Tom Coughlin may be known as a successful football coach today, but during his senior year at Waterloo High School in Waterloo, NY, Coughlin reportedly passed a test that would allow him to gain entrance to a seminary school.
Instead, Coughlin opted to go to Syracuse University, where he built on his high school varsity football success. Coughlin set the school's single-season pass receiving record in 1967 as a wing back.
Coughlin's success as a player translated to his career as a coach. He had a successful three-year stint as a head coach at Rochester University of Technology in the early 1970s before taking a 17-year hiatus from head coaching duties.
One of the most influential people Coughlin met in this time period as he worked for various college and professional teams as an offensive coordinator, wide receiver coach, and quarterback coach was Bill Parcells. In Coughlin's first stint with the Giants from 1988 to 1990, he worked as a wide receiver coach under Parcells. Coughlin reportedly inherited many of his coaching characteristics, including his discipline style and his detail-oriented approach to the game, from his mentor.
When Coughlin returned to Boston College at the end of the 1990 season, he showed a glimpse of what he would be able to do with teams on the professional level. In just three seasons, Coughlin transformed the team into a success, capping his coaching career at BC with a 41-39 win over top-ranked and fellow Catholic school rival Notre Dame.
Because of his success on the collegiate level, Coughlin was hired as the coach of the NFL's expansion Jacksonville Jaguars in 1994. Coughlin led the new team to the AFC Championship Game twice, once in 1996 and the second time in 1999. For his efforts, Coughlin was awarded the NFL Coach of the Year Award in 1996.
While Coughlin's first five years in Jacksonville were marked with success, the next three would not be as happy. After a steady decline, culminating in a 6-10 record in his final season, Coughlin was fired in 2002.
Continuing his underdog story, Coughlin took over the reign of the New York Giants, a team coming off a 4-12 mark the previous season, in January 2004. One of Coughlin's defining decisions the first season was to bench veteran quarterback Kurt Warner after back-to-back loses and replace him with the inexperienced rookie quarterback Eli Manning. Although Manning struggled in his first season and Coughlin almost lost his job in 2006, the gamble paid off just three years later when Manning led the Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XVII.
Coughlin likes familiarity, and that is evident in his coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, running back coch Jerald Ingram, wide reciever coach Mike Sullivan and quarterback coach Chris Palmer all held position on Coughlin's coaching staff in Jacksonville during his eight-year tenure.
On the defensive side, this off-season Coughlin promoted Bill Sheridan, his linebackers coach for the past four season, to defensive coordinator. Sheridan also has ties to his replacement, Jim Herrmann, whose staff he was on when he coached at Michigan.
This strong interwoven core, combined with Coughlin's history of turning around disappointing seasons, should help carry the Giants through the upcoming season. While the staff will rely on their experience and history, they cannot dwell on it to be successful. Instead, as Coughlin has preached to his players, they must not look back on their past successes but must focus on the successes yet to come.