The New York Giants are staring down a list of potential head coaches best described as uninspiring, and when a franchise is looking to replace a two-time Super Bowl champion, uninspiring is not a good thing.
They should hire Hue Jackson, which would be a pretty good thing, and maybe a great thing. The first NFL coach to ask Jackson to call the plays for him was Washington's Steve Spurrier, who as a college coach famously objected to being called "a genius" and asked to be described as "a mastermind" instead.
If a mastermind hands over his playbook to you, if only out of desperation, that's still a fairly strong endorsement out of the gate.
Jackson, 50, has picked up other impressive recommendations along the way from assorted quarterbacks, receivers and running backs in Oakland (where he was 8-8 in his one-and-done year as head coach), Cincinnati and Baltimore. Above all else, four years ago Jackson thought Carson Palmer could still be a meaningful player at a time when many thought he was done. Palmer spent the latter half of the 2015 season in the league MVP conversation.
So now the Cleveland Browns are reportedly hellbent on hiring Jackson, who was about the only Bengal who couldn't be blamed for the endgame atrocities in Saturday's playoff loss to Pittsburgh (Jackson did, after all, get enough out of backup QB AJ McCarron to advance). The Giants -- who are expected to interview Jackson by Thursday morning -- need to get in there fast and break this thing up because Jackson is a better candidate to replace Tom Coughlin than the half dozen men the team has interviewed.
The presumed leader in the Giants' clubhouse, incumbent offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, has in his corner the support of Eli Manning and the statistical success of a unit that finished in the NFL's top 10 in points, yards and passing yards. After Manning delivered a dreadful 27-interception season in 2013, McAdoo coached him to two consecutive seasons of more than 4,400 yards passing and a combined 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions while Victor Cruz missed 26 of those 32 games.
Impressive work. On the other hand, McAdoo couldn't get anything out of the run game, couldn't get enough out of Rueben Randle and couldn't piece together a functioning offense when Odell Beckham Jr. was off the field against Minnesota. The coordinator also lacks something the Giants generally crave: head-coaching experience.
Of course, so did a young Bill Parcells back in the day.
But in 1983 Parcells was replacing a 23-34 coach (Ray Perkins) for a franchise that had made one playoff appearance since the end of the 1963 season. These aren't your grandfather's Giants, and this isn't the time to gamble on a coordinator who is a 50-50 bet -- at best -- to develop into a successful head coach.
Jackson is at least slightly better than 50-50, because his 8-8 record as a rookie in Oakland (before new GM Reggie McKenzie came in and cleaned house) is a 10-6 or an 11-5 almost anywhere else (McKenzie's first hire, Dennis Allen, went 8-28). Jackson's history with quarterbacks suggests Manning will have no problem flourishing on his watch, and his history of user-friendly dealings with the news media suggests he'll figure out the New York marketplace a whole lot quicker than Coughlin did.
Of course, Jackson would have to realize the Giants offer a much better opportunity than the dysfunctional Browns and dysfunctional 49ers (if they remain interested). He would find patient, intelligent ownership in the Mara/Tisch partnership, a two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback who probably has one more big push in him, a megastar receiver more likely than not to learn from his mistakes, and a media/fan audience smart enough to realize he'll need time for Jerry Reese to restock the roster with defensive players who can actually, you know, defend.
One other thing: The fact that the Giants have never had an African-American head coach while representing such a diverse market isn't lost on Reese, the first African-American GM of a flagship NFL franchise.
But this isn't a case of black and white; it's a case of uninspiring and inspiring. Hue Jackson would win the news conference and, chances are, a few more football games than the other guys on the Giants' list.