This isn’t because of Matt Dodge. This isn’t even because of the disastrous 28-point collapse in the fourth quarter of this Sunday’s game with the Philadelphia Eagles which resulted in 38-31 loss inside the New Meadowlands Stadium. The fact of the matter is it’s time for Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin to go.
Even if the Giants had managed to stop Desean Jackson, or if Matt Dodge had been intelligent enough to punt the ball out of bounds (or at least kick a solid punt for the first time all season), Coach Coughlin’s time had long since past him by in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
For those who fell off the face of the Earth this weekend, the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles squared off in what many considered to be the deciding game in a battle for the NFC East crown this season and potentially even a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The New York Giants were dominant and looked outstanding in every facet of the game.
That is, until the quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles kicked into gear.
Behind the outstanding play of Vick and some terrible preparation and play-calling by Coach Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants, the Eagles marched back from a 31-10 deficit with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter to defeat the Giants on a last-second punt return touchdown by the Eagles’ second biggest weapon, Desean Jackson. Coach Coughlin threw his notes as Jackson arrogantly danced along the goal line, running onto the field and letting his rookie punter, Matt Dodge hear it for what he had just allowed Jackson to go ahead and do.
Fortunately we all know better.
The Giants’ last-second loss was hardly Dodge’s fault, though his failure to do as Coach Coughlin asked of him, punting the ball out of bounds, certainly did not help. For a moment, you could have blamed Dodge for his poorly hung punt, but a muff by Jackson allowed plenty of time for the Giants’ coverage team to recover and make up the time they may have lost on the lack of hang time by Dodge.
The problem is, they didn’t.
But again, this has nothing to do with Coach Tom Coughlin and his job security, or lack there of.
Coach Tom Coughlin, renowned in the NFL as a “disciplinarian” and noted for his success as head coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, specifically when he guided them to the AFC Championship in just their second season of existence. Coughlin took over as the head coach of the New York Giants in 2004 and the team started the season at 5-2, unfortunately things soon fizzled and the Giants completed the rest of the season going 1-8. This was perhaps, a sign of things to come for Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.
Coughlin’s record with the Giants is 63-45, an impressive win percentage for any coach, especially one whom coaches in the feisty NFC East. The Giants even won the Super Bowl in 2007 after going 10-6 in the regular season. Looking at his record alone, one would never be able to understand why so many fans would disregard their team’s head coach and call for his head on a weekly basis. Of course it is the numbers behind the numbers that truly tell the story, as it has been well-documented throughout his tenure in New York.
Through Coughlin’s seven seasons with the New York Giants, the Giants are 23-31 in second half of the season with two games still to go this season. Of the Giants last five head coaches, Coughlin’s win percentage of .426 in the second half of the season is only worse than Ray Handley, whom only coached the Giants for two seasons from 1991 to 1992. Jim Fassel (.491), Dan Reeves (.531) and Bill Parcells (.607) all posted better win percentages in the second half of the football season.
The more telling fact is that Coughlin’s teams haven’t just lost in the second half--they collapse. For example, see last season’s 41-9 loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers or this season’s 28-point crapshoot this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles.
When things seem to be spinning out of control, the Giants don’t buckle down and play Giants football, they drop on the floor and scream for mercy. They panic, committing foolish penalties and giving up costly turnovers, both of which the Giants are amongst the bottom of the league in, a staple of the Tom Coughlin-era New York Giants.
This attitude certainly doesn’t appear to be the product of a “disciplinarian” coached unit. “Disciplinarian” coaches such as Bill Parcells or Bill Cowher would blow a gasket over those numbers. And yet at every stupid penalty or every costly turnover, Coach Coughlin stares out into the field with the same clueless look on his mug every time.
It’s the same clueless look Giants fans have when they fans try to figure out why Matt Dodge is still the punter after 14 previous games of awful punting or why Brandon Jacobs and Kareem McKenzie insist on getting into all-out brawls on the football field that ultimately result in crippling 15-yard personal foul penalties. It’s the same clueless look Giants fans have on their face when they try to understand how Tom Coughlin has managed to keep his job in New York, the city that are known to be some of the least forgiving fans in American sports.
These questions may seize to be answered and many may try to decipher who is truly to blame for the Giants disappointment on Sunday, but there is one thing that is certain: Tom Coughlin must go. He must go, not because of Matt Dodge or the defensive collapse in the fourth quarter this past Sunday, but because the Giants deserve someone better.
The Giants deserve a coach who knows how to fix things in the second half rather than break them; they deserve a coach who will be able to put them in their place and keep them well-disciplined.
The New York Giants deserve a coach who will not run onto the football field during a play still going on and berate a rookie punter for his punt when he himself made 100 other mistakes that were just as costly in a pride-crushing loss.
The New York Giants deserve a coach who will keep them focused, fighting and will ultimately help them to win, rather than sit back and watch as they crumble to nothingness as Tom Coughlin has done year-after-year.
So while this loss to the Philadelphia Eagles might seem like the worst thing in the world, believe me when I tell you that there is good to be found within it. It’s time, after seven difficult, hair-pulling seasons, that Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants part ways both for the betterment of the New York Giants as well as their fans. It is a step that, while most teams would like to avoid it, the Giants will need to make in order to grow as a team and an organization.
Here is a list of potential candidates for the Giants head coaching position if Coughlin is in fact fired at the end of the season:
Bill Cowher: An aforementioned “disciplinarian” in its truest form, Cowher and the Giants are like a match made in Heaven. Cowher is known to be a very good friend of the Mara family, owners of the New York Giants, and was linked last season to being a possible new head coach for the New York Giants, but Coughlin returned this season to coach the Giants once again.
He would likely want to implement the 3-4 defense which could take some time to do, but it would be worth it for a team that could desperately use his coaching ability and has rich history using the 3-4 during their two-time Super Bowl winning tenure with Bill Parcells.
Jon Gruden: He seems to be mentioned as a possible candidate for each and every head coaching vacancy so why not this one?
Gruden was a very successful coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning the Super Bowl in 2002, his first year with the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were very up-and-down throughout his tenure, but always put on an impressive defensive display year-after-year, running a similar defensive scheme to the one current Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell utilizes today.
Jim Fassel: His name had been rumored a couple of years ago when fans were once again calling for Coughlin’s head, but the rumor ultimate turned out to be just that, a rumor. Fassel has successful coaches the Las Vegas Locomotives to two consecutive UFL Championships and is currently being mentioned as a possible candidate for the vacant Denver Broncos head coaching position. Despite his somewhat successful stint as Giants head coach in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fassel is an unlikely candidate for the Giants and any other NFL head coaching position. Still, Fassel would be an intriguing candidate if the Giants did look into him.
Leslie Frazier: An unlikely candidate since it’s expected that the Minnesota Vikings will offer him the permanent head coaching job in Minnesota, Frazier has been a possible target for years, receiving interviews from numerous teams in recent years. Frazier is a defensive-minded coach with all the intangibles needed for an NFL coach.
Mike Nolan: Despite a sour tenure as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Nolan could be a hot commodity for any team this off-season. Nolan has become one of the better defensive coordinators in the league, coaching a stellar Broncos last season and one of the league’s best units in Miami this season. If nothing more, Nolan could be an intriguing candidate for the defensive coordinator of a Bill Cowher-coached New York Giants team.