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Good article on Coughlin and the Future of the Giants


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Message to Coughlin: It might never get better than now

By Eric Edholm (ProFootball Weekly)

March 30, 2008

 

I didn’t attend the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month, but I didn’t need to in order to tell how much difference a year makes for Tom Coughlin. A world championship will do that for you, I suppose.

 

But it goes beyond that. The man really has changed. One year ago, at the same Combine podium, Coughlin came off as arrogant, short and difficult. It might have been his lowest point as the Giants’ head coach. Although he had just received a one-year extension following an 8-8 season and first-round playoff bow-out, his contract was more reprieve than reward.

 

The armor wore down a bit as last offseason grew. One Giants staffer said Coughlin “perhaps did a little soul-searching” and came back a little different. He opened closed doors. He listened more. He talked to players in the offseason, a rarity before. But he also buckled in for what he knew would be a battle. He promoted a new offensive coordinator and hired a new defensive coordinator. He gnashed his teeth and fought the title of “lame-duck coach,” but he did so more inwardly.

 

Coughlin knew the only way he’d end that talk was with a big season. New York big. And when some media members noticed that he was acting more civilly as training camp opened, most of them chalked it up to a man knowing his job was on the line. But that was just the façade he put up in front of the cameras.

 

Privately, Coughlin was as tenacious as ever to prove himself. He worked even harder, but there was a subtle adaptation to his ethic: He also delegated more, especially with Steve Spagnuolo — a relative stranger — taking over the defense. Coughlin believed in offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and he believed in Eli Manning. Few others did.

 

What must be mentioned is that the 2007 season nearly matched the soap-opera moments of the one before it, and though the Giants had reached the playoffs again, there was no guarantee that he would be back as coach. The team had talked with Coughlin about an extension as the team raced to a 9-4 record but backed off following the brutal loss to the Redskins in Week 15.

 

On Jan. 5, before the kickoff of the Giants’ wild-card game at Tampa, Coughlin was a coach wafting in the wind. Lose that game and he probably is looking for a job.

 

On Feb. 5, Coughlin and his Giants were riding through the streets of New York, world champs, celebrating one of the more significant Super Bowl upsets ever. That’s the margin an NFL coach must ride.

 

Just a few weeks later, the smile hadn’t worn off.

 

“I had it all mapped out,” Coughlin said when asked in Indy if he knew he’d be back as a champ. “I knew this would be taking place.”

 

Joking with reporters? Pish tosh. It still doesn’t register with some of us.

 

It’s easy to sit back and say that Coughlin deserved this win, this fate, but there have been plenty of hard-luck coaches in this league — and many of them far more welcoming than the old Coughlin — who never felt what he is experiencing now.

But it’s just as easy to mention that it might never get any better for Coughlin. This could be the top. Yes, the Giants are a terrific-looking, young football team, and they could be better next season. But in this league, that guarantees you nothing. There has been a recent trend in sports of teams winning championships after strings of near-misses and painful failures — the Colts in Super Bowl XLI, for one. I can guarantee that to a man, under oath, no player who won a title with that team came back hungrier this past season.

 

For the Giants, the pressure will be immense. Repeating, or even winning the Super Bowl again in two or three years, will be very difficult. Not impossible, but extremely hard. Plus, New Yorkers tend to like not staying happy for too long. All those good feelings from winning the Super Bowl are likely to be balanced with threefold the angst by fans the next few seasons. Just watch.

 

So Coughlin must do what is alien and antithetical, against the wiring of every coach’s brain by nature: He must seize the moment and cherish it. Really relish the feeling. He has to wear that Combine grin from here until July in Albany. Longer, even. Coaches who have won a Super Bowl will tell you that they enjoy the win for a few days and go back to work. They are already behind on their draft and free-agency preparations. But I wouldn’t blame Coughlin one bit if he takes a tiny step back this spring and summer and replays that game, that stirring playoff run, through his head another two, three hundred times.

 

He’s 61 years old. Now that Coughlin has signed another extension — a four-year, $21 million deal he inked earlier this month — it very well could be his last. He’s not old for the game, but it might take another strong run (again, we’re talking about New York strong) to get him to stay beyond that. Heck, there’s no guarantee in this city and in this sport that he even makes it to the end of this deal.

 

My advice for him to enjoy himself now, knowing that this could be his finest hour, has nothing to do with whether the man can coach. He can. He proved it. He and his staff came up with four excellent game plans, one better than the next in the playoffs, and the players executed them. The Cowboys, Packers and Patriots all have more talent. The Giants, though, were focused, driven and dogged. If that’s not the hallmark of a good coach, then what is? I just don’t know if he can stir these boys again to that level. It would be miraculous if he did.

 

“Boy, does that sound good,” Coughlin said when asked at the Combine how a championship felt.

 

It should. He has reached the pinnacle of his sport, and he looks to be enjoying every bit of it to date. Let’s hope the new Tom Coughlin keeps his head in the clouds a little longer. You never know if you’re going to be back.

 

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It was a nice article...except for the talent part...the Cowboys and Packers DON'T necessarily have more talent than the Giants.

 

Weren't the Packers the third youngest team in the league and we were the second? I do forget that stat.

 

I think the Pack have a lot to look forward too. If Rodgers can develop in a good QB, they have a very bright future. What I saw from him when he went in for Farve in the Dallas game, he looked pretty good. If I were a Packers fan, I would have faith in him but of course he is no Favre. They have a great shot to make it to the Super Bowl next year.

 

If you want to go down the line of more talent. I do not think the Cowboys have more talent than the Giants. Barber is a good back but I don't think he is that type of back to carry a team for the whole season. He is no Brian Westbrook. They have a good offensive line but are getting old. They also have a good defensive line but getting old except Ware. Well their secondary is not bad, not better than the Pack though. I am a little worried about the Eagles more. Westbrook is that type of back if healthy can carry that entire team for a season. He is one of my favorite players in the league who is not a Giant.

 

If the Giants keep Shockey, the sky is the limit with this offense. I do see them drafting a WR early in the draft. You will see a Burress, Toomer, Smith, Shockey, Boss split. Name many offenses who can tout that kind of core? Plus the tandem of Jacobs, Bradshaw and Ward. I was very excited with this offense during the Collins years but he never had the weapons that Manning has now. I would love to see Moss break out this year. I am very excited about next year. There will not be a letdown.

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