There is optimism overflowing about the Giants right now, just like there was two years ago … and two years before that … and two years before that. There always is when there’s a regime change in sports. There’s always a feeling the new guys will be the ones to get it right.
Of course, no one knows whether the tag team of GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll will do that for the Giants. No one knows if they’ll win more than they lose, or if they’ll be here 10 years together or only two. But there is one thing that should make everyone feel a lot better about these latest major changes.
This time, the Giants sure did get the hiring process right.
That’s a very significant thing for anyone who’s watched the Giants stumble into a laughingstock of a franchise over the past 10 years. They’re on their fifth head coach and third general manager in just the last eight seasons. And every single time they fired someone, their search process was monumentally flawed.
Not this time, though. They looked at a small army of some of the best and brightest future GMs around the league before settling on Schoen, who had no ties at all to the Giants organization. And they had a diverse mix of strong candidates for head coach too – all picked by the GM. And in the end, they didn’t rush to hire anyone. They didn’t overthink it. And maybe most importantly, they didn’t just hire people that they knew.
For the Giants and their owners, these last 2 ½ weeks have been the most outside-the-box thinking they’ve done since they were forced into hiring George Young as GM 43 years ago.
That’s good. That’s promising. And it sure looks like it gives them a real chance to turn this thing around.
The hiring of Daboll as their head coach on Friday night is a great example of that. For the first time since Young overshadowed everyone in the Giants’ front office, John Mara promised to let his GM lead the coaching search. By all accounts, the list of candidates really did come from Schoen, and the GM led the questioning in the interview, too.
Best of all, even though Mara promised “no package deals” between his GM and coach, he allowed it anyway when Schoen insisted that Daboll was the right man. It’s not an insignificant fact at all that Mara was pushing the candidacy of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, according to a source, even reaching out to the Brooklyn-native before Schoen was hired.
But in the end, he backed off the guy he seemed to like best and let his GM hire the coach he wanted all along.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but it’s not the way it has been with the Giants in a long time. Their previous head coaching searches were led by Mara and most of them were dysfunctional. Joe Judge wowed them in an interview two years ago and, as soon as top choice Matt Rhule went elsewhere, made them overlook the fact that most thought Judge was still a few years away from being ready for the big chair. Two years before that they were spooked by their own dysfunction and overlooked Pat Shurmur’s terrible coaching record because he was, as former GM Dave Gettleman famously said, “the adult in the room.” And two years before that they brushed aside more experienced candidates because they were frightened when it looked like the Philadelphia Eagles might hire a young Ben McAdoo away.
There was none of that this time – not even when word started to leak that maybe Daboll had his eyes on the Miami Dolphins job (spoiler alert: He didn’t). They weren’t swayed by the relentless campaigning from people close to Flores, who kept making it clear to anyone who would listen how much he wanted his hometown job. They weren’t nudged by those inside the building who thought they needed a head coach with experience, like Flores, Leslie Frazier or Dan Quinn.
They stuck to the process – Schoen’s process. And they ended up with the guy their GM felt was the best fit.
In fact the Giants’ search for a head coach was so good, the only thing better was their search for a GM. They took their time with nine candidates, all from outside the Giants’ family, looking at a who’s who of future GMs. They interviewed Chiefs executive Ryan Poles and he ended up as the GM of the Chicago Bears. They interviewed Cardinals executive Adrian Wilson and he may end up as GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They interviewed 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters, who many believe will take over as the GM in San Francisco in the next few years.
That’s so different than their search for Gettleman four years ago when they interviewed just one candidate outside the Giants’ “family”, which was the same number of outside candidates they interviewed in 2007 before they promoted Jerry Reese. Outside of Young, they have a long history of sticking with what and who they know dating back to the franchise’s inception in 1925.
Sometimes it works. Lately it hasn’t. And everyone outside the organization knew it was a problem, as if the NFL was passing them by. It turns out Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch knew it too. And that’s a great sign as the Giants begin life under Schoen and Daboll.
Maybe it’ll be a success or maybe it won’t, but at least the process was a huge step in the right direction. They refused to go with the status quo. They allowed themselves to think differently. They stepped outside of their box.
In other words, it really is a new era for the Giants, and a new -- and better -- way of doing business, too.