Giants Head Coach Search: The Good, Great and Surprising

giants head coach
credit: @Krum_13

It actually happened, The New York football Giants fired Joe Judge and let Dave Gettelman “retire”. general manager interviews are already happening and the new GM will have complete control over who he (or she) wants as head coach. The search for the next Giants head coach begins now:

Sanket (@itsmesanketshah), Felix (@FootballPapi) and I will be discussing my three favorite candidates for the position. This could all change based on who the GM, but for right now these are the three we will talk about.

Who should be the Giants Head Coach

Former Head Coach Brian Flores

Luke- I am hesitant with Flores, very hesitant. However, this is not because hes a bad head coach but because he can’t pick an OC for the life of him. 4 OCs in 3 years isn’t great. I also think he will want win right away and we are not set up for that.

Sanket- Firstly, Flores has shown that he can build a team from the ground up. Second, Shouldn’t have gotten fired in Miami. Now, the question is whether he can create a good offense and find a good coordinator.

Felix- A Brooklyn native, Flores returning home would be a tremendous hire off of his track record as head coach with the Miami Dolphins. Despite alleged conflict with the front office, Flores still restored Miami to a competitive team/roster that went 4-2 versus the Patriots. Would that power dynamic happen again in New York is the true question regarding his fit with Big Blue.

Bills OC Brian Daboll

Luke- The best fit with Joe Schoen and he is GM1 right now. Daboll has had success everywhere he went. Furthermore, he’s great offensive mind who works with a really good staff in Buffalo. Therefore, Daboll is not a bad option by any means.

Sanket- Daboll helped turned Josh Allen into a superstar in Buffalo. He seems to be well respect around the league as hes considered for many HC jobs. Most likely, Daboll would be paired with Joe Schoen so that’s a plus.

Felix- An offensive mind with a sturdy resume, Daboll has accelerated the growth of Bills quarterback Josh Allen, so much so that Allen’s sub-60% completion percentage in college is a concern of the past. He’s shown that he can win with injuries to the offense, and has coached up players to be consistent contributors. He’s an ideal hire considering the Giants offense has been wildly inept.

Minnasota Gophers HC PJ Fleck

Luke- Now, while Fleck is my number one option. I have zero faith in it happening. However, Fleck has proven he can win with limited talent and can develop players well. These two traits are the two that the Giants really need in a head coach.

Sanket- Fleck a college guy that seems to be well respected. Furthermore, he helped make Minnesota into a bowl program. Always risky hiring college guys for NFL HC jobs.

Felix- One of the few college coaches that strikes gold everywhere he goes, Fleck has truly built a strong culture at the University of Minnesota, molding a contender in the Big Ten conference. He did the same at Western Michigan prior to that, and is known for generating strong buy-in with players, often dominating the recruiting trail.

It would be an experiment, but Fleck has flashed that it-factor for a strong head coach that is efficient on and off the field. Would he be like Matt Rhule or Jim Harbaugh?

Who else could be the Giants Head Coach?

Lastly, I am going to run through a list of guys who could also become the Giants head coach:

  • Kevin O’Connell, Rams offensive coordinator
  • Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator
  • Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator
  • Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator

All in all, there are plenty of good options for the next Giants GM to chose from, but they better move fast as these guys are going to fly off the shelves.

Falcons vs. Giants: Who’s Gonna Get Right?

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What happens when a stoppable force meets a moveable object? The answer might come when the Falcons travel to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants. Both teams are looking to rebound from a disastrous start to the 2021 NFL season. The Giants have made Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke look like Pro Bowlers, while Atlanta has set the franchise record for points allowed over the first two weeks of a season. Neither offense is performing well, though the Giants have shown a little more life comparatively. It’s been a bad start for both teams, but this is the week to get right.

The question is, which team will manage to put it together? This game presents a curious matchup because both teams are weak in similar areas. When faced with a choice between an anemic pass rush and a pushover offensive line, to whom do you give the edge? Which porous secondary will find some answers facing off against lackluster passing games? Who wants to “get right”, and who will spawn week three draft takes from their fan base?

Who Can Get Right in Pass Protection?

Neither the Giants nor the Falcons are coming into this game feeling good about either unit. In terms of pass protection, both teams are struggling mightily along the interior. Falcons guard Jalen Mayfield posted the lowest pass-blocking grade PFF has ever handed out in week one, while New York’s Billy Price has managed to one-up Mayfield by carrying a single-digit pass-blocking grade for the season so far.

Does it get any better at tackle? Not really. The Giants hoped the respectable performance from Andrew Thomas in week one signaled a turning point for the former top-five pick, but he followed it up with a rough outing against Washington in week two. Nate Solder has churned out two performances that approach league average, but the veteran tackle hasn’t had a “good” game since 2019. The Falcons can claim to have the best tackle of the two teams in Jake Matthews, but the ever-present liability Kaleb McGary presents across from him erases any edge that would give them.

Advantage: No one. Both teams are struggling to piece together an NFL-caliber offensive line. This comparison is a race to the bottom.

Can the Falcons Find a Pass Rush?

How about the other side of the ball? Can either team seize an advantage and create consistent pressure on the opposing quarterbacks? Despite Dean Pees’ history of manufacturing pressure via the blitz, he hasn’t replicated that success thus far in Atlanta. Though the Falcons did manage to bring down Tom Brady three times last week, they only generated ten total QB pressures per PFF’s charting. The Falcons had an identical performance in week one, leaving them near the bottom of the NFL in total QB pressures.

This game could be an opportunity for the Falcons defense to find its footing. The Giants have had severe communication issues in setting their protections, and Dean Pees will try to exploit that with his play calling. I wouldn’t expect the Falcons to win consistently along the edge, but between Grady Jarrett and Pees’ love for A-gap blitzing, the Falcons will have an advantage inside. Unfortunately, the same is true for the Giants.

Despite only having three sacks, PFF ranks New York in the top half of the NFL in QB pressures. Standout defensive tackle Leonard Williams leads the way with eight pressures, and the entire defensive interior accounts for 42% of the team’s 41 total QB pressures. Rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari has had a strong start with two sacks and six total pressures. This Giants front is still a far cry from the dominant units that led the Super Bowl a decade ago. Still, they are competent enough to cause significant problems for Atlanta, especially with their weaknesses in the interior. Giants fans have eagerly awaited a breakout game for Dexter Lawrence, and this may be when they get their wish.

Advantage: Giants. Grady Jarrett is probably this game’s best pass rusher, but the Giants have more talent across the board. Still, expect Atlanta to make their presence felt.

Who Can Get Right on Offense?

The Giants spent their offseason loading up on offense to prevent any excuses for Daniel Jones’ underwhelming showing at quarterback. It’s worked in a way, though probably not how the team envisioned. Kenny Golladay hasn’t begun to earn the $72 million contract he signed in the offseason. First-round pick Kadarius Toney has less receiving yardage than Tamorion Terry, and the only thing Terry has caught this year is a murder charge. Saquon Barkley hasn’t returned to form after missing 2020 with a knee injury. Despite this, Jones has stacked together two solid performances in 2021. He is currently the teams leading rusher, which isn’t great, and he played a turnover-free game against Washington. It’s a low bar to clear, but he’s trending in the right direction.

The biggest question for New York is whether or not Barkley can give them anything this week. It’s a favorable matchup for the Giants. Atlanta has allowed more yards before contact than any other team in the NFL and has a bottom five run defense DVOA per Football Outsiders. Since his knee injury, Barkley hasn’t looked like himself, but Atlanta is that “get right” team. If the Giants can finally get their run game going this week, it will create a clear advantage for them.

Receivers May Rule the Day

This advantage is amplified by the sizeable advantage the Giants’ receivers have over the Falcons secondary. With AJ Terrell (concussion) unlikely to play, the Falcons look to start TJ Green at corner this week. Green, a recent convert from safety, is a physical player but will be overmatched by any of the three top receivers for the Giants. It is impossible to find a single matchup that looks favorable for Atlanta’s secondary. If Evan Engram can make his 2021 debut, the situation goes from bad to worse. Atlanta’s pass coverage wasn’t good with Terrell. Absent their best player, this has the makings of a disastrous outing unless Atlanta can create consistent pressure.

Can the Falcons Do it for Four Quarters?

Atlanta’s outlook isn’t quite as rosy, but it too is trending in the right direction. After starting with an abysmal showing against Philadelphia, the Falcons seemed to regain their composure against Tampa in week two. Sure, the game ended with two ugly pick-sixes, but the offense looked good briefly in the second half last week. It’s something to build on.

Mirroring the situation in New York, Atlanta will look to exploit the Giants on the ground. The Giants have the third-worst rush defense DVOA and have been particularly susceptible to outside runs over the last two weeks. This plays into Atlanta’s strengths, as they are much better rushing off the tackles than between them. While I have doubts that the Falcons line will make strides in pass protection, there is potential for them to shift the balance of the game on the ground.

You Can’t Get Sacked if You Run the Ball

An effective run game can work wonders to mitigate lousy pass protection, which may open the door for Matt Ryan to turn his season around. Despite everyone’s high hopes, Ryan has been a bottom-five quarterback in essentially every metric so far. His intended air yards per completion and attempt are half of his career average. He’s looked hesitant behind a terrible line and has made multiple uncharacteristic mistakes over the last two games. His teammates haven’t done him any favors, but Matt needs to step it up.

Unfortunately, this is probably the best secondary the Falcons have faced so far. The Eagles and Bucs suffered multiple injuries that thinned them out. The Giants secondary has underperformed thus far, but on paper, it’s a talented group. With Russell Gage down with an ankle injury, the Falcons aren’t going to have any apparent mismatches outside. Calvin Ridley is formidable, but with no other threats at receiver, the Giants can bracket him without worrying about their other cornerbacks.

Breakout for Pitts?

The key to shaking that up is Kyle Pitts. The rookie hasn’t gotten off to a hot start, but this is a very favorable matchup for him this week. The Giants don’t have any linebackers that have a prayer against him in coverage. There isn’t an obvious choice at safety either, though I suspect Jabril Peppers will ultimately be the one to shoulder the responsibility. If this line can afford Ryan enough time to get the ball downfield, Pitts will have opportunities for big plays. It’s just a matter of dialing it up and executing.

Advantage: Giants, by a slim margin

Although Atlanta has the single best mismatch advantage with Kyle Pitts, the Giants have more options overall. New York has a better set of skill players, a better secondary, and a quarterback that can potentially mask offensive line deficiencies. Jones’s tendency to turn the ball over is a wildcard here, but New York should have no issue getting up and down the field if he can protect the ball.

Can the Falcons Get Right?

Though it breaks my little red and black heart, I find it hard to muster the confidence to predict a Falcons victory. As hard as it may be to believe, the Giants are better at almost every position group. I expect that to become more evident as the game wears on Sunday. There is always a path to victory for the Falcons, though. If I can envision a path to victory against the Bucs, a winless Giants team doesn’t present a hopeless situation. Consistent pressure plus an effective run game could be enough to steal a win, but the margin for error will be slim. In the end, I think we see improvement from the team, but not enough to spoil Eli Manning day at MetLife.

Final Score: Giants 28 – Falcons 24

Cam to Canton?

Courtesy of Miami Dolphins

While a lot may be said about Jeff Ireland’s capabilities as a general manager, he did provide the Miami Dolphins with one of their greatest ever players, Cameron Wake.

Throughout his career in the NFL, Wake amounted 364 tackles, 100.5 sacks, 99 TFL, 22 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 interception. Palm Beach Post has since ranked Wake as the third greatest Dolphins player over the past 20 years behind only Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. With JT already in the Hall of Fame, and Zach Thomas a finalist this year before being snubbed again, is Cameron Wake Hall of Fame worthy?

Early Career

Derek Cameron Wake from Beltsville, Maryland, played his college ball for Penn State after enrolling in 2000. The 6-3, 236-pound linebacker/defensive end had a productive college career amounting 191 tackles, including 24 tackles for loss with 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries and an interception. Wake was also the team’s top special team player after blocking seven kicks during his career with the Nittany Lions.

Prior to the 2005 NFL Draft, at Penn State’s Pro Day Wake ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. In comparison, rookie defensive end Jaelan Phillips ran a 4.56. It is therefore very surprising looking back, as to how on earth Wake went undrafted. While he may not have been as dominant in college as what he was in the NFL, the fact that Wake was repeatedly passed on by so many is puzzling to say the least.

Having gone undrafted, Wake thought he had his shot when he was picked up by the New York Giants in 2005, however he was subsequently cut before the regular season began. Just imagine a defense featuring both Wake and Jason Pierre-Paul is frightening.

With his hopes and dreams of becoming an NFL star in tatters, Wake eventually took a job as a mortgage broker in 2006, watching his peers compete in the NFL with vengeance. Had it not been for his mother’s determination to see her son’s dream a reality, encouraging him to quit his job and focus all of his efforts on the NFL, his career would have been very different.

Having quit his short career as a mortgage broker, he eventually got his shot in the Canadian Football League with British Columbia, yet Wake remained skeptical.

“I had never even watched a CFL game in my life. I’d never heard of a team. I didn’t know a single person in Canada. I was completely oblivious to the whole league.”

Cameron Wake speaking to ESPN in 2013

While Wake only earned $48,000 per season playing for BC, his production levels were off the charts. In 36 games Wake totaled: 137 total tackles, 39 sacks (season high of 23 in 2008) , 6 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and 1 TD. In his two seasons in the CFL he was twice named a CFL All-Star, and twice named the “Most Outstanding Defensive Player”, eventually being named to the CFL all decade team. Teams were certainly interested now. As such, he managed to transform his fortunes from $48,000 salary to career earnings of over $60,000,000.

Miami Dolphins

After every team had passed on Wake during the 2005 draft, they were not about to do it again. Following his stint in the CFL, Wake now attracted interest from over 17 NFL teams and working out for 8. Not everybody in the Dolphins organisation was sold on the prospect of giving Wake the 4 year contract worth $2.6 million with $650,000 guaranteed, as he was unproven in the league aged 27. Nevertheless, it was Bill Parcels who ultimately was the calming figure in the Dolphins front office imploring Jeff Ireland to take the gamble and to get the deal done. The rest is history.

To make it easier you:

NFL Honors:

  • First Team All Pro Honors- 2012
  • 3x Second Team All Pro Honors- 2010, 2014, 2016
  • 5x Pro Bowler- 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
  • PFF’s 2010s All Decade Team (2nd)
  • 100 Sacks Club
  • 6x NFL Top 100

Dolphins Honors:

  • Miami Dolphins 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Second highest sacks in Miami Dolphins history
  • 4x Don Shula Leadership Award- 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
  • Dan Marino Most Valuable Player – 2013

Wake burst on to the scene in his first start of his NFL career against the Bills in 2009, he recorded two sacks, four TFL and a forced fumble. He had arrived in the NFL with a chip on his shoulder, determined to make up for lost time. His explosiveness and killer first step caused even the best of offensive tackles nightmares week in week out. From 2009-2018 Wake totaled a franchise leading 604 pressures. Furthermore, in the period from 2010- 2016, Wake earned a top 5 pass rushing grade among edge rushers every season bar one (2011), while leading the NFL in 2014 and 2015.

With the introduction of Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line in 2015, Wake began to exploit every opportunity that fell his way, with Suh’s power demanding doubling. Unfortunately however, Wake’s season was cut short after tearing his achilles in late October; prior to his injury he was the most dominant defensive player in the league. Having overcame adversity throughout his whole career, in typical Wake fashion he came back stronger than ever in 2016 collecting 11.5 sacks, earning Pro-Bowl and Second Team All-Pro honors while only starting 11 out of 16 games. The following season he added another 10.5 sacks and 12 TFL. In total Wake recorded double digit sacks in 5 of his 11 seasons. He averaged 9.8 sacks per season, in comparison Taylor averaged 9.3. In other words, he dominated.

With the dawn of a new era in Miami, it was clear once again that the Dolphins were in rebuild mode, needing to get younger and cheaper, thinking more about the long term vision, rather than attempts to plaster over the cracks like they had done for so many years. Wake then signed for the Tennessee Titans in 2019. In the season following his departure his value could not have been any clearer, the Dolphins pass rush was none existent with Taco Charlton leading the way in sacks. Wake is dearly missed among Dolphins fans.

Hall of Fame Worthy?

According to Armando Salguero, a selector on the Hall of Fame committee, ” A Pro Football Hall of Famer answers three basic questions in the affirmative.

  1. Did he dominate his era?
  2. Did he do anything to change games and more importantly to change the game?
  3. Do the greatest of his peers think he’s a Hall of Famer?

With regards to the first question, if you have made it this far in this article, the answer is clear. It is somewhat intriguing to just pause for a moment and consider what Wakes numbers would have been had he been drafted in 2005. Again it is important to highlight that Wake was 27 when he entered the league, what followed in his career is nothing short of remarkable.

As to the second question, I will just leave this here:

The infamous play that has highlighted Wake’s career. Wakes presence was always felt throughout games and certainly helped to change the games. It is no coincidence that his comeback season in 2016 also marked the Dolphins first post-season appearance since 2008. Nevertheless, the biggest hindrance on Wake’s chances of being enshrined in Ohio is that unfortunately for him and the fans, he played on a team that was never any good, with a defense that wasn’t very good either.

Wake has more career sacks than Hall of Famers Andre Tippett, Howie Long and Warren Sapp and more forced fumbles than Ray Lewis, yet no rings to show for it. Where Wake was an elite edge rusher in the league he played on a team that was bang average at best, never looking like a legitimate contender. Wake did as much as he could to provide a spark within the Dolphins organisation and although it should not be held against him, it might.

Finally in regard to the third question:

“I’ve been around a long time, and he does things that amaze me. It’s those young fresh legs, good cartilage in his knees. I always joke watching tape, seeing Cameron dip underneath somebody, kind of getting pushed around, then he’ll spin around and pop off the ground. He easily does things that older guys can’t do anymore.”

Jason Taylor speaking about Wake in 2011.

“He’s an animal hes a freak of nature. The guy is 36 years old and he’s playing like he’s 22.”

Reshad Jones speaking about Wake in Top 100 in 2018

“Wake has got this move that he’ll bull you and then pull you by and then get the edge, as much as anybody tries to replicate that move, nobody does it like him. For me he’s the most complete 4-3 defensive end in the game right now.”

DE Chris Long speaking about Wake in Top 100 in 2015

Cameron Wake is worthy of being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The story of his career is an extraordinary one. Through all the challenges and setbacks he had, he is the prime example of never giving up. Wake dominated in the league for over a decade and brought a bright spark to an otherwise dull and grey era in Miami. While he may not be a first or even a second ballot, at some point in the future Wake has earned his place in Canton when he becomes eligible 5 years after his retirement. But first we focus on No.54. In the near future though, I fully expect Wake to be placed in the Dolphins ring of honor at the very least. Who knows what the future holds for Wake and his retirement plans, one thing is for sure, his future as a Miami Dolphins legend is set in stone. Fins Up!

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Thoughts on Jim Fassel, a Giants legend

Photo credit: Cataffo/NYDN

I still remember it like it was yesterday. My family lived on Long Island. The scare of “Y2K” was a fervent start to the new millenium and football was a distraction. There was a chill in the air, my parents cooked plenty of food, and my father and I sat in front of our larger tube television to watch the New York Giants take on the Minnesota Vikings in the 2000 season’s NFC Championship game. Big Blue was a welcome and beloved distraction from the realness of that year, so gathering around to cheer and yell felt amazing, especially to bond with family. 

My father felt good vibes heading into the showdown with the high-powered Minnesota Vikings offense, but I remember him saying, “The Vikings are tough, it’s not gonna be easy.” Fast forward to a 41-0 shutout, and it’s safe to say my father lost his marbles with elation.

Even after losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, the Giants proved themselves one of the best teams in the league in a season that cemented my fandom as a child. 

Jim Fassel led those New York Giants. 

In what was a bleak moment for the team after falling to a 7-4 record with slim playoff hopes, Fassel went on in a postgame press conference to make a major guarantee:

If you got the crosshairs, you got the laser, you can put it right on my chest, I’ll take full responsibility… I’m raising the stakes right now. If this is a poker game, I’m shoving my chips to the middle of the table… I’m raising the ante, anybody wants in, get in. Anybody that wants out, can get out. This team is going to the playoffs.

And that they did. Starting quarterback Kerry Collins had a career resurgence, Tiki Barber broke out with nearly 2,500 total yards of offense, and the defense was led in sacks by defensive tackle Keith Hamilton, with Michael Strahan behind him for a total of 19.5. I still remember my father having his face painted blue, the watch party we had, and even though the end result was disappointing, I felt pride in the Giants. MY Giants. And Fassel made that possible. 

Fassell was a born and bred football man, playing through high school, college and eventually drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1972. He slowly made his way to the sideline though for his real calling as a coach, moving from an old World Football League gig to the college ranks where he mentored the legendary John Elway at Stanford. That parlayed into multiple positions around the NFL as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, even reuniting with Elway in Denver for a brief stint. Eventually, he landed the Giants head job, leading the team to a 10-5-1 record in his first season that had Big Blue clinch their division and earned him Coach of the Year honors for 1997. 

Coach Fassel led a remarkable career, and there isn’t any way I can attest to his character, as I never got the honor of knowing him personally. But from what I’ve read, he was remarkable even off the field. He brought Giants fans joy, returned a sense of grit and toughness that is the hallmark of New York Giant football, and embodied the passion and support a coach should give his team in so many ways. He made the team a true competitor, oftentimes leading them to successful turnarounds when the deck was stacked against them. Comeback victories and defeating seemingly superior opponents are cornerstone moments of Fassel’s Giants career.

But most of all to me, Coach Fassel is a vivid name in my memory banks. Those early years, the formative ones that molded me into who I am today, are full of watching Jim Fassel lead the Giants. My love for football, my pride in the Giants, the bond it helped to cement between my father and I growing up, all is rooted in those childhood years of life living in New York, wearing Giants blue and watching them push for a championship. Coach Fassel was a critical part of my writing career, including my love for scouting, and contributing here to ATB.

We here at Around The Block are so saddened to hear of his passing and wish his family the best. In remembrance of Jim Fassel, we here at ATB – New York Giants wish to say thank you for his leadership and the fandom he helped instill and/or create.

Rest in peace Coach.