Will Another Super Bowl Title Make Tom Coughlin a Hall of Fame Coach?

Matt RyanCorrespondent IIJanuary 29, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It seems like every time Tom Coughlin has been on the hot seat as the New York Giants coach, his team has thrived under the pressure and exceeded expectations.

Many were calling for him to be fired during the 2007 season after the Giants started 0-2 and were coming off back to back exits in the NFC Wild Card round.

Instead, the Giants won the Super Bowl as a 6th seed after pulling off a historic upset in Super Bowl XLII against the 18-0 New England Patriots. He was then given a four year extension worth $21 million in the offseason.

After losing five of six games late this season, there was speculation about whether or not Tom Coughlin would be back in the Meadowlands in 2012.

Now, after a five game winning streak and a trip to Super Bowl XLVI, the question being asked is if he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio one day if the Giants are able to win their second Lombardi trophy in five seasons. 

Some may argue that the result of one game won't make or break a coach's career, or define their legacy, but success in the Super Bowl is a defining moment for the legacy of any NFL coach.

It's what separates Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh from Steve Levy and Bud Grant. All four are Hall of Famers, but not all coaching legacies are created equal.

Lombardi and Walsh are considered two of the greatest coaches in the history of North American sports, while Levy and Grant are just among the best coaches in NFL history.

19 Nov 1995:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the Jacksonville Jaguars directs the action from the sideline of Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida, during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Buccaneers edged out the Jaguars 17-16.  Mandatory Credit:  S
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Another Super Bowl win against the Patriots won't put Coughlin in the discussion as one of the best coaches ever, but it will validate a future Hall of Fame induction for, a man who is arguably the most unappreciated coach in recent NFL history.

Coughlin also had tremendous success as the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach after a three year stint at Boston College. He led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game in only their second year of existence and posted a 15-3 record after another trip to the conference championship in 1999. If it hadn't been for an 0-3 record against the Tennessee Titans that year, this could be his third appearance in the Super Bowl as a head coach. 

Only 12 head coaches have won multiple Super Bowl rings. Six of them are in the Hall of Fame (Lombardi, Walsh, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Tom Landry, and Joe Gibbs), while Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick are all but assured of being voted in one day. The other four; Tom Flores, George Seifert, Jimmy Johnson, and Mike Shanahan could all be inducted as well.

When discussing Coughlin's merits for the Hall of Fame, his legacy and coaching resume more closely resemble the latter group of coaches, which may not help his chances.

Flores, Seifert, and Johnson have all been out of the coaching profession for more than a decade, and have not gotten serious consideration for the Hall of Fame in recent years. Their lack of success coaching their second NFL teams, compared to their first, seems to be a reason why none have been elected yet.

Mike Shanahan's lack of success with the Washington Redskins and the perception by some that his early success with the Denver Broncos was because of John Elway and Terrell Davis, could keep him out of Canton as well.

This is not the case with Coughlin. He has been even more successful during his second NFL coaching job (like Belichick) than during his first. Also, there is not a perception that he inherited a Super Bowl contender and rode the gravy train like Shanahan, Seifert, and Flores.

George Seifert led the San Francisco 49ers to their second consecutive Super Bowl win after Bill Walsh retired and Tom Flores took over the Oakland Raiders after John Madden helped make them a juggernaut. However, it's worth noting that both of them were assistant coaches under those Hall of Fame coaches in the Bay Area.

A win against the New England Patriots may not secure a spot in Canton for Tom Coughlin, but it will continue to shape his legacy as an unappreciated coach and someone who has repeatedly cheated death when he was on the hot seat.