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Tom Coughlin's Giants: Ranking TC's teams from 2004-2014

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Let's rank the 11 Giants teams Tom Coughlin has coached.

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Eleven years have passed since Tom Coughlin was hired as the 17th head coach of the New York Giants. In that span, Coughlin has accrued enough games to become the second-longest tenured coach in franchise history. Easily eclipsing the likes of Bill Parcells and Allie Sherman, the native New Yorker has amassed 176 games with the Giants and is bested only by the great Steve Owen, though, unless Coughlin has six more years of coaching left in him, he's unlikely to catch up on the top spot, but in an age where nobody's job is truly ever safe, an 11-year tenure is especially admirable.

Now, heading into a 12th and potentially final season with the Giants, Coughlin faces yet another make-or-break year for his career. He's plenty accustomed to them by now. In fact, at his age, I'm not sure if there's anything you could do to really shock him. But the lingering truth remains, Coughlin needs a good year. As I was preparing this list, it became increasingly obvious that his ability to get the most out of a roster is dwindling in the twilight of his career. Another sub-par season could resort in a mutual parting and probable retirement. A strong year however, may coax the old-timer back for another shot at the title.

Regardless, it's important to remember that Coughlin's options are afforded to him because of previous success. This is a very accomplished man and management understands that. This article is a reflection of those achievements. When you look at the bad seasons on this list, really, they're not that bad. At the very least, they're tolerable.

The criteria for determining which seasons were, ahem, tolerable and which were fruitful came down to how well I thought the team performed considering their overall situation. For example, post-season success can give a team a bump in ranking, but isn't the absolute definition of success. Losing one playoff game on a bad day or barely missing out on January football altogether won't kill my opinion of the team that year. Additionally, I took into account how well the coaching staff, and fundamentally Coughlin, adapted the team through obstacles such as injury, free-agency and the fluctuations of individual player performance (read as: Bad Eli vs. Good Eli).

Unfortunately, our list begins in rather familiar territory.

No. 11 -- 2014 (6-10)

High point:

The stellar play of Odell Beckham Jr. was a bright spot. Highlight reel catches allowed another mediocre year from Eli Manning to be viewed as a good one. The ability to chuck it up to Beckham in a pinch also bailed out a porous offensive line. The rookie out of LSU was the only reason casual fans watched a Giants game last season.

Low point:

This team took an 18-point advantage into halftime against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that would eventually go 3-13, and turned it into a one-point loss. Whatever the opposite of alchemy is, last year's team achieved it.

Verdict:

Fans won't be happy to see the most recent Giants squad ranked dead-last among Coughlin-led Giants teams. Second half-collapses and defensive ineptitude were rampant themes last season, but Beckham was so good in his first year that many were blinded to the issues elsewhere on the team.

No. 10 -- 2004 (6-10)

High point:

The season finale against the Dallas Cowboys showed that a young Manning may be the future of the franchise. In a fourth quarter comeback, the rookie signal-caller threw two touchdowns to clinch a 28-24 victory over the division rival.

Low point:

This team lost eight consecutive games and only one of their six total wins came against a team that finished with a winning record. After one season, Coughlin did not look like the respected coach he is now.

Verdict:

This gets the edge over the 2014 team because, it was Coughlin's first year and the Giants started a rookie quarterback for seven games. The fact that Manning showed some development as a passer towards the end of the year helps too, but to finish 6-10 after a 5-2 start is very poor and somewhat indicative of the problems that have plagued Coughlin's tenure with the team.

No. 9 -- 2013 (7-9)

High point:

This team won four straight to pull back in the hunt of an extremely uncompetitive division race. At 4-6, the Giants seemed to claw their way back from oblivion to find some semblance of credibility. However, eagle-eyed experts will notice that the quarterbacks faced during this time were Terrelle Pryor (now a wide-receiver for the Browns), Josh Freeman (camp arm for the Dolphins), Michael Vick (unemployed), Matt Barkley (may lose roster spot to Tim Tebow) and Scott Tolzien (third-stringer for the Packers).

Low point:

Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Six straight losses to open the season? That's going to demolish a fan's spirit faster than you can say "Six different running backs started a Giants game in 2013". The offense sputtered, and then stopped.

Verdict:

Everything that could go wrong, went wrong and when people make the case for Coughlin as a Hall of Fame head coach, they won't be bringing up this season. It was his first losing season since his initial 2004 campaign. The -89 point-differential was the worst in the Coughlin era.

No. 8 -- 2009 (8-8)

High point:

This team went on a run through September and defeated their first five opponents by a combined 80 points. For a time, it looked like the dominance of 2008s squad had carried over to the next year. Fans were not only getting ready for the playoffs, but had started readying themselves for a first-round bye to boot. This was also that one year where Steve Smith put up big numbers; 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Low point:

Five wins were followed by four losses, the fourth of which came against the San Diego Chargers. Down by six with the ball at their own 20, Philip Rivers picked apart the defense and threw a go-ahead score against the team who didn't want him. That game was a real blow to the team's confidence and they never rebounded.

Verdict:

The 2009 Giants only won three of their final 11 games and capped the year with a pair of losses to the Panthers and Vikings. The combined score: 85-16. Brutal.

No. 7 -- 2012 (9-7)

High point:

With 16 seconds left on the clock, Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant in the back of the end zone for yet another crushing Giants loss. By some stroke of luck, that wasn't how it played out. The replay assistant challenged the ruling that Bryant was in bounds, and miraculously, the video showed that Bryant's hand ever so slightly touched the white line. Incomplete pass. Big Blue held on. Just.

Low point:

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the 2012 team was that they failed to make the playoffs even though they were fresh off a Super Bowl win. Sure, they finished with the same record, but it was presumed that the team would build on their success rather than simply aim to replicate it. It always felt like the team were hoping for the same luck that propelled them in 2011, and it never materialized. Therefore, neither did they.

No. 6 -- 2006 (8-8)

High point:

Playoffs, baby. Well, qualifying for them at least. This was one of three wild-card exits for Coughlin and the Giants, and while it's commendable to make the playoffs, it's important to remember that slipping in with an 8-8 record was totally down to luck.

Low point:

In Week 13 against the Cowboys, the Giants tied the game 20-20 and left just 1:06 on the clock for an improbable Dallas victory. A 42-yard pass from Romo to Jason Witten was enough to put them in field-goal range. Martin Gramatica booted a 46-yarder to seal the win. Another season where a strong start was marred by a string of mid-season losses.

Verdict:

Many of the players on this team were in on the 2007 Super Bowl run the following year, and the 11-5 team that preceded it in 2005. Many thought that this would be the year for the Giants to take a leap forward, but really it was the forgettable interlude between two good teams.

No. 4 -- 2005 (11-5)

High point:

Tiki Barber running past and over anyone who got in his way. To put Barber's success in context, his 1,860 yards were more than Walter Payton ever put up in his Hall of Fame career and more than seven of the last 10 rushing leaders, yet, amazingly, Barber didn't even lead the league in yards on the ground that year. Shaun Alexander's 1,880 won the rushing title in a photo-finish.

Low point:

A shut-out playoff loss at home to the Carolina Panthers. The defense did its best, holding the Panthers to just 10 points in the first half, but Manning had an off day, throwing three interceptions and a measly 113 yards, and Barber couldn't find running room on the ground. A bad way to end an excellent season.

Verdict:

The 11 regular season wins is the second-highest total of the Coughlin era, but it was clear to anyone who watched the team that year that they were a few tweaks away from being a real contender. This was a huge jump for Coughlin to make in his second year with the Giants, and it really got a few extra players to really buy in to his style of coaching. Sure, this was followed by the inevitable regression towards the mean, but this season was a victory in itself. Eleven wins? The Giants? Boy, that sure was something.

No. 4 -- 2010 (10-6)

High point:

Having a defense that could hold their own was nice. Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster racked up nine interceptions between them and Osi Umenyiora had 10 forced fumbles by himself. The first year of Perry Fewell's defense led the league in turnovers with 39, which was especially useful considering the offense couldn't hang on to the ball, either.

Low point:

DeSean Jackson.

Verdict:

The sum of this team was greater than the value of its parts, and that's why it gets ranked so high when looking at Coughlin's greatest years. The offense hit its stride, even when Manning was throwing bucket loads of interceptions. The defense held five different offenses to 10 points or less and kept the team afloat for the majority of the season. People don't look on this year fondly because of how the "Miracle/Debacle at the New Meadowlands" crushed the team's spirit down the stretch, but lost in the haze of disillusionment was a pretty good season. This was the last time the Giants had double-digit wins and the team has incrementally declined ever since.

No. 3 -- 2008 (12-4)

High point:

How about storming to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with 12 wins? Coughlin has a couple of Super Bowl runs under his belt, but he never had a regular season where the Giants were considered the team to beat. New York had an offense that scored the 3rd most points, and a defense that allowed the fifth fewest. Because of how many consider the championship Giants teams to be merely a product of getting hot at the right time, this was a nice break from the norm.

Low point:

It was entirely dejecting to watch the best squad of recent memory to go down in flames in the playoffs against a division rival. It was a funereal experience to say the least. Here lies one of the greats, 12-4 and not much else to show. What a damn shame.

Verdict:

I think, with two rings, Tom Coughlin is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but his inability to produce more teams like the one fielded in 2008 may cost him a year or two on the ballot. This was the one time the Giants were a juggernaut with Coughlin at the helm, and it was glorious, if short-lived.

No. 2 -- 2011 (9-7)

High point:

In the grand scheme of things, the good times came from Victor Cruz, but if we're talking about a single moment, it's probably that throw from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham in the Super Bowl. Pro Football Focus experts put that throw up there with the best that they've ever graded. Some people liked the whole lifting a Lombardi Trophy thing. That's cool, too.

Low point:

While hosting the then-undefeated Green Bay Packers in Week 13, the Giants gave everything they had to get the game to 35-35 in the dying moments with a touchdown and two-point conversion inside of the final minute, but 58 seconds was an eternity for Aaron Rodgers as he calmly launched the Packers towards the end zone for a field-goal as time expired.

Verdict:

While it was difficult to come up short against Green Bay in the regular season, they did squash their demons in the playoffs with a 17-point victory that, frankly, wasn't even as close as the scoreline indicated. This wasn't Coughlin's empirically best team, not by a mile, but they achieved their ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl and that's all that matters. An impressive playoff run transformed a 9-7 win-column into 13-7, a trophy and a place in history.

No. 1 -- 2007 (10-6)

High point:

No matter what else happened during Coughlin's reign in New York, he will always be remembered for upsetting perfection. We all know the story, and that speaks volumes to how important it was to the world of sports. I'm not saying you can coach a player to catch the ball with his helmet, but the image of David Tyree rising as an unlikely hero can be seen as the ideal microcosm of the 2007 champions. It was never meant to happen.

Low point:

In reality, it's easy to point to a multitude of flaws as low points for this season, but, to me at least, the reason this is the best team Coughlin brought up is that it won out despite those glaring weaknesses. Two losses to open the year, the season finale where they came up just short, the loss of a potent Tiki Barber-led ground game; these were all elements that could have derailed the Giants at any point. They didn't. That's why I find it difficult to overcome my inordinately sincere romanticism of this plucky team from the Big Apple.

Verdict:

The cumulative effort displayed by this team is historic. For Tom Brady and the Patriots' dynasty to come up short against the upstart Giants was a thing of beauty. New York represented game that was raised to be killed. Mere cannon fodder to serve in the mechanism of celebration for yet another New England title. The beauty of it all was how the system broke. The best team didn't win the Super Bowl that year. Make no mistake, structurally, the Patriots had no reason to lose, but the innumerable different splinter points that can decide an outcome are the reason we watch sports. The 2007 New York Giants are why we watch sports. This is the legacy of Tom Coughlin.