There are many words to describe Tom Coughlin's time coaching the Giants, from controversial to great, but perhaps no better word describes him more than successful.
He coached a Giants team in 2004 that went 4-12 in the year before and did it with a lot of questionable decisions and criticism. He started rookie Eli Manning just nine games into season. Manning struggled, losing six of seven, and Kurt Warner left the team after the season ended.
Fans called for his head after only his first year, but Coughlin bounced back.
He coached the Giants to their first NFC East title since 2000 the year after, and in 2006, the Giants reached the playoffs for the second straight year, though there was some controversy.
Coughlin was criticized by his own players, including Jeremy Shockey after a bad loss to the Seattle Seahawks and Tiki Barber after a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was blamed by the media for leading Barber to announce his retirement, and in a 30-7 defeat to the New Orleans Saints, Giants Stadium erupted in "Fire Coughlin" chants.
How did he come back from the controversy? He led the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2007 and beat the undefeated New England Patriots in a David vs. Goliath matchup. It was a fitting matchup, because Coughlin has been overlooked during his time with the Giants.
He had arguably his best team in 2008, but the team struggled after Plaxico Burress's incident and was eliminated in the playoffs. He missed the playoffs in 2009 for only the second time and followed it up by missing the postseason again in 2010 after a questionable call ended with DeSean Jackson scoring a punt return touchdown.
But again, Coughlin bounced back.
Is Tom Coughlin a great coach?
The Giants made the playoffs, with key starters performing as well as young guys, and went on to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots again. His play-calling against the Pats was masterful, especially in the fourth quarter, and he became the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Coughlin receives a lot of criticism and is surrounded in controversy year after year, but there is no denying he is one of the best coaches in the league. Two Super Bowl wins in five years says it all, but he still manages to motivate players to make his team better.
What makes him great is that he makes his team better than it is supposed to be. His team has been overlooked every year, and that's just how he wants it. Despite criticism and controversy, he finds success.
Coughlin's time with the Giants has been nothing but controversial, but he has shown that great coaches can thrive in that situation and find success.