Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels and Pat Shurmur are emerging as the three most likely candidates to be the next head coach of the Giants.
What happens next, though, will be interesting because all three could have other options, too.
That makes the coming days a delicate dance for the Giants as they will try to identify their top choice and lock him into at least a handshake agreement, while keeping the others on the hook just in case. That process will likely begin in earnest this weekend, after all three coach their teams in NFL divisional-round playoff games.
If the Patriots (with McDaniels as their offensive coordinator and Patricia as their defensive coordinator) or the Vikings (with Shurmur as their offensive coordinator) are eliminated, the Giants could have a new coach in place by next week. If the Patriots beat the Tennessee Titans on Saturday and the Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Giants' search will have to at least officially last another week, and possibly all the way through Super Bowl LII.
And that's a bit of a problem because the Giants are hoping to bring in whoever their top choice is for one last meeting, according to a source. All three interviewed with Giants co-owner John Mara, GM Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams. None of them met with Giants co-owner Steve Tisch.
If the Patriots and Vikings both win this weekend, their assistants wouldn't be available for follow-up interviews until the week after the AFC and NFC championship games.
The wait to meet with them again not only could be long, but it could be nerve-wracking because all three are reportedly among the top choices with other teams. Patricia has long been rumored and reported to be headed to the Detroit Lions due in part to a previous relationship with Lions GM Bob Quinn, a former Patriots executive. While a source familiar with his thinking said both teams remain in the mix, he reportedly "favors" the Giants now. Shurmur, meanwhile, is reportedly now the favorite to become the head coach in Arizona. And McDaniels has been reported as one of the favorites for the Indianapolis Colts.
And since none of them can sign anywhere until their current seasons are over, the Giants have to be sure that any handshake agreement is firm and that whoever they single out doesn't have a late change of heart. It would be embarrassing if their top candidates end up taking jobs elsewhere, leaving the Giants to move on to a Plan D.
For now, though, after 11 days of searching, six interviews and several days of internal discussions Patricia, McDaniels and Shurmur are clearly the first three choices in some unknown order - which they really were all along. The Giants were never likely to seriously consider their interim coach Steve Spagnuolo or former Broncos assistant Eric Studesville, and a source said they've been eliminated from the conversation. They also now don't intend to interview Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, whom they unsuccessfully tried to interview last weekend.
Also out, apparently, is Steve Wilks, the Panthers defensive coordinator and a favorite of Gettleman from his time in Carolina. A team source said that while Wilks' interview was impressive, Mara - the ultimate decision-maker in this process - has really stood by his declaration that he wants a coach, as he said two weeks ago, "who has either had head coaching experience or at least has been a coordinator for a significant period of time." He believes, as he said then, that "if you don't have that, the odds are really stacked against you."
The 41-year-old McDaniels and 52-year-old Shurmur have head coaching experience, albeit in short and unsuccessful tenures with the Broncos (2009-10) and the Browns (2011-12) respectively. The 43-year-old Patricia has been the Pats defensive coordinator for the past six seasons.
All three also come highly recommended and with impressive credentials - particularly the two Patriots assistants. None of them are perfect candidates, though. There are still some in the Giants who worry that McDaniels will eventually want more power over personnel decisions than the Giants would be willing to allow. And some think Shurmur might not be a strong enough public presence, which became a very big issue under Ben McAdoo.
As for Patricia, his lack of head coaching experience is a concern, especially as Gettleman looks for a "CEO" of his Giants company. There is no doubt about his coaching expertise, but he remains untested in the top job.
For better or worse, though, those are the three. The Giants just now have to figure out which one they want, and whether they can keep him from coaching somewhere else instead.