In the first five hours after Tom Coughlin's 12-year run as New York Giants coach ended, pretty much every name you could imagine was being bandied around as a potential replacement. So here's a quick look at five of the most popular ones and what I think the chances are that they could get the job. (Just five? Yeah, just five for now.)
This is not intended as a comprehensive list, and there are sure to be candidates who aren't on it, but it's an attempt to answer some of the more common questions I've seen so far. Not all of them are realistic candidates.
Ben McAdoo, Giants offensive coordinator: This is a legitimate possibility. When the Giants hired McAdoo as their offensive coordinator two years ago, many in the organization (including Coughlin) believed he possessed the qualities of a future NFL head coach. This is sooner than they expected to consider him, but they didn't expect to go 6-10 the past two years. McAdoo is only 38, and his two years as Giants coordinator are his only two years as a coordinator anywhere. But Eli Manning has responded well to McAdoo and performed at a high level in his system. Continuity matters to the Giants, and it could be they decide to let a young coach take his lumps learning on the job in the hopes that he develops into a future star. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is likely to get a look as well, and could be a continuity option as well, as he'd likely keep McAdoo. I just get the sense that McAdoo has the better chance of the two.
Sean Payton, Saints head coach: This is not, from what I understand, a legitimate possibility. Yes, it seems Payton is looking for a way out of New Orleans. Yes, he has ties to the organization. Yes, he likely would like the job. But the Giants aren't in a position to trade a high pick for a coach, which a team that wants to convince the Saints to let Payton out of his contract will have to do. The Giants' organizational structure is sacrosanct, and they wouldn't want a coach who wants control over personnel. And Payton brings some baggage and a level of volatility that doesn't appeal to Giants management. Don't expect Payton to be a candidate.
David Shaw, Stanford head coach: Perhaps the most intriguing candidate from the college ranks at this point, Shaw would be a fresh face and another potential long-term star. But indications are that he's happy where he is and not interested in testing the NFL waters at this point. So I wouldn't get my hopes up.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator: A complete and total flop as a head coach in Denver his first time around, McDaniels has rebuilt his reputation during his second stint in New England. Bill Belichick adores and respects the Giants' organization and would probably recommend it to McDaniels and McDaniels to it, and that carries weight. He's a smart coach with a nimble football mind who'll get another chance to be a head coach. The Giants could decide to give him that chance.
Hue Jackson, Bengals offensive coordinator: He can't interview until next week, after the Bengals play their first-round playoff game. But Jackson will be in high demand due to his work with Andy Dalton this year. He's respected around the league as an accomplished coach who deserves a chance to run his own program. His 8-8 record as head coach of the 2011 Raiders was promising enough to merit the second look he didn't get in Oakland, and he wouldn't require the personnel control he had by default during a time when the Raiders didn't have a GM in place.