Tom Coughlin's Biggest Mistakes of 2012
It is hard to argue that Tom Coughlin is not one of the best coaches in the NFL. He has a career regular-season record of 151-121 spanning 17 seasons as a head coach in the league. His teams have made the playoffs nine times, compiling a 12-7 record in the postseason with two titles.
While Coughlin led the New York Giants this season to .500 or better record for the eighth straight time, he still made mistakes that contributed to Big Blue not making the playoffs. But, hey, even a top coach like Coughlin isn't perfect.
Here are three errors that the Giants head honcho probably wishes he could go back and fix.
Better End-Game Management in Week 4 Loss to the Eagles
While the Giants had many tough losses in 2012, none was worse than the defeat in Philadelphia in Week 4.
Your memory probably doesn't need to be refreshed about the details of this contest, but I'll set the stage just in case. The Giants were trailing the Eagles 19-17 with 25 seconds left in the game. They were already in position for a 44-yard game-winning field goal when they ran a play on 2nd-and-9 from Philadelphia's 26-yard line.
That play was a deep pass to Ramses Barden along the right sideline near the end zone. In an effort to prevent Nnamdi Asomugha from intercepting Eli Manning's errant heave, Barden interfered with the Eagles cornerback by wrapping his arms around him.
The penalty cost the Giants 10 yards, and one incomplete pass play later Lawrence Tynes came up about one yard short on a 54-yard field goal.
Coughlin admitted after the game that the Giants should have been more conservative on that ill-fated play to Barden, as shown in the below quote, courtesy of Bettor.com:
I take full responsibility for that. And as I told the players, I will start the meeting off by talking about my sins, and that's one that I will confess to ... We had the game in our possession, we were in field-goal range and we didn't get it done. All of those things, put the blame right here, it is right where it should be. The game was in hand, we let it get out of hand.
Coughlin deserves credit for admitting his mistake, but it doesn't change the fact that it was a horrible decision. While a 44-yard field goal is not a sure thing, it is certainly very makeable for a kicker of Tynes' caliber.
In addition, while they didn't have any timeouts left, the Giants could have run the ball or thrown a safe, quick pass to gain five yards with 25 seconds left and still had time to spike the ball. To put yourself in a situation to lose the game on a penalty or interception, which probably would have happened if Barden hadn't interfered, makes no sense.
It is hard to change that Eagles loss to a win and then play out the final 12 games exactly as they happened. If you do, though, New York would have made the playoffs at 10-6, beating out both the Bears and Vikings based on a better conference record.
Keeping the Giants Focused and Hungry after Their 6-2 Start
New York once again had a strong first half of the season, winning four straight games after the Eagles debacle to hit the midseason mark at 6-2. Their annual second-half swoon quickly started, however, with back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Bengals.
The Giants had reasons to be motivated and focused for each game despite their hot start, but inexplicably weren't.
The Steelers game occurred less than one week after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New York metropolitan area. The Giants admitted both before and after the game that they were driven to win to help lift the spirits of their fans who had been through so much. But they sure didn't play like it.
The Giants were out gained by the Steelers 349 yards to 182 yards. They held a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter but allowed 14 unanswered points to Pittsburgh while gaining minus-8 yards on their final three possessions.
The Cincinnati game was even worse. Coming off the poor performance against the Steelers, you would expect the Giants to play a crisp game against the then 3-5 Bengals. Instead, the Giants fell into a 14-0 hole less than five minutes into the game and lost 31-13.
A case can even be made that the upcoming bye week should have provided motivation against the Bengals to head into the week layoff on a high note. Yet somehow the Giants came out flat and stayed flat against an inferior opponent.
The blame for both of these head-scratching losses has to fall on Coughlin. His team wasn't mentally prepared to play when it should have been. The Giants have had these types of losses too many times under Coughlin's watch, and it is the main reason why they haven't been more dominant in the regular season.
Poor Handling of David Wilson
The Giants offense simply wasn't as explosive in 2012 as it was in 2011. One such stat that shows this is plays over 20 yards. New York had 71 such plays last season but only 63 this season.
David Wilson had five such plays but only had 75 touches. By comparison Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown had 329 offensive touches combined but only 10 total plays over 20 yards.
Simply put, Wilson wasn't involved enough in the Giants offense this season due to Coughlin bringing him along too slowly. While there were other factors, including the emergence of Brown, Wilson was punished by Coughlin for the first 12 games of the season largely due to the infamous fumble he had in the opening game against the Cowboys.
Wilson had 45 of his 75 touches in the last four weeks of the season, mainly because Brown's season ended due to a broken leg in Week 12 against the Packers.
Wilson also wasn't involved enough in the passing game. An air attack that was slowed down due to Hakeem Nicks' injury problems could have used his explosiveness. Instead, Wilson was only targeted nine times all season, catching four balls.
It's not like Wilson isn't a good pass-catcher as he hauled in 37 receptions during his final two years at Virginia Tech. He also caught five balls in the preseason.
Better use of Wilson by Coughlin could have made the Giants' offensive attack more explosive. Instead he was too often relegated to mop-up duty in a blowout or not on the field at all. Hopefully, for the Giants' sake, this trend will change next season.