With a win against the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon, the New York Giants are now 8-4 through 12 Weeks of the NFL season. With that win the Giants have guarenteed a season with at least a .500 record. This would make the sixth straight season the Giants have achieved this mark, the most of any New York Giants team since the merger. If they are able to beat the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, they will be one step closer to making the playoffs for a fifth year in six seasons, which would tie the franchises best mark since 1970.
A lot of players, coaches, and executives work their asses off 365 days out of the year to make these wins possible, and keep this team the perrenial contender they have become, but there are two people who I feel are most responsible for one of the most succesful eras the New York Giants have ever had. They are Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning.
At first glance, you might say there are not two more opposite people in the National Football League.
Coughlin, born in Waterloo, New York, fits the bill of a disciplinarian 'to a T'. We have all heard the horror stories, five minutes early means you are on time. On time means you are late, and you will be fined accordingly. He is very conservative in his game-plan. Rarely, if ever, will Coughlin go for a fourth down, or two-point conversion too early in a game. With his career W-L record well above .500, and his challenge percentage being the best in NFL history it's clear this approach works out in his favor more often than not. In his sideline demeanor, he is the opposite of conservative. We have all seen his reactions, jumping up and down, screaming his head off on the sidelines over false starts, or personal fouls. The man does not like it when a plan gets disrupted by mental errors, and will not hesitate to show the world his feelings when that is how it goes down.
Eli Manning on the other hand, appears to be quite the opposite. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, his style of play would best fall under the category of "Gunslinger". He will not hesitate to risk a turnover to rack up big yardage, or touchdowns, in any given situation. He is the opposite of conservative on the field, regularly flirting with great risk, for great reward. When taking his record in both the regular season, and playoffs into account though, it is clear his style of play pays off more often than it doesn't. In his demeanor, he is again, quite the opposite of Coughlin. You will rarely, if ever, catch Eli screaming at anyone, or jumping up and down when things go bad. This type of "Ice In His Veins" attitude pays off big dividends when the Giants are down late in a ball game, as it is clear that Eli Manning never believes he, or his team are out of it, and he has shown us time, and time again (once on the biggest stage) that he never really is.
Quarterbacks, and Head Coaches get the most blame for losses, and most credit for victories in the National Football League, and in my opinion that is exactly how it should be. No one has more of an impact off the field than the Head Coach, and no one has more of an impact on the field than the Quarterback. In New York, everything is so magnified with each, and every play that it is sometimes difficult to see a bigger picture. This is perhaps why there hasn't been a week since Eli Manning has started, that he has been completely praised as the best man for the job by the New York media, or fan base. It's also perhaps why with every two game losing streak early in the year, Tom Coughlin's job is (once again) on the line.
Even in the face of all of this adversity, and pressure both of these men show up week in, and week out. Not only do they show up, but they do their part in putting a winning product on the field on a yearly basis. It's very clear when you look at their reactions in press conferences that they live, and die with this team. The way they choose to respresent the franchise outside of work, the countless charities, and fundraisers...these are things they don't have to do, but they are done. While in other towns Coaches are viewed as cheaters, and players as nothing me than common scum.
With that win last week, another season will go down in Giants history without a losing record. Beyond the interceptions, and beyond the conservative play calling, what we have are a couple of winners. A couple of the most consistent winners in franchise history. The things that make them great are the things that make them opposite, but the thing that makes them bettter than everyone else, is the thing they have most in common, they are Giants.