The New York Giants turned in an absolute clunker Sunday against the Washington Redskins, not bothering to even act interested until the fourth quarter -- when it was too late. But why? Why did this team look like it didn't realize its bye week had ended and the most important game they had played in three seasons had begun?
In the most recent 'Big Blue Chat' podcast with Pat Traina, I made two points. One was that knowing the history of this roster, we should have seen Sunday's debacle coming. The other, and the one that goes directly to the heart of the question asked above, is that I sometimes believe that Coughlin cares more about winning -- about trying to be great -- than some of the guys he is trying to coach. It's a point that I also made in Tuesday's "Five things I think I think" post:
Are there enough players in the locker room who understand the increased urgency of a playoff drive, and what that requires? Are there enough players who even care, or are there too many guys simply happy to be NFL players and enjoying the perks of being a pro athlete in New York? It's not a defense of Coughlin, but sometimes I wonder if he cares more about winning than many of his players do.
Coughlin used a question about Eli Manning needing to "rise above the circumstances" to talk about needing more -- seemingly both in terms of production and effort -- from other places.
"He can do it, he's done it before. We've gotta have some help, he's not out there by himself," Coughlin said, his voice beginning to rise. "People have to, they've gotta extend themselves this time of the year. If it's that important to them, extend yourselves. And by that I mean it's no different than you guys (media). Go to the office early, stay late, make sure you're responsible for your assignments, make sure you're prepared, make sure you know the guy you're going to play against, do everything in your power.
"We're in December now. There's not many games left to play. There's no reason not to commit yourself totally and completely to something you've spent your life wishing and hoping for. That's the attitude I take."
If that's not a coach calling out the commitment of some of his players, wondering just how much they actually care about winning, I don't know what is. Listen and judge for yourself. The section I'm quoting from begins around the 5:10 mark of the press conference.
Coughlin won't ever admit it, but he has to know that if the Giants don't reach the playoffs there is a good chance his coaching career will come to an end. He, quite obviously, still loves what he does. He has won two Super Bowl titles and understands the effort and preparation it takes to get that done.
It will be a shame if part of the reason his career comes to an end is that some players on his roster weren't willing to give a championship-caliber coach a championship-caliber effort.