Let's make no mistake about this. Tom Coughlin is the right coach for the New York Giants. He has been the right coach for the past decade, continues to be the right coach despite the current struggles and will be the right coach going forward.
With the Giants having missed the playoffs four out of five years, there will be plenty of calls for change around the Giants -- many of them justifiable. The one change that should not happen -- and has no chance of happening unless Coughlin wants it to happen -- is the hiring of a new head coach.
My advice to anyone who is advocating for one? Be careful what you wish for. You have had one of the best coaches, and best people, in the game running the Giants since 2004. Not all coaching changes go as smoothly as Chip Kelly replacing Andy Reid. Just ask Ray Handley.
Coughlin will be 68 years old before the 2014 NFL regular season begins. If he wants to stay -- and all indications to this point have been that he does -- then he stays. It says here that is the right decision. Really probably the only decision. Name me a coach you can guarantee would come in and do better -- and please don't say Bill Cowher. The former Pittsburgh Steelers coach has been out of the league since 2006, and if his heart was in coaching he would have returned to the sidelines somewhere long ago.
Truth is, there is only one question Giants' co-owner John Mara needs to ask Coughlin before signing him to roam the Giants' sidelines for a couple more years. That question is not 'do you want to come back?' That question is 'Tom, do you have the stomach for what needs to be done to turn this team around?'
That is because what needs to be done involves change. In fact, it probably involves a lot of it. I will guarantee that Coughlin won't like some of it.
Way back in training camp, back when he installed the silly Super Bowl countdown clock in the Giants' locker room, GM Jerry Reese said "everybody's on notice" and that missing the playoffs as often as the Giants have in recent years is "really not acceptable for us. That's not our standard."
Now that another season has gone down the drain the Giants need to face the stark fact that they are not a championship, or even a playoff-caliber football team. They had one glorious six-game run at the end of the 2011 season that ended in a championship. Mostly, though, going all the way back to when Plaxico Burress put a bullet in his leg in 2008, the Giants have not lived up to expectations.
The New York Giants need to look different next season, on both the sidelines and on the field.
That means Coughlin, whose loyalty to both his coaches and to veteran players who have won for him is unquestioned, is going to have to cast that loyalty aside and make some hard, cold decisions to try and fix this football team.
- Does Coughlin have the stomach to take a hard look at his coaching staff? Which coordinators stay? Which go? Does Eli Manning need a different play-caller? Does he need a new quarterbacks coach? With all the mistakes made by wide receivers this season, is a change of coaches needed there? Coughlin's coaching staff simply can't be brought back intact. Not after four failures in five years.
- Does Coughlin have the stomach to look his son-in-law, Chris Snee, in the eye and tell the father of his grand-children that it's time for Snee to find another line of work? Or, at the least, another team to work for.
- Does Coughlin have the stomach to let go of veterans David Diehl, Corey Webster, David Baas and probably quite a few other players who have connections to the championship years and whose contributions mean a great deal to the coach? He had better, because there are a long list of players on the current roster (including on IR) who can no longer contribute to championship-caliber football.
- Does Coughlin have the stomach to look at his franchise quarterback, a guy who has largely been Teflon due to the two Super Bowl rings, and tell him the performance he has put together the past two seasons -- especially this one -- just isn't good enough. Can Coughlin tell Manning that his recklessness with the ball is part of the problem, and get him to change? I won't go so far as to say that Manning's play this season is an embarrassment to those rings he won, but it's close. There is a lot of blame to go around for the offensive woes -- poor offensive line play, running back issues and injuries, sub-par tight end play much of the year and problems at wide receiver -- but much of the blame needs to land at the feet of the franchise player. He needed to lift his team rather than succumb to the issues around him, and he couldn't do it.
- Does Coughlin have the stomach to look at himself, something he did rather successfully once before, and figure out where he has gone wrong? This is a man who preaches ball security, who preaches disciplined football, who preaches keeping your mouth shut and letting your play do the talking. Yet, Coughlin coaches a team with a league-high 34 turnovers, a penchant for stupid, unforced penalties and an inability to stop talking. Is the message falling on deaf ears? Does it need to be delivered differently? Do the Giants just need better players capable of doing as instructed?
The Giants simply can't go into 2014 with the same plan, largely the same players and the same coaching staff they have mostly failed with the past two seasons. Not if Reese's words mean anything. If the venerable coach has the stomach for what has to be done I still can't think of anyone else I would rather see prowling the Giants' sidelines.