It took 11 days and a wide-ranging search for a true favorite to emerge. He’s a round-faced, bearded aeronautical engineer who might have been able to pass as a character in "Animal House" before considering NFL head coach as his profession.
Matt Patricia appears to have the edge in the New York Giants' coaching search after the first round of interviews. The New England Patriots defensive coordinator, who seems to permanently carry a pencil in his ear and once wore a shirt that pictured commissioner Roger Goodell as a clown, may eventually become the 18th head coach in Giants history.
Patricia is the favorite for the job, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the team’s search. The Giants were impressed by his smarts and view him as the ultimate Bill Belichick protégé considering he was close to a blank canvas when he arrived in New England.
Ultimately, it could come down to whether Patricia chooses the Giants over the Detroit Lions, who also reportedly have pegged him as their first choice. But the potential moving pieces keep other coaches in the mix.
The New York Post reported Thursday night Patricia is one of three candidates still in contention for the Giants job, along with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Steve Wilks, Steve Spagnuolo and Eric Studesville are out of the mix. This jibes with most of what I’ve heard over the past 24 to 36 hours, and where everything stands entering Day 12 of the search.
Who they’ve interviewed:
Steve Spagnuolo, Giants interim head coach and defensive coordinator (Jan. 3)
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator (Jan. 5)
Matt Patricia, Patriots defensive coordinator (Jan. 5)
Pat Shurmur, Vikings offensive coordinator (Jan. 6)
Steve Wilks, Panthers defensive coordinator (Jan. 9)
Eric Studesville, former Broncos running-backs coach (Jan. 10)
Why Patricia fits: He’s smart, can command the room and has the requisite experience as a coordinator. He can relate to players, and Belichick respects him greatly. The Belichick stamp of approval is important to the Giants organization. Patricia is the truest of Belichick protégés, but he also can think independently and outside the box.
Why Patricia doesn’t fit: He’s a little bit of a wild card. He likes to have fun and is considered a bit quirky. This puts into question whether he’s really fit to be the CEO that the Giants and owner John Mara said they were looking for in their head coach.
Why Shurmur fits: He’s extremely smart and organized, part of the reason he’s probably also reportedly considered the favorite for the Arizona Cardinals job. His work with quarterbacks in recent years (Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles) is unparalleled, and should come in handy, if chosen, with the Giants having the No. 2 overall pick and Davis Webb already on the roster. Shurmur has worked and learned in all kinds of systems and has adjusted seamlessly. This is all attractive to the Giants, in addition to his previous head-coaching experience and cool, calm and collected demeanor.
Why Shurmur doesn’t fit: The same demeanor that can be viewed as an asset might work against him. Shurmur is not known for his personality and might be considered too much of a Ben McAdoo clone in that regard. He would be a tough long-term sell to a fan base that turned quickly on its coach after he went 11-5 and ended a five-year playoff drought in his first season.
Why McDaniels fits: He’d come to the Giants only if he feels it is the right opportunity. McDaniels has waited patiently for a job that fits his needs and desires, despite being coveted for several jobs over the past few years. Instead, he passed. The longtime Patriots offensive coordinator is bright, innovative and can command the room. He has proven over and over again in New England that he’s able to adjust his system to the personnel. That is vital after McAdoo was unable to do that effectively with the Giants. McDaniels is also believed to have learned from his past mistakes as head coach of the Denver Broncos. Hence the "lessonslearned.xls" file on his computer.
Why McDaniels doesn’t fit: There remain some questions about his ability to maintain relationships as the head coach given his struggles with the Broncos. McDaniels could be dealing with a touchy situation with Eli Manning and would have to handle the enigmatic Odell Beckham Jr. in New York. This isn’t going to be easy for any coach, never mind one who had trouble connecting with his players in his first go-around in the big chair.