Tom Coughlin's Giants' career is coming to an end. When he takes the field at MetLife Stadium, Sunday afternoon to see his Giants square off with the equally hapless Philadelphia Eagles, he will be doing so for the final time as head coach.
According to Fox Sports NFL Insider, and former Giants beat writer, Mike Garafolo, Coughlin will step down as head coach of Big Blue on Monday. There was no word whether this was a plan devised by both Coughlin and the front office, or if its Coughlin on his own, but one would have to imagine it's more the former than the ladder.
There is no dignity in losing one's job, no matter how successful one is in doing it. The Giants are trying to do their best to mask what is obvious, the Giants feel they need to fire Coughlin after failing to reach the playoffs the past four years.
By stepping down, Coughlin leaves a dysfunctional franchise that is not all his doing. While one can blame him for poor in game coaching at times this year, he was not given a true "Tom Coughlin-like" team this year, or for the past couple years. He has seen his best players get old, retire and not get replaced. He had presided over two different offensive coordinators in recent years, Kevin Gillbride and Ben McAdoo. Neither did anything to change the complexion of a bleak unit. He had several defensive coordinators, including Steve Spagnulo, twice, and Perry Fewell. Both suffered from an undermanned defenses that battled injuries at every turn.
This year, Coughlin managed to keep his Giants in just about every game. They had the lead in the fourth quarter in five of their losses this year. Were it not for some incompetent execution on both sides of the football, perhaps were talking about the Giants getting ready for the loser of the Green Bay-Minnesota game in the Wild Card playoffs.
If anyone else should take the fall for this mess, it should be General Manager Jerry Reese, who seems to be getting a pass as of Saturday night. He should be fired along with Coughlin, since he constructed this bastardization of a roster. Reese rode on the coattails of Ernie Accorsi, and when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, Reese took all the credit. Since then, the talent has gotten weaker with each passing season, and the Giants, as a result, less competitive.
When I think of the Coughlin era, I am reminded of a coach who was not always beloved by his own players or the fanbase in the early years, before slowly growing on people once he figured out a new way to succeed on and off the field. Even with the success, it wasn't always an easy relationship.
Let us not forget, Coughlin was very close to being fired in 2006 when the team was struggling to finish at .500. Yet it was Coughlin's toughest critic, Tiki Barber, who carried the Giants to a Week 17 win over the Redskins to get Big Blue into the postseason and save Coughlin's behind.
The next season, the Giants won the Super Bowl when Coughlin changed his ways by opening up to his players and the media in a way that nobody thought would be possible. The new Coughlin won the locker room over as the Giants staged a late season rally to win four consecutive road games in the playoffs, and beat the 18-0 Patriots in the Big Game.
Even with that collateral it wasn't enough to please some Giants fans. After getting axed by the Eagles in the playoffs coming off a 12-4 season in 2008, and two less than stellar years in 2009 and 2010, Coughlin was once again on the hot seat in the eyes of Giants fans heading into 2011. Some were clamoring for the franchise to dump Coughlin and hire Bill Cowher, who at the time had been out of the league for four years. I remember during the Christmas season of 2011, I was on air previewing the Giants-Jets match-up. One of the co-hosts on that show, who will remain nameless, said he wanted Coughlin fired. I remember saying, what if you win out and get to the playoffs. It didn't matter according to this guy, Coughlin's goose was cooked.
The Giants smacked around the Mark Sanchez-led Jets in Week 16, beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and went on to win another Super Bowl against the Patriots. Two incredible Super Bowl runs in four years for a guy most Giants fans hated.
Off of those two incredible wins, Coughlin was given a lot of latitude the past four seasons. With each disappointing finish, the calls for Coughlin to retire because of his age only grew. I didn't think firing him was deserved until just this season.
While Coughlin probably feels he can still coach even as he officially approaches 70, the fact remains it is time for him to ride into the sunset. Coughlin deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of his era. People may not have liked his approach, maybe they didn't care for how gruff he was when he was young, but the guy won and won a lot. He has as many Super Bowl rings as Bill Parcells, his protégé. He is second all time in wins by a Giants head coach with 96 (heading into Sunday), trailing only Steve Owen who won 151 games from 1931-1953. He is going to be enshrined in Canton for not only what he did in New York, but for starting up the Jacksonville Jaguars and making them into a winner right off the bat.
Tom Coughlin did the Giants proud. He did New York City proud. So if this is indeed the end we should remember the good times when the maturation of a man and a coach made it all the way to the very top.