New York Giants: Tom Coughlin Among the Greatest Head Coaches in NFL History

Jason RadowitzContributor IIIJanuary 19, 2012

On January 16th, 2004, the New York Giants brought in a man who is now one of the greatest football coaches of all time.

As you all remember, Eli Manning was also snatched by the Giants in 2004, first overall in a trade with the Chargers for Philip Rivers.

Kurt Warner started off the season 5-2, but then had back-to-back losses. At that time, Coughlin made a "horrible decision"—he started Eli Manning.

Little did fans know the greatness Manning would achieve in the years to come.

Coughlin was criticized for that decision because most fans thought the Giants still had a chance to make playoffs at 5-4. Putting in Eli was like throwing in the towel. And the Giants did give up, losing six of the seven remaining games.

The coach didn't listen to anyone or anything else but his gut. He started Eli for the 2005 season, and surprisingly went 11-5, and made the playoffs after winning the NFC East.

Manning had an awful performance against the Panthers in the playoffs, and the Giants were easily knocked out. After the game, Tiki Barber called out coach Coughlin because one of the Panthers said, "We knew what they were going to do before they did it."

In that season, Barber had an astounding 14 fumbles in 16 games, and Coughlin wasn't too pleased with that. Following that season, Barber and Coughlin still weren't on the same page, but somehow Coughlin was able to stop Barber from fumbling the ball. He only fumbled the ball four times, and the Giants were actually considered contenders after another strong start (6-2).

However, a dreadful collapse was in store for the Giants who lost six of their last seven games. They were stunned; especially Barber, who again had nothing nice to say about coach Tom Coughlin.

Barber announced his retirement with three games left to play during that season, giving the Giants another unnecessary distraction.

After their loss to the New Orleans Saints, fans became restless and started to chant "Fire Coughlin." Luckily, the Giants organization got together and decided to give Coughlin one more year to prove that he would be able to turn his program around. But Tiki Barber was gone, and no one expected the Giants to get anywhere without the great running back.

Before the 2007 season began, Coughlin took the Giants out to bowl to bond as a team.

Coughlin stunned not only Giants fans, but all football fans that season.

"That's something that (Coughlin) wanted (to do)," Snee said. "We knew that something had to change from last year. But he's the one that organized the team functions. Two years ago he wouldn't have even dreamed of doing something like that (bowling night), taking us away from a meeting. It starts at the top."

After starting off the season 0-2, the Giants took on the task of beating the 2-0 Washington Redskins to turn their season around. Down 17-3 at the half, the Giants came storming back with 21 points of their own to hold on to a 24-17 victory.

Late in the fourth quarter, 1st and goal on the one-yard line, the Giants stopped the Redskins four times, making that the turning point of a fantastic and genius season by Tom Coughlin.

Tom Coughlin had his team believing that they could actually win the Super Bowl that season.

Heavy underdogs, the Giants and Tom Coughlin were road warriors in the playoffs, beating the Buccaneers and Cowboys back to back to get into the NFC Conference championship game.

That's when they faced the tough task of beating Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. It was freezing there, and Coughlin's cheeks were as red as can be, but that didn't stop him from standing and coaching his players to get his first Super Bowl appearance.

Eli Manning continued to put Lawrence Tynes in great field position, but he had missed two of his three field goals in regulation. The score was tied at the end of regulation, so Tom Coughlin had to stand out in the freezing cold just a little bit more.

It was worth it.

Corey Webster picked off Favre and then a few players later, Tynes knocked in the 47-yard field goal to go on to the Super Bowl.

That was the best of many great achievements by Tom Coughlin in his outstanding career.

Coughlin had just one more game to prove he belonged in the Giants organization. He had also promised to turn this lousy team around. He wanted to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to New York.

The New England Patriots were undefeated going into the Super Bowl, and the Giants had no shot, according to many analysts. They had lost to the Patriots in the regular season 38-35, but held their ground for the most part. 

As game time came, Coughlin's Giants played outstanding football on the defensive end, holding Brady and the Patriots offense to just two touchdowns. It worked out for Eli as he rushed down the field and found Burress in the back of the end zone with seconds remaining.

The Giants were champions. Better yet, Tom Coughlin was a champion.

Coughlin took a Wild Card team and brought them all the way to the playoffs—only the fifth time in history.

However, 2008 was the best year for the Giants and Coughlin, as they were on a roll.

Late in November, Plaxico Burress, the man who caught the game-winning touchdown, accidentally shot himself in the foot. That was the end of the Plaxico Burress era with the New York Giants.

After a winning season, too many players retired, including Antonio Pierce, Michael Strahan and Amani Toomer.

But none of that stopped Tom Coughlin, as he brought the Giants the No. 1 seed in the playoffs after starting the season 12-1.

However, the Giants got knocked out in the first round against the Eagles, and their dream of repeating was shattered.

Tom Coughlin continued to start the season off very well but end the season very poorly, and many fans were frustrated once again with the Giants for not going further.

During the 2009 season, the Giants defense did not play well under new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. He did not bring the intensity that the Giants had during their Super Bowl season.

He was fired immediately after the season, and Tom Coughlin took control of his team, trying to give the Giants confidence and to stop being spoiled after their Super Bowl.

“Ultimately, Tom Coughlin is in control of the team,” Umenyiora said after the firing.

Tom Coughlin and the Giants had a disastrous season, and Coughlin was criticized more and more.

That's when the ugly occurred.

In 2010, the Giants were about eight minutes away from getting into the playoffs, until the "Miracle at the Medowlands" happened.

Up 21 with eight minutes to go, the Eagles came storming back with 28 points and went on to beat the Giants 38-31. Rookie punter Matt Dodge punted the ball in the middle, instead of out of bounds, to DeSean Jackson where he took the ball and ran all the way to the end zone for a touchdown.

Coughlin was in disbelief on the sidelines, as he ran on the field before play was even over.

Winning another contract was going to be difficult.

But thanks to the lockout, the Giants didn't want to be bothered with finding a new head coach, and signed Coughlin to another one-year deal.

The Giants lost many key players, added just a new punter, Steve Weatherford, and a center, David Baas.

The Giants were supposed to be an awful team, and most said they wouldn't come close to making the playoffs. Tom Coughlin proved critics wrong again.

He made the playoffs after two huge wins against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys and stayed out of the hot seat.

“I was told that his win against the Jets last week was the biggest win in Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants career since the Super Bowl,” FOX reporter Jay Glazer said. “They said it really saved him. Had they lost last week, he would’ve been squarely on the hot seat. Even if he loses against the Cowboys tonight, he’s probably safe because of that win against the Jets.”

Going into the playoffs, Coughlin had his players believing in him. But most of all, he had everyone else's in him.

"There's nobody outside of this room who believed we could get where we are right now," Giants left tackle David Diehl said. "You go back a month, and it was all, 'Should Coughlin be fired?' But he knew what we had here, and we knew what we had here, and we used all of that for motivation."

In the playoffs, the Giants demolished the Falcons at home and then upset the best team in football, the Packers, at Lambeau Field.

Now one more road playoff victory (now 6-4) will put Tom Coughlin next to one of the greatest coaches of all time, Tom Landry, with seven road wins (7-7).

If Coughlin does win the next two games, including the Super Bowl, he will have the most road victories by any coach in the playoffs. But even better, he would have four championship game appearances and two Super Bowl wins.

This season, he has got so much praise from many analysts and has the New York Giants believing in him.

Tom Coughlin's seasons with the Giants have been incredible and unforgettable. You can call him "Mr Clutch" because any time he is on the bubble, he will prove that he belongs in the organization more than anyone else.

He has a record of 142-114 with the Jaguars and Giants, but at 65, he's not done yet. He probably deserves the right to coach the Giants until he wants to retire.

Hall of Famer or not, Tom Coughlin deserves recognition as one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time.