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Tom Coughlin in the spotlight, right where he doesn't want to be

Coughlin's status is really the only story that matters for the Giants as the season comes to a close.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Coughlin doesn't want the story of the final week of the New York Giants' 2015 season to be about him. Unfortunately for the veteran coach, it is entirely too obvious that the story is all about him as the season -- and perhaps his coaching career -- winds to a close.

"It's not going to affect anything in terms of how I go about my business this week. I will tell the team not to be distracted by it," Coughlin said. "The only factor that is involved right now is we have one game left and we have to prepare ourselves to play a Philadelphia team in the division that they know us very well, we know them very well. We did not play well against them the first time around, and we need to play much better at home for our home fans in this return visit. That's the only factor that regards whatever all the discussion comes.

"I've tried very hard, and you know this for a fact, the situation is not about me. I'm hoping that the players, they're not going to get centered around that. We're going to conduct ourselves as we always have. We're going to work as hard as we possibly can. We're going to try to put ourselves and our players in the best position we can, and we'll let whatever happens happen. We're going to try to play the game to the best of our ability and win a football game."

Truthfully, though, what happens on the field Sunday is but a minor part of the narrative this week. Will this be the final time we see Coughlin on the sidelines as coach of the Giants or any team? Will he retire on his own? Will he tell the Giants he isn't ready to go, setting up the possibility that ownership -- if they want to make a change -- would be in the uncomfortable position of having to push the future Hall of Fame coach out the door? Will the Giants decide Coughlin's not the problem and continue to put their faith in him?

Players, led by Eli Manning, have expressed remorse that they haven't played better for a coach they have tremendous respect for. Selfless as always, Coughlin on Monday said he wished the players who care about him weren't in that predicament.

"I feel badly that they feel that way. It's a shame that they have to be put in the position where they have to respond about something to do with me," Coughlin said. "Again, it's not about me. I'm here for them. If you want to break it all down, blame it all on me, I'm the head coach, I'm responsible. We lose, I lose the game for our players. Put it that way, leave it that way.

"We try like heck not to put these young men in a position where they feel badly about the circumstances that the head coach finds himself in."

Perhaps Coughlin already knows that it is over. Perhaps he wants to fight for one more opportunity to get things right before he leaves.

Whatever happens, Coughlin finds himself in the one place he hates to be -- with the focus almost entirely on him. No matter what you believe in terms of his responsibility for the past couple of seasons, he drove two Giants teams that probably shouldn't have won Super Bowls to over-achieve and do exactly that.

Coughlin doesn't deserve to be kicked by the fan base when he's down. He doesn't deserve to have ownership let him twist in the wind -- if they think it's time to try something else they should just tell him, and allow his tenure to end with some dignity. And perhaps with a final standing ovation from the MetLife Stadium faithful on Sunday.

If this is indeed the end of what has been a glorious road for Coughlin, let's just hope it ends gracefully.