New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
I don't really 'want' to wade into the debate over Tom Coughlin's future as coach of the New York Giants. But, like the Giants don't 'want' to be on the outside of the NFC playoffs looking in, or stuck in Wisconsin due to the blizzard in the Northeast, that's where were are right now.
It is what has to be discussed.
Let me admit up front what I think you guys already know. Much like John Mara and Steve Tisch likely feel at this point if most of what I read is accurate, I don't want to see things get to the point where the organization has to fire the 64-year-old coach. But you can't watch what has gone on with the Giants since their magical run to the 2007 Super Bowl and wonder how much of the rope that title gave Coughlin he has used up. Is he down to the final strands, and will a loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday send him over the cliff and into the coaching boneyard?
If it does that would be a sad end for a class guy who brought the Giants one of the greatest moments in franchise history. But, it should not shock anyone if the Giants decide to move on. They have a brand new stadium, they have a team they share it with that has now surpassed them in accomplishments two seasons in a row, they have a Super Bowl to host in 2014, they have a veteran team that has the talent to be better than it is.
Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger asked, quite to the point, if Coughlin is out of answers. It's a fair question.
We know now that late-season collapses come to be routine. Gary Myers called them the "Same Old Giants" in his column today.
This is three years in a row the Giants have ended the season in ugly fashion. From 11-1 in 2008 to 12-4 and out of the playoffs after a first-round stinker. From 5-0 last season to 8-8 and falling short of the playoffs. From 6-2 this season and in control of the NFC to, possibly, 9-7, and out of the playoffs again.
I have always respected Coughlin. Even in the pre-Super Bowl days I always thought he was a quality coach preaching the right message. Problem was, no one was really listening. Once again, it is fair to ask if anyone is listening to Coughlin any more. The evidence is everywhere that they are not.
Giants players always talk about how well prepared Coughlin gets them. They hug him before games, they talk about how he has control of the team and how much they respect him. Yet, for two years now they have continued to do things that fly in the face of the preachings of a coach who has made his career teaching disciplined, fundamental, mistake-free, physical football.
The Giants are the NFL's biggest turnover machine, and Eli Manning its most turnover-ridden quarterback. Discipline? Stupid penalties, blown assignments, the same mistakes over and over and over again. This is a team that has no discipline, despite having a core of veteran players who won a Super Bowl and used to be shining examples of the disciplined, fundamental approach Coughlin craves.
Pat Traina of Inside Football asked me about the Giants last week and I said '"too many thing that should not happen with a team this talented keep happening." The Football Scientist discussed examples of the lack of discipline on ESPN today.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote today that he still does not think Coughlin will lose his job.
Wrote King: I don't buy it. Yet. Not even a loss to Washington this week will convince me Coughlin's a goner. But you can't have had two worse weeks if you're Coughlin and the Giants, and it could be that John Mara and Steve Tisch, who I'm sure are two very unhappy co-owners today, might do what they absolutely, positively do not want to do, and that's change coaches.
I am inclined to agree. Coughlin isn't the one turning the ball over, blowing assignments, failing to tackle or committing stupid penalties. The impending lockout, which could mean that a new coach would not get to work with players until August -- if then -- could make NFL teams including the Giants loathe to make changes because it means you could easily be throwing away the 2011 season.
Yet, at some point there has to be accountability. When the same mistakes keep happening and the coach is powerless to stop them despite repeatedly emphasizing them, working on them, changing the personnel, etc., sooner or later that coach has to be held responsible.
If the Giants get to 10-6 by beating Washington that is nothing to sneeze at. A lot of teams would love that record, and teams will make the playoffs with that record or worse. Teams have gone to the Super Bowl with worse marks than that. Yet, sort of like last season's 8-8 felt like 2-14 to John Mara it will end up feeling like a bad 10-6 if the Giants miss the playoffs. Because it should have been so much more.
It is possible that despite Coughlin's methods being right, despite his preparation being meticulous, despite his message being on target that his voice has been -- unintentionally -- tuned out by the players. I don't want to believe it, but there is the possibility that veteran Giants have grown comfortable with him and younger Giants feel nothing to fear from the older, softer Coughlin.
I don't believe Bill Cowher is the answer. I have said repeatedly I believe Cowher and Coughlin are nearly identical, and I really don't want to argue about that right now. Jon Gruden? Please, no. John Fox? The way things are ending for him in Carolina how can you know he would do a good job with the Giants? Everyone has an idea, but no one knows for sure who the right person to replace Coughlin would be.
I don't want to believe it is time for a new voice to lead the Giants. I can, however, certainly understand the argument. Especially if the Giants lose again this weekend, finishing off a second straight season in utterly embarrassing fashion.
As I said I think Coughlin has used up just about all of the rope he gained with the Super Bowl victory. The question is whether John Mara and Steve Tisch are willing to give him a little bit more. We will just have to wait and find out.