Giants evaluating Tom Coughlin’s future
Overall, the Giants are pleased with what Coughlin’s done with the team in 11 years as head coach. What he does over the last four weeks of the season that will determine whether or not he’ll be back for his 12th.
Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan filmed a commercial together last August. It was for MetLife Inc., the insurance company and name that sits atop the stadium where both teams play. It was shot separately with Coughlin, the New York Giants coach, and Ryan, the New York Jets coach, talking to each other and to the animated character Charlie Brown. It was then combined as if both men were sitting side by side.
Coughlin and Ryan have intersected as New York coaches for the past six years. As their teams embark on December football, Coughlin’s crew is 3-9 and Ryan’s is 2-10. Both likely will, in Charlie Brown infamous fashion, have their security blankets yanked from beneath them as soon as their seasons end. This two-part series examines what went wrong, with the second part focused on the Giants and Coughlin. It is reported from interviews with Giants management, players and league sources who requested anonymity.
When Giants ownership, management and players talk glowingly about their respect and admiration for the coach and man that is Tom Coughlin, you can bank on it. When they speak in appreciation for his two Giants Super Bowl championships in 11 years of leadership, it is genuine.
When they express concern about him missing the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons (three consecutively), his 10-18 record over the last two seasons, 3-9 edition this year plus the fact that he reaches age 69 on Aug. 31, well, that, too, is real.
Often a coach with nine losses (seven consecutively) at this juncture of a season can do little to drastically alter his firing. But Coughlin just might. If he can manage impressive, well-played victories at the Titans, against Washington, at the Rams and finally against the Eagles in the Giants’ last four games, spark his team to rise above inconsistencies all season in part caused by draining injuries, undisciplined and unintelligent play and coordinators who have struggled, Coughlin could alter the conversation.
That conversation is one led by NFL ownership in NFL cities every year after every season.
It centers on one of two words: Stay. Go.
It is a frank chat that begins with “Let’s keep building this together,” or “Thanks for the memories.”
There are four components to that Giants conversation that are essential in what happens with Coughlin:
Any chat about this Giants painful season has to include the players they do not have as much as the malfunctions that have occurred with the ones that they do. Anyone remotely associated with the NFL will tell you that injuries are not an excuse — unless, of course, they are.
The Giants have dealt with a barrel of them, but the definitive losses were middle linebacker Jon Beason for the season in game four, receiver Victor Cruz for the season in game six, cornerback Prince Amukamara in game eight, running back Rashad Jennings for games six through nine and guard Geoff Schwartz for most of the year. These are significant Giants playmakers. This would be like taking Rolando McClain, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, DeMarco Murray and Zack Martin, respectively by positions, out of the Dallas Cowboys mix and expecting they would still lead the NFC East. The Giants have not won since Cruz was lost. The Jennings injury occurred just before the start of their eight-game losing streak. These playmakers, in several close games the Giants lost, might have colored a different outcome.
Again, injuries in the NFL are nearly always considered a lame excuse.
But not for Giants ownership as part of the decision on what to do with Coughlin.
You don’t have to look far or talk much to NFL personnel executives around the league to find those among them who believe the Giants offensive line and linebacker corps are awful. So the question Giants ownership must answer is that the case? And if so, is that before or after the slew of injuries at both or has Coughlin and his staff not coached these two positions up enough to matter?
The Giants ownership must examine if it is still there. Is he still willing to equally light up his coaches and his players while still finding the right mix of praise? Will he ever begin to fully embrace playing younger players more quickly and developing them faster? That latter point has been a frustrating point of consternation with Giants ownership for most of his tenure.
“The offense is broken” was the mantra from Giants ownership after last season’s 7-9 slump. It was offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride who took not only the fall but the axe after running the offense for seven years.
Ben McAdoo arrived from the Green Bay Packers staff this season with fresh ideas, a short-pass emphasis and as a new tutor for quarterback Eli Manning. He would correct Manning’s turnover-bent ways. That was the description and the task.
McAdoo had never been a primary play-caller. His offense, expectantly, was like Pluto for the Giants after running Gilbride’s for so long. There would be a learning curve. A get-to-know-you period. An eventual embracing of the scheme and the man by the players. But it was way too cumbersome and took way too long.
Any measure of Coughlin’s job has to include a grace period for McAdoo. McAdoo is still adjusting, still learning on the job, and how could he not with all of just 12 games in this NFL experience. But in these last four Giants games it would be a great idea for Coughlin to get in deep with McAdoo on what is happening after halftime with the Giants offense. The Giants are being thrashed 109-34 in the third quarter. That is embarrassing. That is alarming. It indicates that McAdoo is playing too much catch-up after halftime to defenses that have completely figured him out after two quarters. If Coughlin doesn’t push and assist McAdoo to get that fixed over these final four games, that alone might get Coughlin fired.
As for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, this has been an off year, a tough year, one where his defense has talked a lot, but shamefully collapsed too frequently. Fewell needs to unleash his pass rush with no excuses, no qualms, with fewer limits in these last four games and beyond. The Giants have not played with enough aggressiveness or physicality on defense this season with the players they do have. The performance that illuminates how this group has flunked was at Seattle. The edges continually allowed quarterback Russell Wilson to win on his wide runs. It was a total lack of discipline and corrective play by the defense and that fell on Fewell. It fell on Coughlin.
In the NFL, coaches get fired. Great coaches. Great men.
It appears up in the air on what is going to happen with Tom Coughlin and the Giants.
But he can still transform the conversation.