Tom Coughlin: Could He Be Fired If Giants Miss Playoffs?

Ryan FallerAnalyst IDecember 27, 2010

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin could be on his way out the door if another late-season collapse ultimately does in the team's playoff chances.
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin could be on his way out the door if another late-season collapse ultimately does in the team's playoff chances.Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Tom Coughlin, like the rest of the New York Giants, was in limbo as of Monday afternoon.

Coughlin has spent most of the day stranded in Appleton, Wis., after wintery conditions delayed air travel and forced him and his team to reserve their hotel rooms an extra night following Sunday’s deflating 42-17 loss at nearby Green Bay.

That’s the literal sense of where the head coach stands right now with the Giants. The figurative sense is equally as frustrating but far more uncertain.

Eventually, the weather will cooperate and allow Coughlin and his men to return to New York. His bosses may not be as accommodating.

Or forgiving.

Coughlin is again in the midst of conducting damage control, after last week’s historical collapse at home against Philadelphia and Sunday’s no-show versus the Packers have the Giants reeling in a late-season collapse that has become very familiar during his tenure.

Two weeks ago, the 9-4 Giants seemed to be a lock for at least the No. 6 seed in the NFC, and were in hot pursuit of the Eagles for the NFC East title and a home playoff game. Even the No. 2 seed and its accompanying off week were in reach.

New York is now 9-6, and if you listen closely, you can hear the bottom falling out.

Not only do the Giants need to win their season finale at Washington in addition to receiving help from at least one team, but morale is seemingly in the tubes, leading to concerns over whether this latest nosedive should lead to Coughlin’s termination.

It was only three seasons ago that Coughlin engineered the most dramatic upset in Super Bowl history. But that particular footnote is currently as fleeting as it is ancient.

Over the last six quarters of play, the Giants have been outscored 77-24, and the whimper with which New York appears to be bowing out is reminiscent of those echoed in collapses of recent seasons awry.

In 2006, Coughlin’s third season, the Giants were 6-2 but were eliminated in the first round after crawling in on the heels of a streak during which they lost six of eight to end the season. Four of those losses were by 14 points or more.

A season after failing to make it one round in defense of their Super Bowl title, in 2009, the Giants sprinted out to a 5-0 start, only to cap a 3-8 finish with consecutive losses by an average of 38 points.

Even with that furrowed brow of his, Coughlin can’t change history. But he can still help dictate his future with a win against the Redskins. It may not get the Giants into the playoffs, but an inspired showing would have some effect on co-owner John Mara, who said last season’s 8-8 record “felt a lot more like 2-14.”

In all likelihood, Coughlin will be fired if the Giants miss the playoffs, regardless of whether the Giants win at Washington and despite the fact he is still owed one season’s worth of salary from his current four-year contract.

But doing so may put a new Giants coaching staff at a huge disadvantage should a new collective bargaining agreement not be reached by March 4.

If the deadline passes and the players are locked out, the draft and scouting combine will continue on as usual, but lockout rules prohibit meetings and any other form of team activities involving both players and/or coaches.

Would Mara prefer to put a new regime behind the eight ball, so to speak, for the sake of cutting Coughlin loose after another train wreck of a season? Or will he show faith in the coach that has steered the team out of the path of disaster more times than not?

Mara has some time to think it over.

So does Coughlin, as he patiently awaits his flight out of snowy Wisconsin.