Dave Gettleman never got to hire a head coach as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, and the truth is he won't be hiring a head coach now. John Mara and Steve Tisch will make the final call on who replaces Ben McAdoo, just like they have each of the last two times the Giants underwent a coaching search.
As the new general manager of the Giants, though, Gettleman will have plenty of input and he'll also be a key part of the interview process.
But since he inherited Ron Rivera in Carolina and never replaced him, there's just no track record to fall back on when trying to figure out where his influence might lead.
So, with a couple of exceptions, the list of Giants' coaching candidates is probably the same as it was, and so are the qualities the Giants will be seeking. As Mara has said in the past, he prefers NFL experience, head coaching experience, and a coach with a little something to prove. Ideally, it would be another "in the family" hire, someone with ties to the Giants organization.
That candidate doesn't appear to exist this time around, though. So with that in mind, here's a look at who might be on the Giants - and Gettleman's - list:
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator - He remains, perhaps, the most enticing candidate on the market - certainly the hottest assistant. He also has NFL head coaching experience, and clearly will have something to prove after his failed, short stint running the Denver Broncos in 2009-10. The Giants certainly wouldn't mind plucking someone off the Bill Belichick tree - even though his assistants haven't generally gone on to success. McDaniels is thought to be much more likely, though, to go to a team that hires Patriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio or ESPN's Louis Riddick as their new GM. Both are thought to be close to McDaniels.
Bill O'Brien, Texans head coach - He's a very intriguing candidate if he's not retained in Houston, where the Texans are 4-11 - his first losing season in four years as their coach. Clearly it's not his fault. The Texans have been in quarterback hell his entire tenure, and just when they found one - DeShaun Watson - he tore his ACL. They lost defensive star J.J. Watt, too. But the NFL can be unforgiving and O'Brien has one year left on his contract, so a decision is coming. If he's fired, the Giants should be one of many teams ready to pounce.
Steve Wilks, Panthers defensive coordinator - There has been a lot of speculation that he's a favorite of Gettleman. He's only been a coordinator for one year, but he did have the "assistant head coach" title the two years before that, both of which would've been during Gettleman's tenure. He's such an unknown and has so little experience at the upper levels, he'd be a risky, McAdoo-like hire. But if Gettleman really likes him, he'll get an interview.
Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator - He's had supporters in the Giants organization for years, and his name has come up in both head coaching and defensive coordinator searches - though it doesn't appear he's ever gotten an interview. Some in the NFL believe Gettleman is high on him too. He also has head coaching experience - with the Lions from 2009-13 - and his four losing seasons there definitely gives him something to prove. His Eagles defense is currently ranked fifth in the league. Their offensive coordinator (Frank Reich) might turn out to be the hotter candidate, but Schwartz is obviously the more proven coach.
Mike Smith, Buccaneers defensive coordinator - He was the surprise runner-up to McAdoo in 2016. His Bucs defense is struggling, which doesn't help his case. Also, the Giants might want an offensive guy (again) given the immense problems they're having on that side of the ball. Smith is a good friend of Tom Coughlin and has a little Coughlin in him - both of which will weight heavily with Gettleman, Mara and Tisch -- so maybe he could restore some of the discipline that has recently disappeared. Also, though he was pretty successful in Atlanta, he's got something to prove after going 10-22 in his last two years with the Falcons, then watching Dan Quinn take them to the Super Bowl two years later.
Steve Spagnuolo, Giants interim head coach - He checks absolutely all the boxes for Mara. The Giants know him well. He's been one of their most popular assistants ever since his defense powered the Giants to their Super Bowl XLII championship. He has head coaching experience, with the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. And he definitely has something to prove after going 10-38 during his tenure. But he'd be an absolutely impossible sell now, especially after what will likely be an 0-4 finish, during which time he seemed to have no plan for dealing with his quarterback situation or his troubled young cornerback Eli Apple. Also, aside from 2016, his defenses have been absolutely terrible in three of his last four seasons as a defensive coordinator (with the Saints and then the Giants), and all of the Giants' discipline issues this year were on his side of the ball. He's a terrific guy and hopefully will get another shot someday. He'll get an interview with the Giants because it was promised, but his second chance can't be here.
Nick Saban, Alabama head coach - If you believe comedian Tom Arnold and boxing promoter Bob Arum, Saban tried to get the Giants job two years ago when Arum called Steve Tisch and tried to broker a deal. The Giants also almost hired Saban way back in 1997 - before Gettleman arrived, by the way -- and thought about him again in 2004, and Saban's interest in the job has long been an open secret. Apparently he wanted a $10 million salary two years ago, so his candidacy got nowhere. Would Mara and Tisch be frustrated enough with years of losing to pay it this time? Yes, Saban is 66, but Bill Belichick is 65 and Coughlin won a Super Bowl at 65 and their new GM is 66. Maybe Saban could bring along his eventual successor to groom, too. Of course, it's hard to see him working with Gettleman - or any GM, really.
Todd Haley, Steelers offensive coordinator - He would've been a tremendous candidate two years ago, but he reportedly told people at the time that he was not interested in becoming a head coach again. Things have since changed. The Steelers offense currently ranks 10th, and if it holds it would be their fourth straight Top 10 season. He also got a raw deal in his first stint as a head coach, with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-11. He won the AFC West with a 10-6 record in 2010, but then got fired midseason (with a 5-8 record) in 2011. He's also a Bill Parcells disciple (he was his WRs coach with the Jets from 1997-2000) and if you're looking for a connection to the Giants, never underestimate those family ties between the Maras and the Rooneys.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach - There are always rumors that Harbaugh wants back into the NFL, despite being only at Michigan for three seasons. He certainly was a rousing success during his short NFL tenure in San Francisco, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl. What makes him unlikely is his strong personality and a possible desire for total control of a franchise, which is a non-starter for the Giants, especially now that they hired a GM who believes in their organizational structure.
Other names to watch: Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer.