Why did the Giants hire Shane Bowen as defensive coordinator

Why did the Giants hire Shane Bowen as defensive coordinator

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It took 28 days and at least eight interviews before the New York Giants finally landed Shane Bowen to replace Wink Martindale as defensive coordinator.

There were no interviews with Bill Belichick or Mike Vrabel. These have always been unrealistic candidates. Vic Fangio wasn’t even a real possibility when he made the switch from the Miami Dolphins to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants under coach Brian Daboll interviewed primarily younger candidates, many of whom had little or no experience calling plays. Bowen fits into the younger category (he’s 37), but he was an anomaly because he was the Tennessee Titans’ play-caller dating back to the 2020 season.

This is important, given the Giants’ current situation. The pressure is on Daboll next season to get his program back on track. This made the job less attractive to some candidates who had other options.

But going through growing pains with a first-time caller would have been an unnecessary risk for the Giants, a potential blunder in Daboll’s coaching career.

Bowen’s experience is part of what makes him attractive to this particular situation in New York. He’s already gone through that learning curve. Vrabel, a former head coach with the Titans, even brought in veteran coordinator Jim Schwartz to help Bowen in his formative years as a coordinator. It helped.

These rookie mistakes are something the Giants can’t afford this season. Denard Wilson, whom the Giants interviewed twice and thought highly of throughout the process, has never been a coordinator. Internal candidate Jerome Henderson never called plays. Bobby Babich, who was eventually promoted to Buffalo, as well as Anthony Campanile, all lacked that experience.

Not only does Bowen have playing experience, he also has a track record of producing defenses that consistently perform well in the red zone and on third down. The Giants were No. 1 in red zone defense last season. They’ve been in the top 15 in each of the past three years.

Tennessee also ranked sixth, third and 17th in third-down defense in Bowen’s three seasons as coordinator.

These were attractive traits for the Giants. They also liked that Bowen’s defenses traditionally played a physical style of football and did a tremendous job of stopping the run. The Titans have ranked first, second and 13th over the past three seasons in run defense.

The Giants have struggled to stop the run in each of the past two seasons.

It also helps that Bowen will be expected to run a basic 3-4 defense, but will adjust his scheme depending on the opponent. It’s a very similar approach to what the New England Patriots did during Daboll’s long tenure under Belichick.

Perhaps most importantly, running a 3-4 scheme allows the Giants to use Dexter Lawrence II as a nose tackle lining up over center. He became a two-time All Pro when that was his role.

Lawrence signed a massive four-year, $90 million extension last spring. It’s smart for the Giants to lean on their most dominant defensive player.

“It sucks to learn a new scheme, if that’s what’s going on,” Lawrence said after the season. “So that’s probably the saddest thing, honestly.”

Now, there’s still little doubt that the Giants’ defense will look different. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as aggressive.

Bowen’s defenses at Tennessee can be described as bending but not breaking. They weren’t very good at blocking passes but they tightened up near the red zone. Tennessee has allowed first downs on 70.5% of opponents’ drives, ranking 26th.

It’s a stark contrast to what the Giants had the past two seasons with Martindale. His defenses were more aggressive and finished in the top seven in the league in triples and outs. Martindale caught 44.1% of his dropbacks, which ranked second last season. Bowen made 22.3% of his putbacks (20th).

It wouldn’t be surprising to see some similarities in the Giants’ defense under Bowen. He may be a younger and less aggressive player than Martindale, but both have at different times been understudies for Dean Peas.

Meanwhile, Vrabel has that connection with Daboll from their time together in New England. Vrabel was a huge admirer of Bowen.

“He’s raised me through the profession in some ways,” Bowen said last year. “I appreciate his trust in me.”

Put it all together and this is how the Giants landed Bowen as their new defensive coordinator.

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