the New York Giants Reconstruction is already beginning to take shape.
The team hired new general manager Joe Schoen last weekend, and Schoen immediately set to work finding his head coach. The team wasted little time and hired new coach Brian Dabol on Friday.
In Daboll’s first statement announcing his acceptance of the Giants job offer, he said his first order of business would be to assemble a training staff. Following the way the Giants have moved to hire their own general manager and head coach, we can probably expect Daboll’s coaching staff to gather quickly.
The job of the offensive coordinator is the most important, given how important the offense is in the ongoing rivalry and how badly the Titans attack. But with all the focus that will need to be focused on the attacking giants, Daboll will need a good defensive coordinator who can operate his side of the ball with a good degree of independence.
As it happens, there are some good candidates available.
The simplest and quickest solution on the defensive side of the ball for Brian Dabol and Joe Schoen is to keep Patrick Graham in place.
Giants’ New Brain Chest has had its work cut out for rebuilding a career franchise from this scrap heap. Part of doing that is deciding which pieces are worth keeping and building around them, and Graham’s defense is definitely one of those. It’s not a perfect unit – the Giants struggled off the field when they needed to, perhaps giving opposing offenses many chances between the 20s. But Graham’s defense has proven to be a tough decision for all but the best impenetrable offense, and a few more pieces and some young players developing from that defense can make it really intimidating.
Graham also has a relationship with Brian Daboll from their time with New England Patriots. His defense should be all too familiar to Dabol, who saw a similar scheme during the Alabama offensive coordinator in 2017.
There are two big things standing in the way of Graham’s third year with the Giants.
The first is Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are preparing to interview Graham today (Saturday, 1/29) for their vacant coaching position. Graham seemed destined for a head coach job at some point, and I personally would love to see him get that opportunity.
The other issue may be a potential conflict after Joe Judge’s dismissal. Judge and Graham worked together for a long time in both New England and New York, and the two are said to be close. Sitting here, we don’t know how Graham is feeling and may not want to stay with the team that kicked out his friend.
Don “wink” Martindale
The name Martindale seems to keep coming up in relation to the New York Giants.
He interviewed for a head coaching job in 2020, and reportedly impressed the ownership giants. In fact, he seems to have impressed them enough that his name has been brought up again in connection with the Giants’ most recent vacant coach position. And while Wink was not brought in for an interview for the head coaching job, he was immediately linked to Brian Daboll as a potential defensive coordinator for the Giants.
While Martindale was recently launched by Baltimore RavensHe is still highly regarded as a coach. His defenses consistently play hard (which should be obvious, considering he’s been the Ravens coach since 2012), and he does a great job of mixing up opposing midfielders with odd looks. Wink likes to call out tighter coverage than the Giants usually manage, but their multi-skilled personnel must be able to execute his schemes well.
By a year Martindale earned the nickname “Wink” in college for sharing his nickname with game show host Winston Conrad Martindale, who he himself called “Wink.”
Fangio has not been widely linked with the Giants, but if the team it would be foolish not to bring him in for an interview if they had a chance at the defensive coordinator.
Fangio is widely regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL for years now, with a history dating back to his frenetic defenses under Jim Harbog in San Francisco 49ers. Fangio excels at escalating pressure on the opposing midfielder and creating chaos on the offensive side of the ball.
Brian Daboll comes from New England Erhardt-Perkins School of Attack which focuses on keeping things simple while attacking what the opposing team cannot defend well. Fangio’s defenses work in much the same way, making things simple for his players while eliminating what the opponent’s fouls do well and attacking what they don’t.
Vic Fangio has quietly laid out much of the modern NFL defense scheme over the past decade, so the Giants have to talk to the man himself.
Mike Zimmer, the former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, is one of the preeminent defensive minds in the NFL. He has been widely regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL for most of the 2000s.
Zimmer made his NFL debut in 1994 for a team Cowboys in Dallaswhere he stayed until the end of Bill Parcells’ tenure in 2006. This contact with Parcells could create an interesting bit of connective tissue with new GM Joe Schoen, enough that the Giants could bring him in for an interview.
Zimmer is best known for running a 4-3 defense (although he did briefly run 3-4 under Parcells in Dallas), and he’s one of the best with this scheme. Lately, he’s switched to a 4-2-5 nickel up front, but quarterbacks still fear him playing the double-gap. While Patrick Graham called plenty of shots in the 4-2 nickel fronts, Zimmer’s appointment could involve some defensive innovation compared to other potential candidates. However, he is very good at what he does when he is able to focus on the defensive side of the ball.
Like Fangio, Zimmer also has experience as a head coach, and that could be an advantage for first-time head coach Brian Daboll.
Merritt could be the primary card in all of this, but if we’re looking for a defensive coordinating candidate ‘under the radar’ we should probably keep an eye on Merritt.
If the name Dave Merritt sounds familiar to you, it’s because he was a coach for the Giants from 2004 to 2017. He initially started as a defensive assistant and “Quality Control Coach” but was promoted to a “Secondary/Safety” coach in 2006 and held that position until 2017. Merritt reunited with Steve Spagnolo in Kansas City and has been coaching Chiefs High School since 2019.
He’s a highly regarded coach and it’s a shocker that he hasn’t had the opportunity to train his defense yet. Although he hasn’t crossed with Daboll or Schoen yet, Daboll has trained against Merritt minor units in several playoffs.
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