Pat Shurmur has only had two years as the head coach of the New York Giants, but it has been a tumultuous tenure. A litany of debacles by Shurmur, that have aided in Giants losses, have Giants fans taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches, demanding his firing.
Full disclosure, I felt that Pat Shurmur was the right choice for the New York Giants head coaching position at the time of his hiring. As the offensive coordinator, he helped lead the Minnesota Vikings to within one game of a Super Bowl, despite having a career backup quarterback, Case Keenum as his starter. Reports out of Minnesota were that Shurmur was a bright offensive mind, with an uncanny ability to develop young quarterback talent.
I figured that with Eli Manning entering the twilight of his career, Shurmur would be an excellent candidate to lead the Giants and their quarterback of the future. However, the outcome has been extremely disappointing, as the team has had a plethora of culture issues in the locker room, leading to many of their veteran players being jettisoned out of New York in an attempt to change the culture. In addition, there have been glaring mistakes in regards to play calling and game management that have cast Shurmur in a bad light.
I feel that if Shurmur were to relinquish his offensive play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Shula, in an effort to focus solely on game management, he may be able to secure his job moving forward and be an adequate coach. However, it does not appear that Shurmur is willing to give up his role as offensive play caller, which may end in his demise by the end of the season. If that were to occur, here are my top five options as coaches to replace him as the next head coach of the New York Giants:
1. Lincoln Riley-Head Coach, University of Oklahoma
Let’s get right to the name that everyone is bound to hear repeatedly, as the potential replacement for their head coaching position of their favorite team. What’s not to love about Lincoln Riley? With the emergence of Jalen Hurts following his transfer from Alabama, after losing the starting quarterback job to Tua Tagovailoa, Riley has positioned himself to produce the last three Heisman Trophy Award winners at quarterback, following Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray winning the award the last two years respectively.
In addition to producing the top players in college football, Riley has done a phenomenal job maintaining the dominance of the Oklahoma football program, following the retirement of long time head coach, Bob Stoops. Given his proven success with developing elite quarterbacks, the thought of what Riley might be able to do with the likes of Daniel Jones and the cast of elite offensive weapons at his disposal, makes Giants fans salivate at the mere thought of hiring Riley as their next head coach. In addition to the surplus of success that Riley has garnered in his short career (he’s 30-4 in his collegiate head coaching career), comes the benefit of his youth.
At only 36 years of age, one would be led to believe that he would have an easier time relating to the young core of players in the Giants locker room. That said, he is currently making $6.5 million annually and it is highly likely that the boosters of Oklahoma are more than willing to open up their deep pockets in an effort to do what it takes to keep Lincoln Riley in Norman, Oklahoma for the foreseeable future. However, if there is one guy that the Giants brass should be targeting more than anyone, it is certainly Lincoln Riley.
2. Dan Campbell-Assistant Head Coach, New Orleans Saints
Giants fans may recall the name Dan Campbell, as he was a tight end for New York from 1999-2002, beginning his playing career. He then learned under the coaching of the great Bill Parcells in Dallas and would retire in 2009 and immediately jump to the coaching realm as a coaching intern with the Miami Dolphins in 2010.
From there he would work his way up to tight ends coach for the Dolphins from 2011-2015, before becoming the interim head coach, when Joe Philbin was fired mid-season in 2015. Campbell would lead the Dolphins to a 5-7 record during his tenure as the interim head coach, but was passed up for the permanent head coaching position in favor of Adam Gase. Campbell would leave Miami and take over the assistant head coach position with the New Orleans Saints, under the tutelage of another former Giant, Sean Payton.
Given his connections to the coaching of Bill Parcells and Sean Payton, the level of success that the New Orleans Saints have had, along with his familiarity with the New York Giants organization, one has to believe that the 43-year-old Campbell would be a strong candidate for a potential head coaching vacancy in the Meadowlands.
3. Kris Richard-Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Despite being only 39 years of age, Kris Richard knows a thing or two about building a dominant defense. Richard was an integral part of developing the Seattle Seahawks secondary, affectionately known as the Legion of Boom. Richard would serve as the defensive back coach for Seattle from 2010-2014, before taking over as their defensive coordinator from 2015-2017. During that time, Seattle had one of the most dominant defenses in football, gaining Richard a great deal of recognition in the coaching community.
Although carrying the titles of defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator at Dallas, Kris Richard is essentially sharing the duties of defensive coordinator with defensive guru Rod Marinelli. Given the struggles of the Giants defense, coupled with the athletic young core of defensive players that the Giants have drafted the past two years, it would make sense for the Giants to look into a defense first minded head coach. An added bonus for the Giants would be the ability to take away a key member of the rival Dallas Cowboys coaching staff.
4. David Shaw-Head Coach, Stanford University
David Shaw has been a key cog in the head coaching rumor mill for years. Shaw has been the head coach of Stanford since 2011, taking over for Jim Harbaugh after he departed for San Fransisco to become the head coach of the 49ers. Prior to that, Shaw served under Harbaugh, as the offensive coordinator at Stanford from 2007-2010. In addition, he held the role of quarterback coach for the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, later serving as the wide receivers coach for Baltimore, before leaving for Stanford.
Shaw has benefited from playing and coaching under some very distinguished coaches such as Bill Walsh, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Jim Harbaugh. He has long been thought of as one of the great minds in football. In addition, Shaw had success with an elite running back in Christian McCaffery, which could parlay into success with the uber-talented Saquon Barkley in New York. With the down year that Stanford is currently experiencing, it is plausible that Shaw finally considers a jump back to the NFL as a head coach. It is at least worth the Giants gauging his interest, should a head coaching position open in New York.
5. Bill Cowher-Former Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Let’s be honest, this wouldn’t be a list of potential Giants head coaching candidates, without listing Bill Cowher. Cowher hasn’t coached since 2006, when he retired as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. However, his name seemingly crops up any time a potential opening for the Giants head coaching position is mentioned. Cowher has been resigned to the broadcast booth since 2007, so its not like he has been completely removed from football.
Deciding to leave the broadcast booth and come out of retirement wouldn’t be completely unprecedented, as we saw Jon Gruden leave ESPN to take the head coaching position for the Raiders this past offseason. That said, it took a whole lot of money and the perfect situation for Gruden to make that move. The same would likely ring true for Cowher. The Giants may just be able to provide him with that perfect scenario. After all, they have a generational talent at running back, a rookie quarterback who has shown signs of being an exceptional NFL quarterback in the future, a plethora of offensive weapons, a young core of athletic playmakers on defense, a massive amount of draft capital in future drafts and a good situation regarding the salary cap.
With the right coaching, the Giants look to be a team that is about a year away from being perennial contenders. The only thing that seems to be missing from enticing Cowher to take the Giants head coaching position is the money. Given that they are a sports franchise in the largest market in the United States, it shouldn’t be an issue for Giants ownership to pony up the cash. The Giants may finally possess the perfect scenario to lure Cowher back to the head coaching ranks after nearly 15 years of retirement.
Honorable mentions: Kellen Moore-Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys; Brian Kelly-Head Coach, University of Notre Dame; Urban Meyer-Former Head Coach, Ohio State University; Jim Harbaugh-Head Coach University of Michigan; Josh McDaniels-Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots