NFL lineman spit in the face of adversity when in October 2003, he suffered a horrific compound fracture of his right leg that required multiple surgeries, and which was thought to be career-ending.
Two years and five surgeries later, Seubert was back on the field; two seasons after that, he was the starting left guard on the Giants 2007 championship team’s offensive line.
Seubert is still a relatively new coach—he was named the head coach at Watchung Hills Regional High School in June 2016, but if he attacks coaching in the same way he attacked defensive linemen who dared to try to get past him and to quarterback Eli Manning, Seubert’s grit, example and determination will certainly carry him far as a budding coaching prospect.
Defensive Coordinator: Antonio Pierce
Steve Spagnuolo, the architect of the Giants 2007 and 2008 defenses, has often given a massive amount of credit to Pierce, his starting middle linebacker whose film study and preparation were so legendary that Pierce often looked as though he knew what the opponent was lining up to run before they ran it.
Pierce, who will join new head coach Herm Edwards at Arizona State as the Sun Devils linebackers coach, doesn’t have any “official” NFL coaching experience, but he did intern under Spagnuolo for the Giants this summer, working with the linebackers.
Prior to that, Pierce was the head coach at Long Beach Poly, where in 2014 he became the school’s first outside hire since 1971. At Long Beach Poly, Pierce’s teams posted a 31-13 record, with 54 student-athletes earning college scholarships.
Defensive Line: Pepper Johnson
Thomas “Pepper” Johnson was part of that famous Giants defensive front that won two Super Bowls during the Bill Parcells era. Following his playing career which ended in 1998, Johnson, a linebacker in his hey-day, went to work as an assistant coach for Bill Belichick, his old Giants defensive coordinator who hired Johnson to be the Patriots assistant linebacker coach in 2000.
The following year, Johnson was named the Patriots inside linebackers coach before switching to defensive line in 2004, a post he held until 2011.
He went back to linebackers for the 2012-2013 season before moving on to the Buffalo Bills as their defensive line coach in 2014. Johnson was most recently with the Jets as their defensive line coach in 2015-2016.
Linebackers: Jessie Armstead
Armstead is the exception on this list of former Giants in that he doesn’t have any college or NFKL coaching experience. However, Armstead has remained with the team in various capacities, including assisting the coaches. And when one thinks of Giants linebackers who carried on the proud tradition of the old Crunch Bunch, Armstead certainly ranks up there with Antonio Pierce.
Armstead, for those who don’t remember, was an eighth-round draft pick (207 overall) in 1993. He played with the Giants from 1993-2001 before spending two seasons with Washington and then finishing up as an offseason addition with Carolina in 2004. Along the way, Armstead, a Giants Ring of Honor member, was voted to five Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro four times during his Giants career.
Safeties: Sam Garnes
Long before Landon Collins and Antrel Rolle patrolled the defensive backfield as enforcers, there was another young hard-hitting safety by the name of Sam Garnes who filled that mission with pride.
Born and raided in the Bronx, Garnes was a fifth-round draft pick out of Cincinnati in 1997 who spent five seasons with the Giants before finishing his career with the Jets in 2002 to 2003.
After a couple of years off, Garnes had some coaching stints on the defensive side of the ball at the high school and semipro levels before getting his first NFL coaching gig in 2010 with John Fox, his defensive coordinator with the Giants in Carolina as the Panthers special teams assistant.
Garnes followed Fox to Denver where he was for 2011-2014 as the assistant secondary coach and hen again to Chicago, where he held the same position.
Cornerbacks: Adrian White
White was a second-round pick (55th overall) by the Giants in 1987 as a safety out of Florida. White was with the Giants until 1991; he then finished up his NFL career with single seasons for the Packers and Patriots.
He moved into coaching six years after his NFL career ended, coaching defensive backs at the college level and for the Rhein Fire of the defunct NFL-Europe league.
White moved to the NFL rank as a coach in 2008 as a defensive quality control coach for the Bills; he was promoted to assistant defensive backs coach in 2012, his final season with Buffalo. His last coaching position was with the Jacksonville Sharks in 2015.
Special Teams Coordinator: Chase Blackburn
Some players might scoff at the idea of contributing on special teams, but Chase Blackburn, an undrafted free agent, never did.
In fact, he made his living on special teams for both the Giants (2005-2012) and for Carolina (2013-2014)—and still does to this day. Blackburn was hired as the Panthers Assistant Special Teams Coach by Carolina head coach Ron Rivera in 2016.
If Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks gets the Giants head coaching job, might Blackburn follow him up north for a promotion of his own?