Steve Wilks “will be a great head coach” — at least one of his former players thinks so.
Wilks, 48, Carolina’s defensive coordinator, is expected to interview Monday in Charlotte for the Giants’ head coaching vacancy following his Panthers’ playoff elimination in a 31-26 loss Sunday night at New Orleans.
Giants GM Dave Gettleman and Wilks have a strong relationship from four years together in Carolina from 2013-16.
One knock against Wilks is that he doesn’t have the NFL head coaching experience that Giants president John Mara said on Dec. 29 he “ideally” prefers. Mara also said he wants his coach to be “somebody that’s going to be able to command the room when he stands up there in front of that team” following Ben McAdoo’s firing.
But the Daily News caught up with one of Wilks’ former players at Notre Dame, where he coached the Irish for one season in 2004, and received a surprisingly strong endorsement of Wilks’ candidacy — surprising especially considering the Notre Dame secondary had a down year in ’04.
Steve Wilks will interview for the Giants’ head coaching vacancy.
“He’ll definitely command the room,” the player said of Wilks. “He’s a hard-nosed coach, focuses on attention to detail. I always remember him saying, ‘Why are we high in our back pedal?’ It has actually helped me in my life currently. In life he showed me the little things make bigger things, really focusing on every detail. He’ll be a great head coach.”
Another former player recalled Wilks as being “extremely disciplined,” and such characterizations might be music to ownership’s ears since the Giants are trying to improve not only their team but, in Gettleman’s words, the “culture.”
Gettleman already told Giants players on breakup day he won’t tolerate the behavior that poisoned the building in 2017. The Giants don’t want to give up on malcontent first-round picks Eli Apple and Ereck Flowers, especially Apple given his talent level. And a GM-coach tandem of Gettleman and Wilks could accomplish the raised expectations and united front they are seeking to either get the best out of such players or send them packing.
That said, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who interviewed with the Giants on Friday, still feels like the home run hire here — with a blockbuster trade for Bill Belichick being the grand slam.
Gettleman and the Giants are keenly interested in Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, whom they also interviewed Friday, but he is considered the favorite to join Lions GM Bob Quinn, a former Patriots exec, in Detroit.
McDaniels, 41, would bring an offense with him, something the Giants have sorely lacked for years on end.
Wilks could be a good hire but for one, his defense got torched in Sunday night’s first half in New Orleans. And second, it’s unknown how he would address the offensive side of the ball. He was assistant head coach in 2011 to Chargers head coach Norv Turner in San Diego, though, and Turner knows quarterbacks and would be a great hire as Giants offensive coordinator on a Wilks staff.
But McDaniels’ prowess developing QBs (Jimmy Garoppolo), not to mention winning five Super Bowls with Tom Brady, and his intelligent game-planning would be an infusion of life into the organization. And it would be critical as the Giants continue to develop Davis Webb and possibly draft a quarterback at No. 2 overall in April’s draft.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (l.) and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have both interviewed for the Giants head coaching position.
McDaniels also presumably learned from his mistakes in his first head coaching stint in Denver (11-17 record in 2009-10) and certainly comes from a no-nonsense coaching tree to say the least up in New England. Mara also shouldn’t react to being stung by a young head coach in McAdoo (hired at 39) because McDaniels, while young, would have much more experience as a coordinator and in the sport upon his hiring.
McDaniels is in high demand, having interviewed also with the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. Wilks is also, with four scheduled interviews with the Giants, Colts, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals, per NFL Network.
The Giants also are expected this week to interview Eric Studesville, recently the Denver Broncos’ assistant head/running backs coach, but this process has the feeling of Big Blue zeroing in. They are no longer interviewing Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who wasn’t a strong candidate to begin with.
The Giants also interviewed interim head Steve Spagnuolo last Wednesday and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur last Saturday. Shurmur went 9-23 in 2011-12 as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach and, per ESPN, Shurmur and Minnesota QB Case Keenum, 29, could be a package deal.
The Giants have been interested in Shurmur since the start, but adding Keenum to the mix complicates a decision, and Shurmur isn’t as intriguing a candidate as the Patriots coordinators or Wilks — or Belichick, of course.