Should Fewell get head coach interviews?

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
2:47
PM ET
Some New York Giants fans have been asking, since before the end of the season, whether defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was in danger of being fired. He is not. He's signed through 2013, and near as I can tell his firing was never a consideration for Tom Coughlin and the Giants, who like him very much.

A lot of people like Fewell, in fact. And while Giants fans may be thinking he should be fired, there are people out there who wonder why he can't get himself in position to be hired -- as a head coach. This in the Charlotte Observer, from Panthers coach Ron Rivera, on the trouble with minority coach hiring in the NFL today:
“But it is kind of disheartening because, and I’ll give you a name, (Giants defensive coordinator) Perry Fewell. He’s a great coach and I really think he should have been in the cycle.

“This guy went to the Super Bowl last year and helped design a (heck of a) defense. Sometimes you do sit there and go, ‘Wow, some guys do get overlooked,’ and it’s happened to me, too. Hopefully Perry will have a great opportunity next year."

This is interesting, to be sure, in light of the Rooney Rule's failure to produce a single minority hiring for any of the eight head coaching vacancies this offseason. Two offseasons ago, Fewell got four head coaching interviews. He lost out to Pat Shurmur in Cleveland, John Fox in Denver, Mike Munchak in Tennessee and Rivera himself in Carolina. Last year, when there were seven head coach openings, Fewell got zero interviews. (He was busy coaching the Giants' defense to a Super Bowl title, but still.) This year, also no interviews.

So what happened to Fewell as a head coaching candidate? Why was he a hot name two years ago and not since? He's a 50-year-old coordinator in a high-profile market with a Super Bowl ring and a half-season's worth of head coaching experience picked up in 2009 when he finished out the season as interim head coach following the firing of Dick Jauron. In a league that mandates the interview of at least one minority candidate for every available job, I have to agree with Rivera that it's bizarre that Fewell is 0-for-15 the past two years in even getting called in.

Now, you may sit there and say it's performance-based, this dropoff in Fewell's desirability, and you may be right. As brilliant as the Giants' defense was in last year's playoff and Super Bowl run, it finished 27th in the league in the 2011 regular season in total defense. This year, the Giants dropped to 31st in total defense, allowing more yards in the 2012 regular season than any team but the Saints. It does start to feel silly to sit here and argue that the coordinator for the second-worst defense in the league ought to have been getting head coach interviews.

So that could be it, but the drop from Fewell's January 2011 status as hot candidate to his 2013 status as non-candidate does seem a bit precipitous. Ironically, the Saints' defense this year was coached by Steve Spagnuolo, the last Giants defensive coordinator to win a Super Bowl, who parlayed that success into a job as head coach of the Rams two years later. He was able to strike while the iron was hot. Fewell has not had that chance. And depending on the way the Giants defense performs in 2013, it's possible he might not get it.

 

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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