Coughlin Gets his Due
In danger of losing his job just a little over a month, Giants coach Tom Coughlin has led his team on a dramatic turnaround that finds them on the brink of winning their 2nd Super Bowl title in the last five years.
The calls for Coughlin’s head were in full swing after the Giants fell at home to the Redskins on December 18th, as the loss dropped them to 7-7 and gave the rival Cowboys the inside track to the NFC East crown. Staring at the reality of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year, Coughlin’s troops entered must-win mode the following week against the Jets and have been on a rampage ever since. Led by the “elite” play of quarterback Eli Manning, the game-breaking skills of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and a defensive front that has been channeling the ferocity of the ’07 Giants, the team has dismissed the mouthy Jets, Cowboys, Falcons, Packers, and 49ers in successive weeks to make it back to the Super Bowl.
Say what you will about Coughlin’s comical in-game facial expressions or his trademark throwing of the hands in exasperation to the refs, the guy can coach. Known throughout his career for his attention to detail and relentless work ethic, he has experienced a great deal of success in each of his two NFL head coaching stops. As the first head coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, Coughlin’s team’s made it to the playoffs four times (including two AFC Championship games) during his eight-year run in Florida. Although his tenure in New York has had its share of ups and downs, Coughlin’s Giant teams have qualified for the playoffs in five out of his eight seasons and have won three division titles. He entered the pantheon of Parcells and other Giant greats during the remarkable Super Bowl run of 2007, as the Giants shattered the Patriots dream of a perfect 19-0 season, winning Super Bowl XLII 17-14.
Coughlin has taken his share of heat over the years for being too rigid, too much of an old-school disciplinarian, and for his handling/interactions with certain players. At various time he has famously clashed with a number of star players, most notably Tiki Barber and Plaxico Burress. While some aspects of his personality might rub some people (and players) the wrong way, it’s obvious that the majority of his players are willing to go to bat for him, even those individuals who are not always on board with his approach. Giant’s safety Antrel Rolle has never been one to pass on a good sound bite, and whether it was lip service or not Rolle made it known that part of his motivation this year was to save his coach’s job when the situation looked dire. Coughlin made a concentrated effort a few seasons ago to start being more open to his players, even holding meetings on a regular basis with team’s leaders to ensure he was in tune with the pulse of the squad. This decision has paid off, as he has developed a staunch following both on the field and within the Giants front office.
Love him or hate him, Patriot’s emperor Bill Belichick is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the rich history of the NFL. This will be his fifth Super Bowl appearance as head coach of the Pats, as he is seeking to tie Chuck Noll mark of four wins. The first chink in Belichick’s aura of invincibility was delivered by Coughlin in Super Bowl XLII, a loss that left the Pats coach departing the field sans hand shake. Although there has been a great deal of turnover on each of these respective rosters, there is an element of revenge for Belichick as he prepares for Super Bowl XLVI; he can never wash away the ’07 defeat to the Giants from his ledger, but at the very least he can square things with his counterpart. He is keenly aware that that Coughlin’s team ended his season of perfection along with any whispers about the ’07 Pats being the greatest team ever. What will it say about Coughlin’s coaching legacy if he can defeat the Hoodie again on the Big Stage? There are very few head coaches who have won multiple Super Bowls, so a win by the Giants will place Coughlin in special company. Will it proper him to enshrinement in Canton one day as a Hall of Fame coach? Maybe, might just take a few more successful seasons with the Giants to do it. Either way, win or lose, the 65 year-old Coughlin has earned the right to coach the Giants for as long as he sees fit. The Super Bowl run of the 2011 Giants has officially taken him off the chopping block and out of the NY media crosshairs. Rex Ryan, that particular market is now all yours.
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