Unless there is an increasingly unlikely 2014 miracle in the Meadowlands, the New York Giants season is dead. A third straight year without a playoff berth, and the fifth time in six years that will be the case. Was Monday's 40-24 man-handling by the Indianapolis Colts also the beginning of the death march for Tom Coughlin as the team's head coach?
If Coughlin, who we know has done it before, doesn't somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat over the next eight games and make something magical happen, the Giants will be faced with deciding whether or not the 68-year-old Coughlin is still the right man for the job.
The end is coming for Coughlin's tenure with the Giants. Everyone knows that. When and how it will come are the questions. Will it come at the end of this season? Will it come at the end of his current contract, which runs out at the end of next season? Will it come willingly whenever it happens, with a graceful retirement? Will it come with a shove, a 'forced' retirement? Will it come with a 'thanks for the memories but don't let the door hit ya on the way out' firing?
Those are all questions for another day. The question for today is whether or not Coughlin is still the right man for the job. There are, and have been seemingly forever, calls from the fan base for Coughlin's head. They are understandable. It has been a long time since the Giants played to the level of the championship expectations Coughlin established with two Super Bowl titles. Thing is, the answer isn't as easy as asking the question.
Coughlin has his flaws, the biggest of which -- to me -- is his incredible sense of loyalty. Admirable as that is, it leads to certain veteran players [cough, cough ... Mathias Kiwanuka] playing too much while better players [like Robert Ayers] or promising young ones [like Damontre Moore] sometimes languish on the sideline. It leads to him sometimes keeping coaches he believes in [cough, cough ... Tom Quinn, maybe Perry Fewell] when it is apparent to others that those coaches are not getting the best out of the players they have at hand.
Coughlin, despite having undergone a metamorphosis, over the years, can be rigid. It takes players time to understand him. I believe that sometimes in his search for perfection, and to teach the game the right way, he sometimes sees only what players can't do rather than what they can do. Which is why it can lead to some young players with useful, but incomplete skills sets not seeing the playing time some might think they deserve.
For all of that, and for all of the bad, un-competitive football the Giants have played over the past two seasons, he can still coach. He can prepare a team. The Giants were prepared for the quick-snap touchdown Andrew Luck threw to Coby Fleener to avoid a challenge Monday. They had practiced dealing with it. They just didn't execute and get lined up, and Coughlin couldn't throw the challenge flag fast enough. His message is the same as when the Giants were winning titles, and it's still the right message. The results just aren't the same.
Here is the big question. If the Giants decide, through whatever method, to move on without Coughlin after this season who takes his place?
From the day he was hired as offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has been considered by many to be the team's head coach in waiting. The way the offense is playing -- a complete inability to block for the run, dropped passes, too many undisciplined penalties, too many plays that go backwards, play-calling that is being questioned by the general manager -- should the Giants really hand the reigns of the franchise over to McAdoo next season. Perhaps the head coach in waiting needs to wait just a little bit longer, needs to prove that he can first succeed in the job he was hired for before he is given an even bigger one.
If McAdoo isn't ready, and it sure doesn't look like it, what do the Giants do? Fewell wouldn't seem to be an option as head coach. Going outside the organization and hiring Bill Cowher (yeah, why not drop his name since I know someone will) or anyone else, thus blowing things up entirely and starting from scratch, seems unlikely.
A possibility? Many won't want to hear this, but keep Coughlin for the final season of his contract. Let that play out without giving him another extension. Does that mean keep the status quo? No, not entirely.
Allow McAdoo one more year to grow into his job, to develop his system, to prove once and for all whether or not he truly is a rising star who deserves to be the next Giants head coach. Move on, however, without Quinn and Fewell.
Special teams have been a disaster for years with the Giants. Not each and every aspect, but there is always something. The Giants are forever either giving up big returns, not generating returns of their own, looking unprepared for surprise onside kicks and just generally not getting the job done.
Fewell, as 'Invictus' pointed out Monday night, called a terrific game against the Colts. He was aggressive, using a variety of fronts and creative blitz packages. Unfortunately, Fewell was firing blanks at Luck and the Colts as even with six or seven rushers the Giants couldn't get to Luck. Also unfortunately, we haven't seen that kind of aggression from Fewell often enough over the years. Too often his defenses are too passive. Too often they are confused. Too often his players make big mistakes that lead to big plays. Too often we hear players talk about players going outside the defense or not following their assignments. That means that either players don't believe in the play calls, or that they are not being taught properly. Either way, that is on the defensive coordinator. And either way, it has gone on too long.
Some things have to change with the Giants, that much is obvious. One of the things that might end up changing is the head coach, although that is anything but obvious at this point. One thing is for certain. John Mara noticed the fact that the stands were largely empty before the third quarter ended Monday night.
The last eight games will tell us a great deal about the future of the Giants. Especially as it relates to Coughlin.