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Did Tom Coughlin Really Defend Eli Manning?

<strong>Eli Manning</strong>.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Eli Manning. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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In his notebook earlier this morning, Mike wrote that New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin "defended [Eli] Manning's interception-laden season" when he met with reporters Tuesday during the NFL owner's meetings. Did he really? I am not sure I read it that way.

Here is what Coughlin said about Manning's 25-interception season. Judge for yourself.

"He's a great student of the game, he wants the ball," Coughlin said Tuesday at the NFL owner’s meetings in New Orleans, in comments published by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. ""He wants to be that type of hero. The guy works so hard. We don't have many sacks, he's a big part of that. He doesn't let it happen, but sometimes in doing that you put the ball in a precarious circumstance. Sometimes take the ball and go down. And I think that's something we've got to do a better job of coaching and understanding that.

"You don't ever want to take a guy's, whatever you want to call that, the 'will to make plays,' the 'competitive spirit,' you don't want to do anything to that but you have to, in that split second, you've got to try to enforce on that occasion sometimes a better judgment. Like for example, maybe it's 12 interceptions and a few more sacks, which wouldn't hurt our football team at all. That's where it has to start for us.’’

Coughlin, while acknowledging tipped balls not being Eli's fault, also said "There’s some bad decisions."

None of Coughlin's words can be interpreted as scathing criticism of his franchise quarterback. I don't read them as a defense of Manning, either. I read them as an honest statement by the coach that for the team to be better the quarterback has to be better. Which is right on target.