For 11 years, the Giants had sat back and watched from afar as the convoluted circus of speculation and cross-pollination that defines the annual market for NFL head coaches took place. This year, they are smack in the middle of it.
Consider this absurdity: The 49ers will interview Tom Coughlin for their head-coaching vacancy at some point this week, and the Giants were more than happy to give them permission. The 49ers’ interest indicates they are not closing a deal with Hue Jackson, who is the next candidate on the Giants’ list to replace Coughlin.
At one point this past weekend, it seemed as if Jackson would be offered the job with the 49ers. The Bengals’ offensive coordinator is such a hot candidate that two teams — the 49ers and Browns — interviewed him in Cincinnati on Sunday, the first day he was available, less than 24 hours after the Bengals were bounced in an embarrassing wild-card loss to the Steelers.
The Giants were given permission to speak with Jackson on Monday, the same day the 49ers asked them for permission to speak with Coughlin. Coughlin interviewed with the Eagles on Monday — the same day the Giants interviewed former Falcons coach Mike Smith, a close friend of Coughlin’s who might have even gotten a recommendation from his buddy, whom he is trying to replace.
Got it? Take your time. The whole process is about to slow down for a few days while NFL owners meet in Houston to discuss moving a franchise or two to Los Angeles.
Giants co-owner John Mara will play a large role in the discussions, which is why Jackson is not expected to meet with him or general manager Jerry Reese until after those league meetings have ended on Wednesday. Coughlin’s 49ers interview likely will come later in the week, too. The Giants still hold the rights to Coughlin, given that he “stepped down” from the job with one year left on his contract.
Jackson, 50, seems to have a lot of the qualities the Giants are seeking. He’s a hybrid of head- coaching experience and coordinator success. He was the head coach of the Raiders in 2011, leading them to an 8-8 record after a 7-4 start and through the tumult of the passing of owner Al Davis. Jackson was fired after that season by new general manager Reggie McKenzie.
That led Jackson to Cincinnati, where he was an assistant defensive backs coach in 2012, the running backs coach in 2013 and the offensive coordinator the past two seasons. The Bengals made the playoffs each of those seasons.
The Giants confirmed their interview with Smith on Monday, making him the sixth candidate they have spoken with in the past week. The list also includes in-house options Steve Spagnuolo and Ben McAdoo along with Lions defensive coach Teryl Austin, former Bills head coach Doug Marrone and Adam Gase, who has since been hired as head coach of the Dolphins.
Smith is a defensive-based coach, which leaves open the possibility of retaining McAdoo and his offense for the 2016 season. That is something Eli Manning has said he would prefer, although Mara repeatedly has said it will not be a determining factor in the final decision.