Thursday, January 13, 2011
Perry Fewell likely back with Giants
By Ohm Youngmisuk
After a whirlwind week of interviews, Perry Fewell will be returning for another season with the New York Giants.
The Giants defensive coordinator interviewed with the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns, and all three hired head coaches this week.
The Panthers went with former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as their head coach earlier this week and then the Browns and Broncos both announced their choices on Thursday. Cleveland hired Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and the Broncos announced former Panthers head coach John Fox as their new man.
That means, barring something unexpected, Fewell will likely have to wait another year for a head-coaching shot. The Oakland Raiders are still searching for a head coach and have been secretive about who they are considering, but the team's offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, reportedly is the leading candidate. Fewell has not been linked to the Raiders' vacancy.
Fewell, who just completed his first year as Giants defensive coordinator, started his head-coaching interview tour last week when he met with Carolina brass in New York. He went to Denver on Sunday to interview with John Elway, Broncos vice president of football operations. And on Tuesday he was in Cleveland huddling with the Browns.
The 49ers asked for permission to talk to Fewell but hired Jim Harbaugh.
Fewell became a head-coaching candidate after turning the Giants defense into a top-three unit for most of the season until five bad quarters against the Eagles and Packers contributed to the defense's final year-end ranking of seventh. The Giants' defense surrendered a 31-10 lead in the final eight minutes of a 38-31 loss to Philadelphia before being trounced in Green Bay the following week for 45 points.
Under Fewell, the Giants led the NFL in takeaways (39) and fumble recoveries (23), which was the league's highest total since 2000. They finished fifth in the NFL in sacks (46.0), and defensive end Osi Umenyiora tied an NFL record with 10 forced fumbles.
Umenyiora and defensive end Justin Tuck will be thrilled to have Fewell back. Defensive players praised Fewell weekly for his game plans and ability to connect with his unit. He had great success utilizing three safeties -- Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant -- most of the year. And up until the final eight minutes against Philadelphia, Fewell provided a bit of a blueprint on how to deal with Michael Vick as the Giants were able to dominate the Eagles for the majority of that game.
His defense could be better next season if Mathias Kiwanuka is able to return from a neck injury. Kiwanuka's contract is up and general manager Jerry Reese said the team could offer the defensive end a one-year deal to re-establish his worth once Kiwanuka is cleared to play football. Fewell loves Kiwanuka, who was the Giants' most versatile defender because he could play both defensive end and linebacker.
While Fewell will be determined to redeem his defense after the Philadelphia and Green Bay debacles, the defensive guru ultimately longs to become a head coach.
He got a taste for it during his final year in Buffalo when he was the interim head coach, and he made his intentions clear during an interview with the Broncos.
"It's constantly on your mind," Fewell told the Broncos website on his way from the airport to the Denver interview. "It's a situation that you are so excited about that you are ready to jump out of your skin."
"But you've got all these plans that you want to put into action," Fewell continued. "You have these beliefs and you're trying to draw upon your years of experience in coaching to say 'Yes, I can do this job; yes, I can relate to the management staff, I can identify with the fans and I can help coach and teach the players.' And we can put together a quality staff.
"It seems like your dreams are like almost coming true, but then they haven't come true yet."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.