Throughout all of the difficulties of the past two seasons, especially the gut-wrenching losses the past few weeks, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has preached to his players that he wants them to stand tall, to be dignified, to accept responsibility for their own shortcomings. During a conference call Monday, Coughlin provided a shining example of how to do exactly that.
Told that Eli Manning had earlier tried to absolve the coach of much of the blame for Sunday's loss to Jacksonville by saying that "it's not his fault I fumble for a TD or Larry Donnell fumbles for a TD," Coughlin refused to take the out.
"I am responsible. I accept the full responsibility," Coughlin said emphatically. "Whatever price has to be paid for that full responsibility it starts right here with me."
That price, of course, could ultimately be the end of a coaching career that has seen him win two Super Bowls and might get him to the Hall of Fame. Coughlin refused to be drawn into a discussion about his future.
"This thing is not about me. I'm not interested in discussing my circumstance whatsoever," Coughlin said.
The coach did, however, bristle when asked if the losing had made him question whether or not he can still do the job. "Not in the least," Coughlin said.
Coughlin said he doesn't listen to the criticism from outside the organization.
"I don't listen to any of that stuff. I try to pay attention and do the job to the best of my ability and my concern is with my coaches and my team. Our organization, everybody in the Giants organization, lives and dies with how this football team does. I understand that completely," Coughlin said. "The responsibility that I have to my coaches and my players and to our owners, we're going to work our ever-lovin' off to try to find a way to win a game. That's all, at this point in time, that we can do."
The coach knows, however, that there are calls for his job. And he knows his players have heard them. So, he addrssed them when he met with the team on Monday morning.
"The players know together how frustrated we are, that we do know that the outside world will have a tendency not to speak very kindly of us and our support comes from each other and that together we're being tested perhaps like we've never been tested before," Coughlin said. "I've got some young guys in the room that have never been through anything like this, I'm sure. I referred to them and I referred to the old guy standing in the front of the room talking that's never been through anything like that. What I really do believe is that, and you come to these conclusions if you give yourself a little bit of time...right after the game is not a great time, as you well can imagine, when a game is that frustrating. Stand tall, represent what you believe in. Make sure that all your discussions and all of your comments are in the best interest of your team and supportive of your teammates, and my concern is really with all the young guys in the room, my concern is not about me and that's what I was trying to put them at ease about. Don't worry about me. I'm worried about you."
Asked about post-game comments from Odell Beckham and Antrel Rolle that could interpreted as critical of the coaching staff, Coughlin passed them off.
"I think it's more frustration than anything else," Coughlin said. "I don't think they're being disrespectful."