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Who could replace Pat Shurmur if the Giants part ways with second-year head coach?

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur against the Arizona

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Giants hired Pat Shurmur in 2018 with the belief that he would not only resurrect the team’s fortunes after its post-Super Bowl XLVI malaise but also could stabilize their coaching situation for years to come.

But 28 games into his tenure, questions now persist whether the Giants will move in another direction after just seven total wins and an eight-game losing streak that shows no signs of ending. With only four games to go in the 2019 season, Shurmur may not even equal the nine wins he had in Cleveland over two seasons before being fired in 2012.

Giants president and CEO John Mara, who is the final arbiter on coaching moves, hasn’t indicated publicly whether he’s ready to fire Shurmur. But Mara has shown a willingness to change coaches in recent years, and there’s a reasonable chance he will have his fifth head coach in five seasons, following Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, Steve Spagnuolo (the interim after McAdoo’s ouster in December 2017) and Shurmur.

There could very well be someone else in 2020. And if that’s the case, here are the top candidates:

Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator: McDaniels has been regarded as a potential head coaching candidate the last several years and was selected to become the Colts’ coach after the 2017 season. But he reneged on the deal at the last minute, deciding to return to the Patriots. That change of heart, as well as his failure as a head coach with the Broncos, may concern some teams, including the Giants. But McDaniels’ work with the offense is unquestioned.

Matt Rhule, Baylor coach: The Jets had serious interest in Rhule after firing Todd Bowles, but conflicts emerged about whether Rhule would have final say over his assistant coaches. The native New Yorker has a sensational resume and was the Giants’ assistant offensive line coach under Coughlin in 2012. At Temple, Rhule was the Owls’ first coach to have two 10-win seasons. His work at Baylor has been outstanding; the eighth-ranked Bears are 11-1. If the Giants decide to move on from Shurmur, Rhule will be a very attractive candidate, especially having grown up in the area and coached with the Giants.

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma coach: Riley is one of the great quarterback whisperers in college football, having coached Baker Mayfield and then Kyler Murray to consecutive Heisman Trophy wins. He has done magnificent work this year with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts. One of the most innovative coaches in the game, Riley will be in high demand for an NFL job. The question is when, or if, he is ready to leave Oklahoma. The most likely answer: Not yet.

Jason Garrett, Cowboys coach: Garrett has already been linked to the Giants in an NFL Network report, should Dallas part ways with him. Jerry Jones said Garrett won’t be let go before the season’s over, but he may have to make a deep run into the playoffs to keep his job. Garrett’s head coaching experience may appeal to the Giants, but he may be a tough sell in this respect: Having failed to get more out of a talented Cowboys team, it’s questionable what he would do with a Giants roster filled with holes.

Mike McCarthy, former Packers coach: McCarthy’s stock has fallen after a long and mostly successful run as the Packers coach ended in 2018. It doesn’t help his reputation that first-year coach Matt LaFleur has Green Bay at 9-3 and in line for a playoff spot. The Jets weren’t impressed with McCarthy when they interviewed him last year, but he does have a Super Bowl championship on his resume and did a good job in developing Aaron Rodgers.

David Shaw, Stanford coach: Shaw seems content to remain at Stanford, where he is considered one of college football’s best coaches. But the Giants did have interest in him before hiring Shurmur, even though Shaw wasn’t ready to leave. The former Stanford wide receiver who played under Bill Walsh is well regarded in NFL circles. The issue is whether he’d be interested in coaching at the pro level.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coach: Harbaugh hasn’t indicated a desire to return to the NFL, but he did an excellent job with the 49ers from 2011-14 before taking the Michigan job. He inherited an awful 49ers team and went to the Super Bowl. He has been solid at Michigan, but his 0-5 record against Ohio State has been a major blemish.

Robert Saleh, 49ers defensive coordinator: Jimmy Garoppolo has been the big focus in San Francisco, but the 49ers’ defense has been just as important in the team’s 10-2 season. Saleh worked under Pete Carroll in Seattle before becoming the 49ers’ defensive coordinator under Kyle Shanahan in 2017.

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman is being mentioned as a potential head coaching candidate in part because of his brilliant work with Lamar Jackson, who has blossomed into an MVP candidate in just his second season. This is Roman’s third season with the Ravens and his first as offensive coordinator. He was Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator with the 49ers.

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Josh Allen has led the Bills to a 9-3 record and a likely playoff berth in part because of Daboll, who has been the Buffalo offensive coordinator the last two seasons. A former assistant under Bill Belichick in New England and Nick Saban at Alabama, Daboll is considered one of the league’s best offensive assistants.

Other potential candidates to keep in mind: Don “Wink” Martindale (Ravens defensive coordinator); Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator); Matt Eberflus (Colts defensive coordinator) and Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive coordinator). 

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