A surprising name hit the list of potential new Giants coaches late Wednesday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Lovie Smith. As the New York Giants sift through the usual-suspects list of coordinators, they'd be wise to schedule some interview time with Smith, who offers something others on their current list of candidates do not.
As discussed here Tuesday, the most important thing for the Giants to find in their search to replace Tom Coughlin is a HEAD coach. Not an offensive-minded coach. Not a defensive-minded coach. Not a former Giants assistant coach. Not someone who'll keep the offense the same for Eli Manning, who's professional and adaptable and will be fine no matter what. All of that stuff falls into place if you have the right leader -- a person who understands the responsibilities of the head coach and can prioritize execution over the installation of some new "system."
Smith is a head coach. He led the Bears for nine years from 2004 to 2012. He took them to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback, for cripes' sake. Yes, he's a disciple of the Tampa 2 defense of Tony Dungy from his time with Tampa Bay in the late 1990s. And he got his head-coaching opportunity thanks in part to his work as the Rams' defensive coordinator in the early 2000s. But he has been a head coach in the NFL for 11 of the past 13 years. He had five winning seasons with the Bears, including two 11-win years and a 13-win year that culminated in that Super Bowl loss to Dungy's Colts. He has led and inspired players to be their best. He has put together a staff. He has made the calls on game day.
Now, as we've been saying here, there is no perfect candidate. Smith was 8-24 the past two years in Tampa Bay. You'd certainly want to ask some questions about why the Bears fired him after a 10-6 season in 2012 and why the Bucs gave him only two seasons before kicking him out the door. Those are questions you need to get answered, in case there's something under the surface here that makes Smith a less desirable guy to have around than his record and reputation indicate he is.
But assuming you get satisfactory answers there, Smith is a candidate who brings a level of heft and experience not found on the current coordinator carousel. He may not turn out to be the best candidate, but he has something most of the others don't: a record of success as a head coach in the NFL. The Giants would be nuts not to at least bring him in for a chat.