Way back in 1993, the Giants were looking to replace Ray Handley after his disastrous two years as head coach. They settled on Tom Coughlin as the right man to save the franchise. But he chose to stay at Boston College instead.
When Coughlin spurned them, they turned immediately to Dave Wannstedt, the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty and the hottest assistant coach on the market. They offered him the job too, but he chose the Chicago Bears.
Then Dan Reeves called the Giants, who at the time seemed stuck in a desperate search to give away a job nobody seemed to want. The Giants hired the former Broncos coach, even though everyone knew he wasn't the guy they wanted.
And at his introductory press conference, he added a touch of humor to the mess with his famous line: "I was my mother's third choice, too."
That was funny, but at the time it was still a terrible look for a Giants franchise that seemed to be in disarray.
Is it possible that the same, nightmare scenario, is about to play again?
It seems unlikely, but it can't be ruled out until one of the Giants' top three candidates -- Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels or Pat Shurmur -- makes it clear that the Giants are their top choice, too. All of them have options. All of them might have better options. And though it's a longshot, it's not inconceivable that all three will end up in other jobs.
Where that will leave the Giants is an interesting an open question, but the answer likely won't be as good as the one they fell into in 1993. They got lucky with Reeves, who was an out-of-work coach with an impressive resume from his time with the Denver Broncos. He was also incredibly likable with a warm personality and a willingness to use humor to deflect the "third choice" stigma.
It also helped immensely that Reeves led the Giants to the playoffs in his first season. Winning, in the end, is what matters most.
But the Giants don't want the immediate image of being the spurned franchise, which is why most sources say Patricia, the Patriots defensive coordinator, is the "best" of the three finalists or the "most likely" choice in the end, but no one will say definitively that he's "the guy." They want to leave a little wiggle room, because there remains some definite uncertainty in the Giants' search.
Or, to put it another way, before they make it clear that Patricia is the one they want, they have to be really sure that he wants them.
That may be likely -- and some in the Giants organization think it is -- but until he signs on the dotted line there are no guarantees. Patricia is still believed to be the top choice of the Detroit Lions. And as of now, there is no indication that the Lions have moved on to a Plan B -- which means they at least think there's a possibility Patricia will end up with them.
It's also possible that no one will move on until at least after the games this weekend -- specifically the Patriots' game on Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans and the Vikings' game on Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Saints. A Patriots loss would free up their two coordinators -- Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels -- to make decisions on their future. A Vikings loss would do the same for their offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
If they win, none of them would be available for a second interview until the following week, but at least they might have a few hours after the game where they could give their future a little more thought -- and signal their intentions to their suitors.
That's why many expect some clarity by Monday in the head coaching searches with the Giants and Lions, as well as the Colts (where McDaniels is reportedly a favorite) and the Cardinals (where Shurmur is reportedly the favorite). Nothing official, though, can happen until those coaches' current seasons are done.
And that's why Patricia is really a favorite with an asterisk, and why the Giants want to keep McDaniels and Shurmur at least a little on the hook.
But what happens if the perfect storm unfolds and Patricia goes to Detroit, McDaniels goes to Indy, and Shurmur goes to Arizona? There are options, though none that team sources are willing to discuss. The cleanest move would be to go back to Steve Wilks, the Panthers defensive coordinator and a favorite of Giants GM Dave Gettleman. He is not in the top three, according to a team source, because of co-owner John Mara's preference for someone with head coaching experience or "significant" experience as a coordinator -- which Wilks does not have.
If Mara holds that, the only other play might be to bring Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz back into the mix. He was thought to be "one of the favorites" early, according to a source, and the Giants even asked permission to interview him. Their intention was to interview him last weekend, but according to a team source, they had scheduling issues that couldn't be worked out.
The "scheduling" excuse is hard to believe. It's likely the interest either waned or was never there on one or both of the sides. But if next week arrives and the Giants don't have a coach and Schwartz is still available, all bets on everything would seem to be off -- especially since they're unlikely to hire their interim coach, Steve Spagnuolo, or former Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, even if their nightmare scenario unfolds.
Most likely, sometime next week it'll be clear that Patricia is the Giants' guy, and if not, they'll end up with McDaniels or Shurmur. It is hard to see the Giants losing out on all three. But if they did, it would be a huge hit to their image, which is already of a dysfunctional franchise in disarray. They'd look clueless as they scrambled around for coach everyone would know would be at least their fourth choice.
And this time there'd be no Dan Reeves to bail them out.