Top Candidates: Giants defensive coordinator

As expected, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was made the victim in Big Blue’s disappointing 6-10 season. Where do the Giants go from here? The team is doing their due diligence, securing a number of interviews over the course of this week with some respected candidates and even some familiar faces.


Steve Spagnuolo, Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs Coach

Scheduled to meet with the Giants this week, “Spags” is the odds-on favorite to return to the Giants in the same role that made him one of the league’s most desirable head coaching candidates following Super Bowl XLII. Spagnuolo’s career hasn’t quite gone to plan since leaving the Giants to take the Rams head coaching position in 2009, but the familiarity and shared success make this an obvious match. A Jim Johnson disciple, Spagnuolo’s aggressive and unpredictable blitz-happy scheme would be a logical change from Perry Fewell’s schematic predictability.

In the Mix:

Pepper Johnson, Buffalo Bills Defensive Line Coach

Having met with the Giants on Monday, the hiring of Johnson would be a homecoming of a different sort. A 2nd round pick of the Giants in 1986, Johnson won two Super Bowls with New York under Parcells as a player. He would get his start in coaching under Parcells disciple Bill Belichick in 2000, where he would go on to win three more rings as a coach. Johnson served under Belichick in a number of coaching capacities but spent most of his time working as the defensive line coach, the same position he would take with the Bills in 2014. The downside with Johnson is that he has never held the coordinator position and that puts him at a disadvantage as the Giants interview some more experienced candidates. Still, it did not prevent the Giants from hiring offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo last year. Having played in a 3-4 scheme throughout his career and coaching the scheme almost exclusively until recently, would his hiring also represent a significant shift in philosophy?

Dennis Allen, former Oakland Raiders Head Coach

Allen met with the Giants on Tuesday after being the latest of several recent unceremonious head coach firings in Oakland. Having just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator (2011 under John Fox in Denver) and Oakland having consistently a poor defense during his tenure, Allen has never presided over a truly great season of defense. He does however employ an aggressive blitzing scheme that demands quality from its corners, which would make his scheme a good fit for the Giants’ current talent pool.

Raheem Morris, Washington Redskins Defensive Backs Coach

Having interviewed Morris on Friday, the latest word is that the Giants have told Morris they are no longer interested, per a report from NBC. The job may have been appealing to Morris as a New Jersey native and Hofstra graduate, but perhaps not for Giants fans hoping to see a change in scheme. Morris has spent most of his coaching career in Tampa Bay, learning and employing the same Tampa 2 concepts that former defensive coordinator Perry Fewell employed.

David Merritt, New York Giants Secondary Coach/Safeties

According to a report from Adam Schefter, the Giants have spoken to Merritt about the position already. The of note in-house candidate, Merritt has been on the staff coaching the safeties since the arrival of Tom Coughlin. Like Pepper Johnson, Merritt has no experience as a coordinator.

Dark Horse:

Jim Schwartz, former Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator

The trickle-down effect of Rex Ryan taking Buffalo’s head coaching job means an exit for Jim Schwartz, who did fantastic work coaching the Bills defense into one of the best in football this past season. In what could be a have your cake and eat it too situation, Pepper Johnson will likely find his way out in Buffalo as well and could be an option to bring on board Schwartz’s staff if he was indeed hired. Schwartz is one of the league’s most respected coaches, and while his scheme is mostly coverage-based(his defenses rarely ever blitz) they nonetheless have a reputation for having an aggressive(and at times dirty) mentality and are tough to play against.

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