The last time the Giants had an opening for a head coach, they interviewed a young defensive coordinator and were very impressed by him. They didn’t offer the position to him — the job went to Tom Coughlin — but Lovie Smith wound up being hired by the Bears.
Now, 12 years later, the Giants again have an opening. And Smith, fired suddenly by the Bucs on Wednesday night, again is available.
That may be as far as history goes in repeating itself, though.
The Giants are unlikely to pursue Smith, a source told Newsday. Although that could change later in the process, Smith’s availability has not changed the immediate plans of the organization in what John Mara has said will be “an extensive search.”
That search included two interviews Thursday that the team confirmed, both of them defensive-minded candidates. The first was Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2015. He was followed by Teryl Austin, the Lions’ defensive coordinator.
Spagnuolo and Austin worked together in Baltimore in 2013. Austin also was a defensive backs coach for the Cardinals during the only season that current Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went to the Pro Bowl.
The Giants interviewed current offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo on Tuesday. They are scheduled to meet with Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase on Friday and former Bills head coach Doug Marrone on Saturday.
Austin, 50, has run the Lions’ defense the last two seasons. In his first year there, the Lions were a playoff team with a tough defense that ranked among the league’s leaders in most categories. In 2015, the team lost Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy and struggled early, but the defense played a key role in the team winning six of the final eight games.
Austin has been busy. He reportedly has interviewed with the Dolphins and Browns, and the Eagles reportedly are interested in chatting with him. Last year he interviewed for the 49ers gig, which went to Jim Tomsula. He could be a candidate there as well.
As for Spagnuolo, the Giants certainly know what he is about. He worked for the team in 2007-08 before returning in 2015. He has head-coaching experience (a plus) that ended poorly (a minus), and the last two times he was in charge of a defense, his players finished last in the NFL, including this year’s Giants.
“I think he did the best he could with what he had,” Mara said Tuesday. “I want to hear from him what he felt about how we performed there, what improvements he would make going forward. He’ll have that opportunity to explain that.”
Hiring a head coach with a defensive background not only would address the most glaring deficiency on the team but open the door to keeping McAdoo as offensive coordinator. Eli Manning has expressed a preference to remain in McAdoo’s system moving forward. McAdoo interviewed for the Eagles’ opening at head coach Thursday.
Notes & quotes: Panthers GM Dave Gettleman told reporters on Thursday that his defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, has only one scheduled interview — with the Browns — but that other teams are interested in speaking with him. The Giants are one, but they might have to wait until later in Carolina’s playoff run for an opportunity . . . The Titans confirmed that they interviewed Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross for their GM job.
With Bob Glauber