With the Giants having grown disenchanted with second-year coach Ben McAdoo, who invited further controversy with his questionable handling of quarterback Eli Manning while benching him, the question now becomes: What’s next?
The Giants parted ways with McAdoo Monday, and there are plenty of choices for a replacement, although there don’t appear to be any can’t-miss candidates. Here’s a look at the possibilities:
• Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator. McDaniels likely will be a hot candidate after doing more fine work with New England. In between stints as an assistant for Bill Belichick, McDaniels quickly flamed out with the Broncos; if he has learned what not to do from that experience, he’ll be in a much better place with a second opportunity as a head coach.
• Mike Smith, Buccaneers defensive coordinator: Smith was a candidate in 2016 when the Giants settled on McAdoo. He enjoyed a solid career as the Falcons’ head coach, finishing with a 66-46 career record. He becomes a more attractive possibility to the Giants if they’re looking for someone with previous head-coaching experience to avoid the inevitable learning curve that comes with a first-time coach.
• Steve Spagnuolo, Giants defensive coordinator. The Giants hold Spagnuolo in high regard, and the fact that he has previous head-coaching experience with the Rams is a plus. He hasn’t done as good a job with this year’s defense as he did last year, although injuries and a woeful offense that consistently has left the defense in poor field position have contributed to those struggles. Spagnuolo was a runner-up to McAdoo in 2016.
• Matt Patricia, Patriots defensive coordinator. Like McDaniels, Patricia has done a terrific job under Belichick. But just because you work for the greatest coach in NFL history doesn’t mean you’ll be a good head coach. See: Eric Mangini and McDaniels.
• Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach. There’s increasing chatter that Harbaugh might head back to the NFL after three seasons at Michigan. He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where he lost to the Ravens and older brother John. Harbaugh eventually grew distant with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, and with the Giants preferring a strong coach-GM relationship, they might be reluctant — even though the Giants themselves could be in the market for a new general manager.
• David Shaw, Stanford head coach. The Giants wanted to interview Shaw in their last hiring cycle, but he chose not to consider a move to the NFL. The interest still might be there, especially with Shaw doing such a credible job for the Cardinal after succeeding Jim Harbaugh.
• Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator. While most of the attention in Philadelphia is focused on quarterback Carson Wentz, Schwartz has done an excellent job with the Eagles’ defense. He did a credible job as the Lions’ head coach.
• Jon Gruden, ESPN broadcaster and former Buccaneers and Raiders head coach. Any list of prospective coaches has to include Gruden, although he repeatedly has turned down coaching offers to continue his broadcasting career.
• Bill Cowher, CBS broadcaster and former Steelers head coach. Like Gruden, Cowher has been mentioned in connection with other NFL head-coaching jobs, only to remain in television. That is the expectation again.
• Nick Saban, Alabama. Saban has consistently said he will remain at Alabama, where he has coached since 2007. But there were reports last year his representatives had reached out to the Giants after Tom Coughlin left the team. The Giants hired McAdoo, but Saban got a raise and now makes more than $11 million a season. Money and power could be an issue if the Giants were to consider him; Saban, who had a dismal two-year run with the Dolphins before going to Alabama, would likely ask to be the NFL’s highest-paid coach, and would almost certainly want to have control over personnel. The Giants prefer having a general manager run the personnel side.
• Mike Vrabel, Texans defensive coordinator. A former linebacker who was well-schooled by Belichick, Vrabel has been excellent running a Texans defense that has been without its best player, J.J. Watt. He carries his reputation as a no-nonsense player into the coaching ranks. Vrabel was considered by the Rams before they went with Sean McVay.
• Jim Bob Cooter, Lions offensive coordinator. Cooter has done mostly good work with quarterback Matthew Stafford, but there might be some concern on the Giants’ part that his background is too similar to McAdoo: young offensive coordinator without any head-coaching experience. He’s only 33, so if you want to go down this road, you’ve got to be convinced he can be less like McAdoo and more like McVay, the Rams’ 31-year-old head coach. It’s a risk the Giants might not be willing to take.
• Teryl Austin, Lions defensive coordinator. Austin has interviewed for several jobs the last three seasons, but no one has been willing to give the 52-year-old longtime assistant a shot.
• Dave Toub, Chiefs special-teams coach. Regarded as perhaps the finest special-teams coach in the NFL, Toub was interviewed by the Chargers and Broncos after last season. John Harbaugh’s success in going from the Eagles’ special-teams coach to a Super Bowl-winning head coach in Baltimore could help Toub’s case.
• John Fassel, Rams special-teams coach. The son of former Giants coach Jim Fassel, John has done terrific work with the Rams and took over as head coach on an interim basis after Jeff Fisher was fired.