A rocket scientist has blasted his way into the lead to be the Giants’ next head coach.
The Daily News has learned that all signs are pointing to Sherrill native Matt Patricia, the New England Patriots defensive coordinator with a degree in aeronautical engineering, as the man the Giants will hire to point Big Blue back in the right direction.
The Giants’ glory days saw Bill Parcells, a coach with defense as his backbone, patrolling the sidelines at the Meadowlands, with Bill Belichick as defensive coordinator, winning the franchise’s first two Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990, setting the standard in North Jersey.
But since Parcells, the Giants have hired five head coaches all with offense as their calling card: Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo.
Coughlin won the Super Bowl twice in 2007 and 2011, but even in ’07 succeeded and ruined New England’s perfect season thanks largely to Steve Spagnuolo’s rabid pass rush led by Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.
Great defense defines the Giants at their peak.
And while improving the offense and developing a young quarterback to succeed Eli Manning are priorities in this coaching search, Patricia feels like too good of a fit and could bring an offensive coordinator to address those needs, perhaps Alabama’s Brian Daboll, 42, who overlapped with Patricia for seven seasons in New England.
Patricia, 43, as the Daily News has written a few times the last couple of days, is not a done deal to the Detroit Lions as several reports had claimed coming out of his interviews last weekend with the Giants, Lions and Cardinals. In fact, there are indications he prefers the Giants to the Lions.
Maybe the Giants would need to get used to his unkempt sideline appearance — backward hat, pencil behind the ear, with a bushy beard. But what matters is what’s between Patricia’s ears.
The NFL’s tampering policy dictates that the Giants and Patricia technically would not be permitted even to make an "agreement to execute a contract," let alone sign one, "until after the conclusion of the employer club’s playing season" — or until after the Patriots’ postseason ends.
But teams find a way of locking up their guy. In 2014, it was an open secret that Seattle Seahawks D-coordinator Dan Quinn was leaving to become the Atlanta Falcons head coach going into the Super Bowl. And last year, the same went for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and his future head job with the San Francisco 49ers.
This year, if the Patriots return to the Super Bowl, the Giants actually would be permitted a second interview with Patricia if the Patriots again granted permission, to be conducted no later than Jan. 28 or a week before the game.
Josh McDaniels, 41, the Pats’ offensive coordinator, is down to being a candidate for the Colts and the Giants, or staying in New England. But Indianapolis is considered the more likely landing place if McDaniels does leave, after the Colts’ reported first choice, Chiefs OC Matt Nagy, took the Bears job.
Vikings OC Pat Shurmur, 52, emerged from his Saturday Giants interview as a stronger candidate than many believed when this process began. And like McDaniels he has the NFL head coaching experience that John Mara is looking for.
But is Shurmur’s 9-23 record in two seasons as Cleveland Browns head coach (2011-12) and one impressive year of winning with journeyman QB Case Keenum in Minnesota enough to land the coveted Giants’ head coaching job? That’s hard to see, and that hire might not make a ripple in the Big Apple, frankly.
Patricia, however, might have found a kindred spirit in new Giants GM Dave Gettleman and a perfect fit in the organization’s preferred identity. And that’s despite famously wearing that Barstool Sports T-shirt of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with a clown nose after the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl win. Mara no doubt would be able to laugh that off with Patricia in the name of a good start with the Giants.
Gettleman, 66, is old-school, in the good way that he wants the Giants to be the Giants again.
He stepped to the podium on Dec. 29 after being hired and began talking about running the football, stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. He said he believes "big men allow you to compete," an old Coughlin line. He said fixing the offensive line and improving the culture were priorities.
Gettleman did not hire Ron Rivera as Panthers head coach, but in his four years as Carolina’s GM (2013-16) won with the defensive-minded Rivera at the helm, including a 15-1 season and a Super Bowl trip in 2015, losing only to Von Miller and Denver’s ferocious D.
Patricia’s background and priorities suggest he and Gettleman and the Giants would be a great team.
Patricia was an offensive lineman in college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, playing both center and guard.
He is whiz-kid smart: Patricia owns a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from R.P.I. and a master’s in education from the University of Massachusetts. And while Patricia doesn’t have the NFL head coaching experience that Mara prefers, he does satisfy the Giants’ baseline requirement of significant time spent as a coordinator, in year six now running the Patriots’ perennially respectable defense.
He has worked for the Patriots since 2004 and has been part of three of this dynasty’s five Super Bowl championships. And since he moved to defense in 2006, the Patriots have finished top-10 in fewest points allowed in 11 of 12 seasons, including a No. 1 overall ranking and Super Bowl win in 2016.
Patricia started as a grad assistant at R.P.I. in 1996, worked the next two years as an aeronautical engineer, then returned to coaching at Amherst College (defensive line, 1999-2000), before heading to Syracuse for three years as a grad assistant (2001-03) and then finally landing in New England.
He started on Belichick’s staff as an offensive assistant (2004), became assistant offensive line coach in 2005, took over linebackers for five years (2006-10), and worked one season of safeties (2011) before taking over as full-time DC in 2012. Patricia is married to wife Raina with two sons, Dominic and Dante, and a daughter, Giamina.
Many believed Patricia would be the Lions’ new head coach because he and Detroit GM Bob Quinn, a former Patriots exec, would keep it in the family as products of New England, too.
But also consider this: Belichick holds a strong affinity for the Giants from the glory days and has been active in grooming and advising McDaniels and Patricia in this process, and it could mean a lot to Belichick and to his legacy for Patricia to take over and turn around his former team.
The Giants conducted their sixth and final interview with former Broncos RB coach Eric Studesville on Wednesday, but the feeling is Patricia and the Giants may have found themselves a perfect match.