With Tom Coughlin out as the New York Giants’ head coach, New York aims to name a coordinator or a relative retread its next head coach. Will it be Doug Marrone, Ben McAdoo, or Mike Smith?
By Bryan Pol
With the dust settling after another lackluster 6-10 campaign, the docket of interviewees to fill Tom Coughlin’s vacated position as New York Giants head coach can be summed up in one word.
Doug Marrone, who recently served as the offensive line coach at Jacksonville after posting a 15-17 record in two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, is reportedly a front-runner for New York’s first new head coach in twelve seasons, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Marrone, a two time Pinstripe Bowl winner with the Syracuse Orange program, has a rapport with Ryan Nassib and Justin Pugh, his former quarterback and offensive tackle respectively. Other than that, his resume commands, at best, tepid adoration.
Also interviewed by the Giants was Ben McAdoo, an aggressive offensive coordinator who has extracted from Eli Manning arguably two of his best seasons as a professional, earning the signal caller’s vote of confidence as Coughlin’s replacement.
McAdoo, who won a title with the Green Bay Packers as their long-standing tight end and quarterbacks coach, would, at age 38, infuse new blood into the Giants’ staff (the now-departed Coughlin will turn 70 next season). In fact, behind Adam Gase (36), recently hired by the Miami Dolphins, McAdoo would become the second-youngest coach in the NFL.
That said, with youth comes a learning curve, and despite what McAdoo has accomplished with Eli, Manning will be 36 next season. While Eli has grafted a tremendous connection with superstar receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., the wideout remains troubled and in need of guidance. Will McAdoo be the man to keep Beckham under his thumb? Can he get the Giants back to the postseason and not go so far as to squander another year of Eli’s prime?
Should the Giants be looking for a candidate with head coaching experience in the NFL, John Mara and Jerry Reese could go the way of Mike Smith, lately of the Atlanta Falcons.
The 56-year-old Smith lead the Falcons as head coach from 2008 to 2014, accruing a 66-46 record (.589) in the regular season, although he was a mere 1-4 in the postseason, including a 24-2 drubbing to the Giants, New York’s first playoff victory in 2011 that ended the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl championship and second in four years.
While not quite Marvin Lewis (0-7) in the playoffs, Smith could never quite take his team to the summit despite employing the likes of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, and Steven Jackson on the offense at various points of his seven year tenure in Atlanta. That said, he won two NFC South titles in the thick of Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s reign in New Orleans, getting as far as the NFC Championship in 2012 before bowing out to the San Francisco 49ers 28-24. Also of note is the speed by which Smith reached 50 wins in the NFL: according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was the third-quickest head coach (behind George Seifert and Chuck Knox) since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to amass 50 victories, doing so in only 71 games.
Alas, Matt Ryan never manifested into the franchise quarterback Eli has become, despite the weapons around him. While not entirely Smith’s fault, head coaching plays a rather large role in a quarterback’s ascension from middle-of-the-pack to greatness, and Smith was never able to push Ryan or his team to that stratosphere. Who is to say he could get the Giants back to the playoffs after having been away from January football for so long?
Consequently, the Giants just might lament Hue Jackson’s departure from Cincinnati: the former Bengal offensive coordinator is puzzlingly heading to the Cleveland Browns, according to reports. Set to meet with the Giants either Wednesday or Thursday, Jackson instead forsook New York in favor of a second interview with the Browns and an eventual head coaching position, his second thus far in the league (he lead the Oakland Raiders to a rather impressive 8-8 record in 2011 before quizzically being fired).
Lost in the fracas of Cincinnati’s meltdown against the Steelers on Saturday was Jackson’s ability to weather the loss of Andy Dalton and shape A. J. McCarron into a respectable NFL quarterback, even willing the former Alabama product to a 16-15 lead (all 16 points were scored in the fourth quarter) before Vontare Burfict and Pacman Jones happened, leading to a crushing 18-16 loss.
As Cincinnati’s running backs coach in 2013, Jackson crafted then rookie Giovani Bernard into a high-end tailback with promise—Bernard finished second on the team in rushing (695 yards), catches (56), and total yards (1,209), scoring eight total touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving).
As their offensive coordinator in 2014, Jackson fashioned Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill into a fierce tandem, with Hill becoming the first Bengal back to eclipse 1,000 yards since Corey Dillon in 1997. Hill’s yardage (1,124) was the most amongst all NFL rookies, and his yards per carry average (5.1) was the second best mark in the NFL, a cut behind Justin Forsett.
This is all without mentioning what Jackson was able to do with A. J. Green as his lead wideout.
Imagine what could have been: with Jackson, the storied New York Giant franchise would have had its first African-American hire at the head coach position alongside a go-for-it coordinator in McAdoo (unless he were Philadelphia-bound, as Adam Schefter reports), a number-ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and over $30 million in cap space to sure up a league-worst defensive unit and running attack, and another year of Eli to Beckham every Sunday.
My sense on #Eagles: If they hire next coach before Sat, process of elimination says it’s Ben McAdoo. If it’s beyond, then Doug Pederson.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 13, 2016
Now, the Giants face the real possibility of losing out on Jackson AND seeing McAdoo flee, with Coughlin in red and gold (NFL.com reports that San Francisco wishes to meet with him).
Settling for scraps would be a step backward for a team, despite its 6-10 record in 2015, that was a handful of fourth-quarter collapses away from ten wins, an NFC East title, and a chance to retain Coughlin instead of finding itself in its current holding pattern of, contrarily, settling for scraps.
No matter who mans the head coaching job next, he is inheriting a team with a dismal running attack, a poor pass rush, and a competent receiver to complement Beckham (unfortunately, Cruz lost a second successive year to injury and Rueben Randle, a free agent in March, never grew into a consistent second option for Eli).
While pieces remain in place for a quick turnaround and a potential playoff berth in 2016, the Giants are as capable as a ship without a rudder should they fail to land a proper replacement for Coughlin.