Tom Coughlin doesn't always enjoy the limelight, but Tuesday night the oft-solemn head coach of the New York Giants took center stage.
In an appearance on YES Network's "CenterStage," host Michael Kay interviewed Coughlin about a number of different aspects of Coughlin's 43-year coaching career.
Asked what the best advice his father ever gave him, Coughlin channeled back to his sophomore year at Waterloo High School in upstate New York:
"We got beat one afternoon at home, against Clyde-Savannah (N.Y.). After the game, I came home ... As I started to open the door, my dad was standing in the doorway. He looked at me and he said, 'If that’s the best effort you’re going to give, you probably ought to find something else to do with your time.'
"It really hit me hard because, mothers and fathers, (when) they tell you they’re watching the game, they’re watching you. This is the way my dad perceived that particular effort that day (and) he was right."
Coughlin, a Syracuse alum who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Orange in 1969 then returned to the university in 1974 as a quarterbacks coach and eventually offensive coordinator, then discussed what it was like to return to his alma mater.
"Frank invited me to come down for an interview. It was going to be an evening interview, I had it all wired. I worked all day, and I knew exactly when I was going to get home. I was going to shower, shave and dress: (wear a) suit, put a coat and tie on, leave at an exact time, walk in, 10, 15 minutes early for my interview, it would be perfect. Best laid plans of mice and men. We’ve got two little ones at that time, Judy and I. I came home, and I structured this just as I said. Got everything to go, got ready to leave, and kissed my wife and the kids’ goodbye, started out the door, no car keys. Where are my car keys? Now I start to sweat, I’m sweating right through my jacket and my shirt. Judy and I tear the house up looking for these car keys. I can’t find them."
Of course Coughlin would locate his keys and eventually got the job coaching under Frank Maloney.
Fast forward about three decades, Coughlin found himself coaching in one the most significant regular-season games in NFL history.
It was Week 17 in 2007 when the New York Giants were to set to play the then-undefeated New England Patriots. A game away from regular-season perfection, and Coughlin opted to play all of his starters.
The next day, Coughlin received a phone call from none other than former Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame coach John Madden.
"'Tom, this is John Madden, I just want to tell you what you and your team did last night is the greatest thing that’s happened in the NFL in the last 10 years.' I’m pretty emotional about this, but I believe there’s only one way to play a game, and that’s to win. You play every game to win, you play as hard as you can, and that’s what sports are all about. As a matter of fact, I listen to it once awhile, every now and then."
That regular season loss eventually would set the tone for the re-match just a few short weeks later.
The New York Giants would redeem themselves on the biggest stage in NFL history, pulling off of the upset of those same New England Patriots, but not without the help of a reserve wide receiver named David Tyree, who may or may have had gum stuck onto the top of his helmet when he made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.
"We get down to the green zone; we had been using David Tyree, who was a pro-bowl special team player. David was also very physical, and David would come down and block the safeties. So we decided to employ David in that capacity, but also, to run some patterns for us. He would look as if he’s going to block, and then he would—well, that day was probably the worst practice I have ever seen anybody have. David couldn’t catch the ball. When that practice was over, Eli went to David Tyree, and said, 'Don’t worry David, you’ll be there when we need you.'
"Of course…he makes probably the greatest individual play (during the game); I am biased, in the history of (the game)."
Lastly, Coughlin touched upon his contract ... not to be the head coach of the New York Giants, but the one he holds with his wife about his time devoted to football.
"Five days. She calls it her contract. It’s after the season, she gets five days, she’s tried to negotiate for more and I’ve tried to negotiate for less. I’m OK until about the last day (without football), or the last day and a half. Then I get a little itchy because I’ve read the book, I’ve walked around the beach, I’ve sat in the shade. I’ve gone to dinner, what more am I going to do now, besides get back to work?"