Tom Rock Tom Rock

Rock covers the New York Giants. Previously covered college sports and outdoors.

John Mara called it “the toughest decision you ever have to make in this business, by far and away.”

The current crop of choices isn’t making it any easier, either.

While the Giants comb through candidates to fill their head-coach vacancy, to restore their lost “credibility” (in their words), it doesn’t seem as if they know exactly what they want. Maybe they’ll know only when they see it. Some say they are looking for an established head coach, and those can be hard to find. Others think the Giants will try to mine the next young mastermind; listen to Mara name-drop Mike Tomlin several times this week to back up that supposition.

But is that guy out there?

”I do know that from hearing the list available,” Hall of Famer Bill Parcells said in a radio interview in Philadelphia this past week, “the talent pool is a little bit thin right now. The debate is always between the experienced coach versus the hot coordinator. Nobody knows which of these hot coordinators are eventually going to be successful.”

Which is why this first week of interviews by the Giants feels a lot like throat-clearing and a feeling-out process they have not been involved in for more than a decade. It’s been a pretty uninspiring roster of men with experience but questionable success (former Falcons coach Mike Smith is expected to join that list Monday) and men who have found success who have little to no experience.

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Making matters worse for the Giants is that the one candidate who probably fits their criteria is the one who walked out their door Tuesday and is interviewing with the Eagles on Monday.

It’s been just a week, and while some positions and staffs are being filled — the Dolphins hired Adam Gase as their head coach Saturday, a day after he interviewed for the Giants’ job — it still is early in the process.

The Giants do not go no-huddle when it comes to decisions of this magnitude. So there is reason to believe that the team has not even met with its eventual new coach.

There will be an entirely new group of assistants and coordinators available to them as the playoffs push forward. And there have been no forays into the college ranks that the public knows about. The Giants should not hire their next head coach without at least a visit to Palo Alto to see if they can pry David Shaw from Stanford. That would be an energizing choice.

Not that the Giants are looking to make a splashy hire. They are not the Bills hiring Rex Ryan, hoping to excite a moribund fan base and rekindle a dormant franchise. They are looking long-term. They want their next hire to last 12 years, just as their last one did.

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“I don’t care whether the guy is a big name or not,” Mara said in his appearance on ESPN Radio in New York on Friday. “That doesn’t last very long. It gets you by the first press conference. Once you start playing games, nobody cares whether it’s a big name or not. They care whether you are winning. It’s got to be the right guy to lead us going forward.”

If it is a coach with experience, that experience most likely will have ended badly or he would not be available. That was the case with Tom Coughlin, who was fired by the Jaguars and came to the Giants looking for some measure of redemption.

“You could tell he wanted to come back and prove to everybody that he was a great head coach,” Mara said this past week when reflecting on that hire in 2004, insisting that it is a quality for which he is looking.

For now, though, it feels as if it is Mara who has something to prove with his next decision.