Shurmur has history with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Spagnuolo was head coach of the then-St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. Shurmur was Spagnuolo’s offensive coordinator (2009-10) until he left to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2011.
Though Shurmur and Spagnuolo have a working history together and Spagnuolo is a member of the Giants family, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Spagnuolo remains defensive coordinator on Shurmur’s staff.
Spagnuolo’s defensive acumen helped the Giants defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. When he returned for his second tour of duty in 2016, the Giants defense allowed the second fewest points in the NFL. In 2017, the wheels came off in the worst possible way.
The Giants plummeted from a top-5 defense to the NFL’s basement. They allowed the second most yards in the league (373.2 per game) and 24.2 points per game (tied for 27th with the division rival Washington Redskins). In addition, cornerbacks Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were suspended during the season for conduct.
Spagnuolo also didn’t have a great dress rehearsal for the head coach position after Ben McAdoo was fired, going 1-3 with the interim tag. Some of the defense’s problems (specifically player discipline) can be attributed to McAdoo. At the same time, Spagnuolo’s defensive unit wasn’t good by most statistical measures and the team needs to make a change.
Del Rio played 11 seasons (1985-95) in the NFL for four different teams (New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings) as a linebacker. He made the NFL All-Rookie Team in 1985 and the Pro Bowl in 1994.
Del Rio succeeded Tom Coughlin as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. He is the longest serving coach in Jaguars history with 139 games and his 68 victories are tied with Coughlin’s for the most in franchise history. Del Rio made two playoff appearances with Jacksonville, going 1-2. He made headlines in 2006 when he wore a suit on the sidelines in a game against Coughlin and the Giants. Del Rio was fired after starting the 2011 season 3-8.
Del Rio’s next stop was defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2012. He became interim head coach after John Fox temporarily stepped down due to a heart related illness in Week 10 of the 2013 season. Del Rio coached four games as the interim head coach, going 3-1. Fox returned Week 14 to coach the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
Del Rio became Raiders head coach in 2015, succeeding the fired Dennis Allen and the interim Tony Sparano. The Raiders went 7-9 in 2015. It was an improvement from 2014’s 3-13 record but still the 13th consecutive losing and non-playoff season dating back to their loss in Super Bowl XXXVII.
In 2016, the Raiders were one of the NFL’s most improved teams. They went 12-4, ending a 14-year postseason drought despite losing a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Chiefs. The Raiders’ Super Bowl aspirations were nullified when quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula in Week 16. They lost to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round.
The Raiders took a step backwards in 2017. The season began with two convincing wins over the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets before losing five of seven games before their bye week. After the bye, they lost five of their final seven games (one of their victories was against the Eli Manning-less Giants) to finish 6-10.
Del Rio was fired after the Raiders’ 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers to end the regular season despite going 25-23 as Raiders head coach. Jon Gruden, who spent nine seasons in the booth of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, was hired to replace Del Rio six days later.
If Del Rio is hired by the Giants, they may attach to the title of associate head coach given his 12 years as an NFL head coach and extensive experience as an assistant coach and coordinator.
It would make sense for the Giants financially. Del Rio was fired by the Raiders with three years remaining on his contract at an average of $6 million per year. The Giants could hire Del Rio and pay him far below what the market dictates because any compensation is offset by the money still owed to him by the Raiders.
As a former NFL player, Del Rio would command instant respect in the locker room. Del Rio would take the job because he’s passionate about coaching and not just to collect a paycheck. His Broncos defense evolved into one of the NFL’s best that carried the team to two Super Bowl appearances, including a win in Super Bowl 50.
Del Rio would have his work cut out for him if he joins the Giants. The talent on the defensive side of the ball is unquestioned but getting them out of their underachieving doldrum is critical to the team’s Super Bowl aspirations.