Despite indications earlier in the week that he likely would be back, Perry Fewell has been fired as defensive coordinator of the Giants. Tom Coughlin informed Fewell of the decision on Wednesday morning.
Cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta also has been told he will not return.
Fewell helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI, but his defense finished the 2014 season ranked 29th in yardage and 22nd in points allowed. Coughlin seemed to support Fewell last week when he spoke about the defense being ranked highly in several categories including third-down conversions, sacks and takeaways.
"Perry is a very good football coach, he's been doing this a very long time," Coughlin said last Monday. "He's had his ups and downs, he's had ups and down right here with this very franchise. We've gone from here to here. A year ago we were eighth. Same guys, same coaches, eighth in the league. This year we're 29th."
John Mara said last week that he was concerned about the defense and would voice his opinion on the coaching staff, but that all final decisions would be Coughlin's. As of Monday, many in the organization believed Coughlin would stick with Fewell.
One candidate near the top of the Giants' wish list as a replacement is Steve Spagnuolo, the former Giants defensive coordinator who is now a secondary coach and associate head coach with the Ravens. Spagnuolo still has close ties with Coughlin and the Giants' front office, although almost all of the players he coached during his 2007-08 tenure are gone. Other possible candidates include Vic Fangio of the 49ers and Jim Schwartz of the Bills.
Fewell was hired in 2010 to replace Bill Sheridan and brought energy and fire to the team. Two years later, he crafted the gameplan that beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
The Giants were counting on their defense to keep the team buoyant early in this season as they adjusted to a first-year offensive system under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. They also poured an unusually large amount of free agency money into the defense, signing cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III and defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. They also re-signed middle linebacker and captain Jon Beason.
None of those four played a complete season, and all but Rodgers-Cromartie finished the year on injured reserve. The Giants also lost starting cornerback Prince Amukamara to injury along with backup Trumaine McBride.
Fewell was popular with the players, although there often was a sense of miscommunication between them and the coach. It became an annual rite for the players to suggest Fewell "simplify" the defense, which would lead to improved play.
The low points for Fewell's defense this year were the 350 rushing yards allowed against Seattle and the inability to generate any pass rush against Tony Romo on the game-winning drive when the Cowboys won at MetLife Stadium.
Safety Antrel Rolle, who himself might not be back as a free agent, said at the conclusion of the season he would have liked to see the Giants retain Fewell.
"I think it all works together, with coaches and players," Rolle said after Sunday's game. "I think defensively we had a lot of key injuries and at the same time, there were times where we probably could have been in better situations as coaches and players. Us players made the plays when the opportunity presented itself. It's never going to be on one person, it's never going to be just on the coach, or for that sake, sometimes even on the player."