Tom Coughlin has often been labeled as a hard-nosed guy, a strict disciplinarian, and a tough guy who can’t relate to his players. His now-famous rule of five minutes early being considered ‘on time’ seems an archaic one that has no place in today’s NFL. After all, we are dealing with grown men that take their jobs seriously, aren’t we?
But, I confess…I am a Tom Coughlin fan. I was long before most NFL devotees, including some Giants fans, knew who he was. You see, we go back, Tom and I…
As a matter of full disclosure, I will divulge that I am a proud alumnus of Boston College—the very same place where TC resumed his head-coaching career in 1991 (he was Rochester’s HC in the early 1970s). He had previously served as quarterback coach at BC from 1981-1983, mentoring some guy named Doug Flutie, who would win the Heisman Trophy in 1984.
While head coach at BC from 1991-1993, all he did was take a then-struggling program to a 21-12-1 record, a New Year’s day bowl win, and an epic 41-39 defeat of an undefeated, No. 1-ranked Notre Dame squad on November 20th, 1993. That last one would be considered the greatest day of this writer’s sports fandom – a tremendous college road trip, but I digress.
Coughlin’s NFL career started in 1984 with a two-year stint as WR coach of the Philadelphia Eagles followed by a similar one with Green Bay in 86-87. It was his next stop however, that would lay the groundwork for his greatest successes.
Coughlin accepted the job as New York Giants receivers’ coach under Bill Parcells and earned the nickname “Colonel Coughlin”, a nod to the militaristic approach he takes towards practices, drills, and meetings.
Feet on the floor and no hats in meetings as well as no sunglasses for coaches on the field, this isn’t lunch at the Ivy in Hollywood after all. His guidance of receivers Mark Ingram, Lionel Manuel and Stephen Baker were a key to the Giants second Super Bowl victory in the 1990 season.
This is also where we see the influences in Coughlin’s present day team makeup: punishing ground game, limiting turnovers, and a tenacious attacking defense that made life miserable for opposing QBs.
After the three-year stop at BC, Tom jumped at the opportunity to head up an NFL team with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars for the 1995 season. Eight seasons, two divisional titles, and two AFC Championship game appearances were impressive accomplishments but ultimately it was not enough and Coughlin was left out of football for the first time in his life in 2003.
That all changed after being hired as head coach of the Giants for the 2004 NFL season. A frustrating first season led to a breakthrough in year two when Coughlin and young QB Eli Manning led the Giants to a divisional title.
However, the bloom soon came off the rose as they Giants were shellacked 23-0 at home by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the playoffs.
The following 2006 season was a crossroads for the G-Men and Tom Coughlin as they struggled to an 8-8 3rd place finish and once again fell in a first round playoff game, this time to the hated rival Philadelphia Eagles.
It was widely speculated that his tenure was over in New York but owners John Mara and Steve Tisch showed a sign of faith and kept him on board to prove he could win another title for the New York Giants.
So, we come to 2007. It was a classic season and the one that immortalized Coughlin as a Giant hero. During a fearless three game sweep, they moved from Tampa, then to Dallas, and then to frigid Green Bay in a storied playoff push to Super Bowl XLII.
Super Bowl XLII needs no recap but Tom Brady running for his life, Eli Manning playing mistake free football, and Brandon Jacobs picking up a huge fourth-and-1 all stand out. Upset city and the Giants were once again champs.
Tom Coughlin had come full circle simply by sticking to what he knows: limiting turnovers, pounding the ball on the ground, attacking opposing QBS. It’s what he knows; it’s what his teams do, it’s how they win. Expect more of the same in 2009.
Colonel Coughlin. TC. He and I go way back…