As I look back on the Tom Coughlin era in New York, which came to a crashing end on Monday, I desperately want to call it great – but that would be a lie.
I’m a Giants fan, so I witnessed a lot of Giants football over the last 12 years since Coughlin took over, in 2004. The underlying theme of this team over that time has been inconsistency. The Giants have always been what I called ‘sleeping Giants.’
At any given time, the Giants could rip off six straight wins but at the same time they were liable to lose six straight, and in the most excruciating fashion possible. That all came to a head this season, Tom Coughlin’s last, as the Giants lost eight games by just one score, often leading late into the fourth quarter only to give the game away. It was as if the thing Giants fans feared the most kept happening, week after week.
A season like the one New York had this year is always possible when a team lives on the edge as often as Coughlin’s teams have. That’s why his career record in New York is barely over .500 at 110-92.
While far from great, there’s no doubt that Coughlin’s tenure with the Giants was still a success. Winning two super bowl’s is nothing to shoo at, and the thing that was likely the ultimate factor in why Coughlin was basically forced to resign – losing close games – is actually what helped him secure those great super bowl runs. He won a lot of close games.
The Giants always showed flashes of being a high-powered offense under Coughlin, but for one reason or another never seemed to peak. They couldn’t string together week-after-week blowout performances like the great Saints, Patriots, or Colts offenses over the same time period. When the Giants won, it was often ugly, close games requiring a late drive by Eli Manning and a defensive stop led by a great pass rush. Even the two super bowl runs came after sub-par regular seasons. In 2007, the Giants were second in the NFC East with a 10-6 record and reached the Super Bowl as a wild card team. In 2011, the Giants won the division at just 9-7. I actually think the best team under Coughlin was the 2008 team, following his first Super Bowl. That team finished 12-4 but lost three of its final four regular season games after Plaxico Burress shot himself. They lost to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. Had Burress not caused such a distraction – and subtraction of the team’s best offensive weapon – I believe Coughlin would have three rings right now.
Still, for some reason, no matter how bad the Giants looked at times, there was always the potential for the switch to cut on. For that reason, Coughlin has two rings, making his time in New York successful, if not great, and that’s OK with Giants fans. He will go down as a legend in our book and definitely should be in the Hall of Fame when it’s time for his name to be called.