If the New York Giants decide to move on from Tom Coughlin as head coach after this season what happened on Sunday will have a lot to do with it. The loss to the Carolina Panthers and what will most likely be a fourth straight playoff-less season will be part, but the bigger part is Coughlin's refusal to deal with the embarrassing behavior of Odell Beckham Jr.
There is no defending what Beckham did on Sunday, though I know some Giants' fans whose judgment is clouded by Beckham's incredible talent will try. Beckham's third-quarter sprint and headlong dive to spear Josh Norman in the helmet was a disgusting act. Beckham drew a ridiculous -- and well-deserved -- three unnecessary roughness penalties. He spent the first three quarters in a street fight with Norman and Cortland Finnegan, seemingly more interested in proving his manhood than helping the Giants save their season.
Equally disturbing, and potentially damning to Coughlin's future with the Giants, was the blind eye Coughlin turned to what was going on.
The 69-year-old coach did absolutely nothing in an effort to rein in his superstar wide receiver's petulant behavior. There was no benching, not even for a series or two to allow Beckham to cool off and regain some sense of focus. Coughlin said he gave that "strong consideration" but that "I want him out there to win the football game."
This is a coach who has always been known as a demanding disciplinarian. A coach who, early in his career seemingly had a zillion rules he demanded his players follow. A coach who, even as he mellowed demanded that players be accountable. A coach who has always represented whatever teams he has led with class, and has always seemed as interested in teaching players how to be good people as he was in winning.
This is a coach who battled with, benched and ultimately released Damontre Moore because of his immaturity. This is a coach who benched Rueben Randle for parts of games a number of times last season for a variety of unknown trangressions.
Yet, in the name of winning a football game Coughlin tossed those principles out the window Sunday afternoon. Coughlin genuinely seemed surprised when told after the game that Beckham had been flagged three times for unnecessary roughness, which is startling if true. Asked if he spoke with Beckham during the game about his constant tussles with Norman and Finnegan, Coughlin said he had not.
"I walked with him. But I didn't. At that point in time, my mind was involved in something else," Coughlin said.
What? "Something else?" Beckham embarrassed himself on national television Sunday. By extension, he embarrassed Coughlin. Taking that a step further, the whole mess embarrassed the Giants' organization. That's the cardinal sin. Giants' ownership has stuck by Coughlin despite the losing in recent years partly because they believed they didn't have a better alternative, and partly because of the way he has always represented the franchise.
If co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are looking for a reason to move on from Coughlin, the coach handed it to them Sunday afternoon. Failing to deal with what we witnessed on Sunday was the act of a desperate coach. It is what we might have expected from Rex Ryan. Or Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Not from Coughlin.
"He's got to learn at some point how to deal with some things on the field," Coughlin said of Beckham. "He made some mistakes today, but I'm hoping he will recognize that and get over it."
How does Coughlin ignoring what Beckham did Sunday help him learn anything, at least anything positive? How does Coughlin look his players in the eye today and demand anything when in his desperation he abandoned his principles and failed to hold his star player accountable? After what we saw on Sunday, how do the Giants move forward with Coughlin as head coach?
I don't know if they can.