Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels walks on the field as the...

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels walks on the field as the team warms up before a game against the Bills on Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass.  Credit: AP/Elise Amendola

The Patriots’ loss to the Titans on Saturday night means the Giants have an earlier-than-expected chance to interview the two New England coaches on their list of known candidates . . . and perhaps even engage a third.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and special teams coordinator Joe Judge are free to speak with teams about head- coaching vacancies. The NFL Network reported that Judge will meet with the Giants on Monday, leaving the Giants’ next opening in their schedule for Wednesday. It’s unclear if or when they will meet with McDaniels, who reportedly will interview with the Browns on Monday and could be a strong candidate for the new Cowboys opening.

If the Patriots had won their wild-card playoff game, those coaches would not have been available to interview until Friday.

The Giants still are expected to meet with Matt Rhule on Tuesday. Rhule is considered the favorite because of his brief past ties to the organization, his roots in the New York area and his track record of lifting college programs at Temple and Baylor into contenders.

If the Giants speak with Rhule, McDaniels and Judge this week, they will have interviewed seven candidates. They already have interviewed former Cowboys defensive passing coordinator Kris Richard, former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Ravens defensive coach Don “Wink” Martindale.

That third possible Patriots coach? Rumblings about Bill Belichick’s availability and desire to return to the Giants, with whom he won two Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator, have become the backbeat to this coaching search. While it remains far-fetched, the timing of the Giants’ job opening and the perceived end of the Patriots’ dominance (along with the expected departure of McDaniels for a head-coaching job and the potential end of Tom Brady’s tenure in New England) stoke the storyline.

Belichick’s contract status with the Patriots is unknown and it might require a trade of some sort to pry him away. But if his coaching career tells any stories, they are these two: He knows how to win, and he knows how to maneuver himself to coach where he wants to coach.

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