Is New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin coaching for his job on Sunday? I don't believe he is, nor do I believe he should be. Coughlin's job status is forever up for debate, and you can put me firmly in the camp that believes Coughlin is a very good head coach who deserves to stay, regardless of Sunday's outcome. If, that is, he chooses to stay.
This question was part of today's 'Friday Five,' with Pat Traina. Pat agrees with me on this one, and here is part of how she answered the question:
Coughlin, like the other 31 NFL head coaches was not able to put his team through an off-season program. Even field there. However, look at all the injuries he's had to deal with and then look at the fact that here it is, the final regular season game of the year, and he has his team in the hunt for a playoff berth. Now I know some might say, "So what? The Packers did that last year."
But here's the biggest difference, other than the fact that again, there was no off-season. Coughlin has played perhaps more rookies this year than in all of his years as a head coach of this team, and he's still managed to get them to this point. I think there's a lot to be said about the job he and his assistant coaches have done given the cards they were dealt.
Exactly. The Giants have really been little more than a four-man team much of the season. Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks have carried a roster riddled with inexperience in many spots. The Giants, it seems, have been in makeshift mode all season, changing their lineup from week-to-week and constantly trying to fit in new pieces.
Of course, there has been inconsistency. The ever-changing group of players on the field means that is inevitable. As does the forced use of so many young players in critical roles.
One thing that has been constant, however, is Coughlin's resolve. Yes, some of the stinkers the Giants have played this season are hard to fathom. But, this version of the Giants is not a dominant football team. Some of their players may believe that they are, or should be, but they aren't. It is a team that has to be at the top of its game to win, no matter the competition.
At the beginning of the season I thought that if Coughlin could get this Giants team, which seemed to have problems everywhere you looked, to the playoffs that he should be a candidate for Coach of the Year. If they get in at 9-7 I don't think he will be getting Coach of the Year votes. If they go 8-8 and fall one game short, does that mean he should be fired? I don't think so. What it means, truthfully, is that the Giants are really an average football team that just wasn't good enough.
It is really obvious that the players in the locker room, despite Antrel Rolle's occasional blabbering, respect Coughlin. Check the way Justin Tuck responded to Coughlin's quiet urging last week, playing his best game of the season when it mattered most. Check the way the players reacted to the toughness the 65-year-old Coughlin showed Saturday when D.J. Ware slammed into him.
A couple of weeks ago SB Nation listed Coughlin as one of the five coaches most likely to get fired. The victory over the Jets has taken him off that hot seat in SB Nation's eyes. That has some merit, it was a victory for the way the Giants organization -- and Coughlin -- conduct their business.
Am I blind to the fact that Coughlin has flaws? Of course not. He can be loyal to a fault, sometimes sticking with veteran players too long. I have questioned his choices for assistant coaches at times, and his allegiances to guys who don't seem to be getting it done. As much as I have ranted about special teams coach Tom Quinn the past couple of years, though, can you really complain about the special teams this season?
Look around the NFL. How many guys currently coaching in the league would you rather have than Coughlin? Without naming names, you can probably make an argument for five or six. That's pretty darn good out of 32.
The Giants, whether you always agree with him or not, already have an upper echelon coach -- even if he is an old man whose words and methods sometimes seem incomprehensible. Those are not easy to find, and should not be cast aside lightly.
There is, however, the apparent possibility that Coughlin might walk away on his own after this season.
Don Banks of SI.com took a look at the NFL coaching carousel earlier this week and speculated about that scenario:
I also don't think Tom Coughlin will lose his job in New York should the Giants fall at home on Sunday to Dallas, thereby missing the playoffs for a third straight year. By no means has Coughlin lost the respect of his team, and the Mara-Tisch ownership is one of the most patient in all of football.
That said, I talked to one league source this week who maintains he won't be surprised if Coughlin walks away after this season, playoff trip or no playoff trip. Coughlin is 65, and the thought is that he has tired of coaching every year on the hot seat, with one-year extensions being given by the Giants to keep him out of a lame-duck situation. The source said he thinks Coughlin has had enough of that arrangement and will leave on his own terms after this season. I'm not convinced, however. I think Coughlin still loves coaching, wouldn't know what to do with himself without it, and might have to be dragged kicking and screaming from his corner office. My dollar says he's back in blue in 2012.
I happen to agree with Banks. Coughlin, if he chooses, should be back with the Giants in 2012. Perhaps with a few changes to the coaching staff and definitely with some large changes to the roster.
I still believe, though, that Coughlin can and should be part of the solution for the Giants. He is not, in my mind, part of the problem.