Even as the New York Giants ramped up the interview process, moving quickly because of the brief window of opportunity provided by league anti-tampering rules, the shadow of LSU head coach Nick Saban still loomed on the fringes of the search for a successor to the deposed Jim Fassel.
In fact, while Saban remains a long shot at best for a position he passed on 10 years ago, ESPN.com has confirmed there was discussion last week between intermediaries for the two parties. The talks were informal and of a preliminary and fact-finding nature. Not too surprisingly, given that Saban is involved in the national championship game to be played next weekend, there is no interview scheduled.
But his name, and potential candidacy, remain on the Giants radar screen.
Saban has the kind of cachet that might play well in New York, a high-profile coach with a track record of success, and previous NFL experience as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. In 1993, he turned down the opportunity to succeed Ray Handley as the Giants' head coach, and since has settled into the college game.
Because of recruiting considerations, Saban has reiterated several times in recent weeks that he has no designs on returning to the NFL, but those close to him acknowledge that there are teams and circumstances he might consider. And last week, he contacted at least one former staffer, to see if the assistant might be interested in joining him, should Saban move back to the professional ranks.
The quiet interest in Saban aside, Giants officials are wary about getting involved with a current college coach, because those candidates, for recruiting reasons, characteristically want a speedy resolution. And the odds are strong that Saban, who already has a new contract offer on his desk from LSU, will stay in Baton Rouge.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, who also rejected the New York job in '93, remains the favorite for the position and he met with team officials last week. And now this week, because of anti-tampering rules and the time constraints they impose, the Giants search will pick up momentum.
Giants officials have already sought permission to interview New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Pats defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, whose regular season concluded on Saturday, and likely will meet with both no later than Monday. The Giants will also seek permission, probably no later than Sunday evening, to interview St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith this week.
All three coordinators work for teams that have a first-week playoff bye. The league's anti-tampering rules stipulate clubs seeking to interview those coaches must do so by Friday, on a day agreed upon by the incumbent franchise.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.