Would a Win in Super Bowl XLVI Make Tom Coughlin the Best NY Giants Coach Ever?

Lou Rom@louromliveContributor IJanuary 26, 2012

Would a Win in Super Bowl XLVI Make Tom Coughlin the Best NY Giants Coach Ever?

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    A victory for New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in Super Bowl XLVI would cement his standing as one of the best coaches of the last 20 years, and would make a strong argument for his inclusion in the football Hall of Fame.

    But would it make him the best Giants head coach ever?

    That remains up for debate.

    Coughlin's second Super Bowl ring would tie him with two other Giants head coaches and his regular season and playoff records are competitive. And, in the NFL, that's enough to make you part of the discussion, right?

    Our job today is to rank the Giants Top 5 coaches, giving weight to their regular- and post-season records, NFL titles and various intangibles.

    Only coaches with at least four full seasons as head coach of the New York Football Giants were considered.

    Now, onto the presentation.

Steve Owen'S Grip on Giant Immortality Is All About the Sneakers Game

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    Coaching Tenure: 1932 — 1953

    Regular Season Record: 151-100-17

    Playoff Record: 2-8

    Championships: 2

    Steve Owen never became a household name like his Chicago Bears counterpart George Halas, but his teams were almost as formidable.

    Over a 14-year span, between 1933 and 1946, Owen and the Giants played in the NFL championship game eight times, facing Halas' Bears four times.

    But the vaunted Bears beat Owen's Giants three out of four times in the championship game.

    The one New York victory? The famous “Sneakers Game” of 1934.

    Playing on a sheet of ice in single-digit temperatures at the Polo Grounds, the Giants trailed 13-3 before they donned sneakers early in the third quarter. New York ran off 27 unanswered points, rolling to victory over the then 13-0 Bears.

    Owen would win another title in 1938, beating the Green Bay Packers 23-17 for his second and final championship. He retired with the third-best winning percentage of our Top 5, winning 60% of the games he coached.

    Not bad for a guy whose first year as head coach was sealed with a handshake.

Jim Lee Howell Led Giants to the Title in '56 with Great Drafts, Trades

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    Coaching Tenure: 1954 -1960

    Regular Season Record: 53-27-4

    Playoff Record: 2-2

    Championships: 1

    Jim Lee Howell had big shoes to fill when he stepped in for the iconic Steve Owen.

    He filled them admirably.

    Between 1954 and 1960, the Giants played in three NFL Title games, and demolished George Halas' Bears 47-7 in the 1956 NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium.

    But perhaps even more impressive than his playoff prowess was Howell's success in the draft, which ironically was instituted because of the Giants and Chicago Bears' early domination of the league.

    In his short tenure, Howell drafted future Hall of Famers Sam Huff, Don Maynard and Frank Gifford.

    He also traded for eventual Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli from the Los Angeles Rams.

    On top of that, Howell had an eye for coaching talent as well. His first major moves as Giants head coach?

    To hire away a little known assistant coach at West Point named Vince Lombardi to lead the offense. Next, he took a quiet but determined defensive standout, Tom Landry, and converted him to a defensive coordinator.

Allie Sherman Started Hot, but Fell on Hard Times

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    Coaching Tenure: 1961-1968

    Regular Season Record: 57-51-4

    Playoff Record: 0-3

    Championships: 0

    Allie Sherman enjoyed one of the best, albeit brief, runs in Giants history, leading Big Blue to three straight NFL title games between 1961 and 1963.

    In that span the Giants went 33-8, earning three straight NFL Eastern Division championships, but could never get past their Western Division opponents.

    In 1961, they were demolished by the Green Bay Packers, 37-0. The following year they faced the Pack again, only to fall 16–7.

    Sherman's team, many thought, was poised to win it all in 1963, after an 11-3 year — and no Green Bay in the title game.

    But the Giants lost again in 1963, this time to their longtime arch nemesis the Chicago Bears, 14-10.

    Sherman would never have another winning season, posting three 7-7 records and enduring perhaps the Giants' worst season ever, a pathetic 1-12-1 record in 1966.

    Sherman's record is almost identical to Jim Fassel's record as a Giants head coach. Fassel went 58-53-1, and went 2-3 in the playoffs, leading the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV. But Fassel does not make the cut here, mostly because he never won a playoff game beyond the 2000 season.

Bill Parcells has Two Super Bowl Rings, and Redefined how Defense Is Played

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    Coaching Tenure: 1983-1990

    Regular Season Record: 77-49-1

    Playoff Record: 8-3

    Championships: 2

    After a 14-year drought in which the Giants did not make the playoffs, Bill Parcells re-established Big Blue as an NFL powerhouse with a ball-control offense and a hard-hitting defense.

    Parcells led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories in four years and retired with the second best regular season winning percentage in Giants history (61%) for coaches with at least four years under their belt.

    In 1986, his fourth year as head coach, the Giants won the NFC East with a 14-2 record, earning a chance to play for their first NFL title since 1963.

    The team, lead by future Hall-of-Fame linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, coasted trough the playoffs, holding their NFC playoff opponents to a single field goal.

    In Super Bowl XXI, quarterback Phil Simms was near perfect in dismantling the Denver Broncos 4th-ranked defense, crushing Denver, 39-20 at Pasadena, Calif.

    Parcells and the Giants returned to the Super Bowl four years later, surprising many by scratching and clawing their way to a 3-point victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. 

    They won Super Bowl XXV, aka “Wide Right,” by one point over the Buffalo Bills.

    Parcells retired after the victory, only to return to coaching three years later.

Once 'Terrible Tom,' Now Coughlin Making Case for Best Ever

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    Coaching Tenure: 2004-Present

    Regular Season Record: 74-54

    Playoff Record: 7-3

    Championships: 1 (2?)

    Hard to believe that Tom Coughlin is on the brink of his second Super Bowl victory in four years.

    Just six weeks ago, mired at 7-7 despite quarterback Eli Manning's best season ever, fans and the NY media were deep into the throes of the annual Fire Coughlin ritual.

    It's amazing what a five-game winning streak — including two solid road playoff wins — can do for your future in the Giants' Ring of Honor, and, dare we say it, the halls of Canton?

    Coughlin currently ranks 4th in Big Blue history, for coaches with at least four years under their belt, with a .580 winning percentage. With a win in Indianapolis, Coughlin would become only the third Giants coach with two titles, tying Parcells and Owen.

    Like his star quarterback, Coughlin has overcome a lot of adversity in his tenure as Giants head coach. He heard the boos and catcalls early and often in New York — from fans when he benched Kurt Warner in 2004 and by players, who bucked his disciplinarian ways.

    But today few are questioning Coughlin and a victory in XLVI cements his position in the Top 5.

Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry: How Could They Not Make This List?

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    Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi never coached a game for the New York Football Giants — not as head coaches at least — but their impact on the game and the franchise merits mention here.

    Jim Lee Howell, who hired both Lombardi and Landry in his first year as head coach, often joked about how easy the dynamic duo made his job.

    "I just blow up the footballs and keep order," Howell told one reporter after a game.

    Even a just-discovering-the-game adolescent knows who Vince Lombardi is — it is, after all, his name on the Super Bowl trophy.

    And with good cause.

    Lombardi won three straight championships with the Green Bay Packers, including the first two Super Bowls, and won five titles in seven years. He compiled a 105–35–6 record, a ..740 winning percentage and never once endured a losing season.

    Tom Landry, his partner in football fedoras, was not too shabby either.

    Landry won two Super Bowls, five NFC titles, and has the third most wins in coaching history, with 270. 

    Landry lead the Dallas Cowboys to 20 straight winning seasons, from 1966 to 1985, and his 20 career playoff victories remain the most in NFL history.

    So, who was the Giants best coach ever? Some might say it was one of two guys who never actually held the clipboard.

And the Winner Is? Bill Parcells, by a Yard

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    Bill Parcells is the best head coach in New York Football Giants History.

    He won two Super Bowls in four years with the Giants and redefined how the game is played.

    He bucked tradition by freeing up Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor so he could terrorize NFL quarterbacks, and countless head coaches mimicked his ball control offense and stingy run defense.

    With a win in Super Bowl XLVI, Tom Coughlin would match Parcells in NFL titles and playoff wins, but only one man can be No. 1

    So, what's the tie breaker, you ask?

    Intangibles: Parcells made the Giants relevant again. After 20 years as an NFL doormat, the Giants and its Big Blue Wrecking Crew reinvigorated a moribund franchise and New York has never looked back.

    While the team has had its ups and downs since Parcells' arrival, it has never dropped off into the abyss of 1966 and Joe Pisarcik since.

    The Others, in No Particular Order

    Howell merits consideration, with one NFL title, a .663 winning percentage and seven straight winning seasons. But he did that with two would-be Hall of Fame coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry on staff.

    Steve Owen earned his place in Giants history, but he was the Bobby Cox of the NFL, always a bridesmaid (rarely) a bride, winning only two championships in 23 years.

    And Allie Sherman? Well, he had a great winning percentage but never won when it counted.