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Brian Flores among names to watch in New York Giants' coaching search

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's a whole new world for the New York Giants. They are offering prospective general manager candidates carte blanche to overhaul the organization as needed, and dangling the ability to hire the head coach.

This was perhaps the biggest factor in firing Joe Judge last week. The Giants wanted to offer the new GM the flexibility to align immediately with a coach.

It's a significant development in East Rutherford, where ownership has always made the coaching hires. It wasn't former GM Dave Gettleman who was driving the decisions to hire Pat Shurmur and Judge. He had input, sure, but those moves were made by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. For the Judge hire, Mara drove the search while Tisch had input and provided the final stamp of approval from a Rhode Island airport.

Not this time.

"[The new general manager] will lead the search for head coach," Mara said last week, before adding that those decisions are subject to final approval by ownership.

The finalists to be Giants GM are Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen, Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles and San Francisco 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters. Each has an impressive résumé and wide array of connections across the league.

Still, the Giants insist there is no "package deal" with the general manager and coach. They put in a request Wednesday to speak with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn regarding their coaching vacancy and the expectation is there will be a diverse list of coaching candidates, regardless of who gets the GM job.

Some of the names to watch:

Brian Flores: The Giants are high on Flores, according to multiple sources who say the feeling is reciprocated. They like the way he carries himself with confidence and believe the Brooklyn native can handle the rigors of coaching in New York.

Sources believe Flores will get an interview with the Giants regardless of the general manager. All consider him a viable option and someone they should at least speak with about the opening. It doesn't hurt that Flores worked with Peters in New England (2004-08) and there is familiarity with Poles through their Boston College backgrounds.

Flores has attracted interest from multiple teams after being fired by the Miami Dolphins last week. He already interviewed with the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans, but a source with knowledge of his thinking says the Giants would be his first choice.

Flores has an experience advantage because he already has been a head coach who has had some degree of success. He had a 24-25 record in three years with the Dolphins, which included finishing 9-8 this past season after starting 1-7.

It doesn't mean Flores would be a slam dunk regardless of the general manager hire. A discussion needs to be had about what went wrong in Miami and the Giants' quarterback situation. Sources said Flores' affinity for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who is facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior and requested a trade a year ago, is real, and it's unknown how the traditionally conservative Giants organization and the new general manager will feel about the potential for that kind of move. Or what other options at quarterback are on the table.

Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier: Daboll, the Bills' offensive coordinator, and Frazier, their assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, are the natural connections to Schoen. Frazier also has previous head-coaching experience with the Minnesota Vikings (2010-13).

The connection between Daboll and Schoen is strong, according to a source close with the pair. The expectation is that Daboll (who has guided top-five offenses each of the past two seasons) would get an interview if Schoen is the general manager. And Daboll's first stint as an assistant in New England (2000-06) also overlapped with Peters' time there.

One wrinkle could be the Bills' involvement in the playoffs. Assistants on teams still playing can't interview after this weekend until they are eliminated. The Bills play on the road Sunday against the Chiefs, with the winner expected to be favored to reach the Super Bowl.

This could be one reason the Giants are expected to have a general manager in place by the weekend.

Patrick Graham: The Giants' defensive coordinator received a contract extension last year when he rebuffed interest from the New York Jets regarding their head-coaching vacancy.

Graham, 42, is respected around the league and within the Giants building, and his defenses did fairly well the past two seasons considering the personnel limitations that existed, ranking 12th overall in 2020 and 21st this season.

He is especially popular in the locker room with the defensive players, which should be enough to get him an interview to at least hear his input, regardless of the GM selection. The Giants don't necessarily want to lose him after seeing the way he worked the past two years as a coordinator and previously as their defensive line coach (2016-17).

Graham made it clear several weeks back his professional aspirations include being an NFL head coach at some point.

"I would be flattered to have an opportunity, but we'll see what comes of it later on," he said before the final game of the season.

The caveat here is that Graham was especially tight with Judge, who was fired last week after two seasons.

Others to watch: Doug Pederson (former Philadelphia Eagles head coach), Aaron Glenn (Detroit Lions defensive coordinator), Mike McDaniel (49ers offensive coordinator)