There now are three coaches with a combined three Super Bowl appearances and two Vince Lombardi Trophies in the NFC East. Three coaches with a wealth of experience to draw from and the championship hardware to show for it.
And then there are the Giants.
With the Cowboys hiring Mike McCarthy on Monday, the NFC East now is home to the former Packers coach, who won Super Bowl XLV; Doug Pederson of the Eagles, who beat the Patriots to win Super Bowl LII, and Ron Rivera of the Redskins, who got the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 before losing to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
And then there are the Giants.
They are in the midst of a search to replace Pat Shurmur and are almost certain to end up with someone who has far less Super Bowl experience as a head coach. Barring a stunning development in which Bill Belichick returns to his roots with the Giants, their next coach will be introduced to a division that is packed with NFL head-coaching and Super Bowl experience.
The continuing buzz is that Baylor’s Matt Rhule is the favored candidate, especially after McCarthy, who interviewed with the Giants last week, accepted Jerry Jones’ job offer. If it is Rhule or Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who also interviewed last week, the learning curve will be steep.
Rhule has done magnificent work at the college level, rebuilding the Temple program and then taking Baylor out of the disastrous Art Briles era, during which the school became embroiled in a sexual assault scandal that led to Briles’ ouster.
Rhule, a 44-year-old native of New York, went 11-2 in the 2019 regular season and led Baylor to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Georgia, 26-14. He impressed the Giants in his one season on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an offensive line assistant in 2012, and his journey up the ladder in the collegiate ranks bodes well for him as he goes into Tuesday’s interview.
The Giants also were impressed with McCarthy, but not enough to make him an offer before completing the interview process. Rivera also was highly regarded by the Giants’ front office, but it was clear that his first choice all along was Washington, and owner Daniel Snyder got his man almost immediately after the season ended.
McCarthy might have been a safer choice than Rhule or Bieniemy, who has the unconditional support of Chiefs coach Andy Reid. But the Giants are looking more at leadership qualities than X’s-and-O’s proficiency for their next coach.
They thought Ben McAdoo was going to be a solid hire when they promoted him off Coughlin’s staff after two fine years as offensive coordinator. But after a playoff run in his first season, McAdoo proved to be in over his head in a market that can be brutal on coaches. He was gone before the end of the 2017 season, one day after a disastrous experiment to get a look at Geno Smith and end Eli Manning’s ironman streak of 210 consecutive starts.
Bieniemy’s lack of experience as a head coach — he was an average running back in San Diego, Cincinnati and Philadelphia before paying his dues as a college and pro assistant — could scare off the Giants, especially in this market. Rhule, by contrast, grew up in New York City before his family moved to Pennsylvania, and he eventually went to Penn State. So he has far greater institutional knowledge of the area.
Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge, who interviewed with the Giants on Monday, might need more seasoning before he’s ready for the leap to NFL head coach. Mississippi State is said to be interested in him.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is scheduled to interview with the Giants on Wednesday. But McDaniels, who flamed out in Denver after a 6-0 start as a first-year coach there, appears to be the front-runner in Cleveland, close to where he grew up in Canton, Ohio.
The Giants might be leery of McDaniels, who reneged after accepting the Colts’ head-coaching job after the 2017 season.
The Giants’ search could wrap up this week, especially if Rhule’s interview goes well and he makes a positive impression on them — and vice versa.
No matter who becomes the Giants’ coach, the challenge is a formidable one. There certainly is some talent on this young roster, starting with quarterback Daniel Jones. But there is much work to be done, especially in a division in which the coaching got a whole lot better in the last week.