<
>

Giants' coaching search: Baylor's Matt Rhule early front-runner

play
McElroy: Rhule will be an NFL coach next year (1:16)

Greg McElroy thinks Matt Rhule will be a NFL coach after the success he has had turning around the Baylor program. (1:16)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The net is cast. The New York Giants seem to have located their preferred marks. Now they will try to lure in one as the 19th head coach in franchise history.

It's not going to be easy, given the state of the franchise. The Giants were looking for an "adult" in the room last time around when they found Pat Shurmur, who was fired last week after two seasons. The buzzword this time is "leadership." The downtrodden franchise is looking for a CEO who can build a program from near-ground-up, given its struggles in recent years.

The Giants are an NFL-worst 12-36 since the start of the 2017 season.

"I'm really looking for leadership, that's the big thing going forward," co-owner John Mara said last week after firing Shurmur and retaining general manager Dave Gettleman. "Somebody who can come in and take control of this roster, help build a culture that is going to lead to winning. Somebody who is going to help us with our football re-organization during the process we're undergoing right now. We're looking for all those qualities from the next candidate."

It has also become clear the Giants weren't thrilled with the staff Shurmur assembled. When Gettleman was asked what the team needed, he began by pointing out a desire for a coach who can bring together a staff that's enthusiastic.

The Giants are intent on being deliberate with this interview process but might be forced to move quickly.

At the NFL owners meeting in 2016, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch was asked what kind of timeline he thought existed for their coaching search. He said he thought they would have a new coach by the following week. He was asked on a Tuesday. That Thursday night, the Giants had hired Ben McAdoo, less than 48 hours later.

That year the process went into hyper-speed because of the Philadelphia Eagles' interest in McAdoo and desire to schedule a second interview. This prompted the Giants to make a quick decision. The point is you never know how these coaching decisions play out, and Big Blue could have a new one at any moment.

Among the options:

Matt Rhule (Baylor coach)

He is believed to have been near the top of the Giants' list and the Giants are at the top of his list as well. It's as if they're on a collision course. The interview is expected to take place Tuesday after he spends Monday with the Carolina Panthers, per a source. Rhule's track record of success with turning around programs at Temple and Baylor and one year as an offensive line assistant with the Giants in 2012 make him an attractive choice. Speaking with former players, it's clear he possesses the unique ability to both relate to everyone on the roster and be a disciplinarian.

Rhule is a smart, strong leader with great communication skills. He didn't know anything about the offensive line at the beginning of his previous stint with the Giants but had the full respect of the veteran group by the end of the season. Look for ex-Giants assistant Sean Ryan (Lions' QB coach) to be an option as the offensive coordinator if Rhule is hired.

Josh McDaniels (Patriots' offensive coordinator)

The Giants requested an interview with McDaniels, according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter. The sides already met two years ago when the Giants were looking for a coach, but sources believe McDaniels would not have taken the job had it been offered. It's believed Patriots coach Bill Belichick, while he has an affinity for the Giants organization, expressed concerns to McDaniels and Lions coach Matt Patricia about the Giants' current executive structure and setup. Not much has changed in that regard since.

Still, the Giants liked McDaniels enough to circle back this time. He's 43 and is a big-time assistant for a winning program. McDaniels led a top-five-scoring offense for seven straight years prior to this season, and it is believed he has learned from his previous stint as a coach in Denver (2009-10). He's an interesting option considering he would likely shake up the entire organization and bring some of the Patriots' Way to New York.

Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs' offensive coordinator)

The former NFL running back doesn't call plays, but he has helped develop star quarterback Patrick Mahomes -- a key selling point with a young, talented quarterback (Daniel Jones) already on the Giants' roster.

Bieniemy, who interviewed on Saturday morning, is known as a firm leader who demands respect from players.

Don "Wink" Martindale (Ravens' defensive coordinator)

He guided the fourth-ranked defense in a season in which the unit was expected to take a step back because of personnel losses. Martindale is likely the most dynamic and charismatic personality of the Giants' coaching candidates, with an approach that is known to get great buy-in from players.

One player who was with Martindale in recent years considered him one of the best coaches he has ever had at any level. Why? The 56-year-old, who has been an NFL assistant since 2004, is a model of consistency and extremely honest with everyone. His interview took place Saturday afternoon with the Ravens on a bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Kris Richard (Cowboys' defensive passing coordinator/DBs)

He came to the Cowboys after eight seasons with Seattle, which included a stint as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator. Richard, a top defensive assistant for the Cowboys who is known as a fiery coach and the architect of the Legion of Boom in Seattle, was the first to interview for the Giants' job on Thursday. Gettleman said in a radio interview that Richard is an "impressive guy."

It's possible the Giants interviewed Richard with the thought he could be a potential defensive coordinator if the head coach they hire has a background in offense.

Joe Judge (Patriots' special-teams coordinator/WRs)

This is a wild card. Judge, 39, is the youngest of the candidates and has been mentored by Alabama coach Nick Saban and Belichick. He is considered a no-nonsense guy who isn't afraid to ruffle feathers with players if necessary.

He's looking to follow the John Harbaugh model to the top of the coaching profession, from special-teams coordinator -- before adding a position-coach stint to his résumé -- to NFL head coach. His bosses alone make him an intriguing candidate.

No longer available: Mike McCarthy

The ex-Packers coach will reportedly be hired by the Cowboys. He was the most accomplished coach in the search and interviewed with the Giants on Friday before heading to Dallas. A source believed he was the co-favorite, along with Rhule, entering the interview phase. McCarthy had the Giants near the top of his list, as well, in large part because of Jones. But you snooze, you lose. This is the danger of allowing a candidate to leave the building.

McCarthy is an established coach (nine playoff appearances in 13 seasons), with more wins as the Packers' coach (135) than Vince Lombardi (105). He won a Super Bowl and would have brought stability to an organization that desperately needs it.