Tom Coughlin may have some real problems to worry about in the offseason as his most valuable assistant coach is being considered for head coaching jobs by four teams.
One day after the San Francisco 49ers became the third team to ask the Giants for permission to interview defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Denver's just-appointed VP of football operations John Elway indicated the Broncos have received permission to interview the man who in one year transformed the defense from a leaky, pressureless group to one that knocked out five quarterbacks from games, put another one on injured reserve, and finished among the league's elite.
Elway, the Broncos' Hall of Fame quarterback, will first travel to Atlanta to speak to Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. In truth, Elway would love to have Jim Harbaugh, the coach of his alma mater, Stanford, because he would be the ideal guy to develop develop quarterback Tim Tebow. Harbaugh, who tops just about everybody's wish list, is currently weighing the merits of staying at Stanford and leaving for an NFL job.
So Elway's choice may come down to Mularkey or Fewell. Elway told the Denver Post that "a lot of good things have been said about Perry," and that he's been on "most" lists.
The Niners officially joined the Carolina Panthers and the Cleveland Browns Tuesday in their interest in Fewell, who spent the tail end of last season as the Bills' interim coach after Dick Jauron was let go. Fewell had a choice of going to Chicago to work with Lovie Smith, or coming to New York to work with his old boss from Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin. Obviously, the success he had on the New York stage has made him one of the league's hot assistants, much like current Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo did in his transformation job of 2007.
Fewell's unit finished seventh in the league in total defense. While it did show a propensity for giving up the big play and allowing too many points, especially at the end of the season when it gave up 76 points to Philadelphia and Green Bay combined, the Giants did create 39 turnovers that included 23 fumble recoveries. Osi Umenyiora had a resurgent season under Fewell with 11 1/2 sacks and 10 of the Giants' league-high 34 forced fumbles.
He also showed an innovative streak with the three-safety alignment of Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Deon Grant that he installed as a regular defensive alignment. With Rolle or Grant walking up into the box, the alignment maintained run-stopping and blitz potential while adding more speed to the coverage than either outside linebacker Keith Bulluck or, in many instances, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, could offer.
When Spagnuolo received a firm offer from the Redskins after the 2007 Super Bowl victory, he turned it down and returned for a second season with the Giants. But Spagnuolo had no head coaching experience before then. Fewell, who at least has experience as an interim, would probably leave if any of those teams offer him the job.