After two disappointing seasons having missed the playoffs, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has a lot to prove in 2011.
Owner John Mara announced prior to the team's season finale that Coughlin would remain the head coach, putting to rest rumors that Coughlin would be replaced.
Before 2009 the Giants were picked to finish last in the division by several media members and shocked people with a 5-0 start. The season ended with a plethora of injuries to the defensive side of the ball and an 8-8 finish.
In 2010 the Giants received a bit more love but were still not expected to compete with the Cowboys for the division. They started the season 6-2 but finished 10-6 and collapsed in consecutive games against the Eagles and Packers, causing them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.
They again suffered many injuries, this time to the offensive side of the ball, that derailed their season.
This off season Coughlin acknowledged what everyone says about him—that the second half of a season is always a problem—and said he cannot explain those issues, but his coaches are working on fixing the problem.
He certainly has a lot of time to do so with the lockout preventing him working with players.
So what does Coughlin have to do to deem 2011 a success? The following three steps are quite simple and will likely have to be followed by Coughlin or he could be shown the door.
This isn't really a way his season will be successful—i.e., an end result—just something he has to hope for in order to make this year a success.
The past two seasons have not lived up to fan expectations even though they were only 10-6 and 8-8. Honestly, things could be worse.
However, in New York the only thing that gets attention is making the playoffs. This is why the Jets have gained popularity in the city—two straight AFC Championship appearances from the wild card position will get you noticed.
For the Giants to get back to their winning ways and playing in January, they can't suffer injuries to key players like they have in the past.
In 2009, losing Kenny Phillips killed their defense, forcing C.C. Brown to start at safety and he was awful. Steve Smith was the same for the offense in 2010; when he was injured Eli Manning played noticeably worse against good defenses.
So for Coughlin to have a successful season, he needs all the major pieces on the field.
Until they are dethroned, the Eagles are the kings of the NFC East. They have dominated it under Andy Reid and look to improve on a 2010 season that saw Michael Vick's resurgence as an elite playmaking quarterback.
The Giants have competed most years and were even eight minutes away from basically clinching the East last season; too bad the Eagles outscored the Giants 28-0 in those eight minutes and stole the NFC East from them.
While the Eagles are the favorites in 2011, the Giants are not far behind.
Even if the Giants do not win the division, they have to make the playoffs in order for Coughlin to keep his job. He's on one of the hottest seats in the NFL and can't survive three straight years with no playoffs.
The previous slide is only step two—this final step is the most important.
Coughlin could still make the playoffs and lose his job. If they end up playing in the Wild Card round (either by Wild Card birth or by NFC East champs as third or fourth seed) and lose, most fans probably wouldn't want him to stick around.
They still have a bad taste in their mouth after bowing out in the 2008 playoffs. He has to win a playoff game to gain back the confidence from fans.
Owner John Mara's patience is wearing thin. He was severely disappointed in the team's 2009 campaign and noted that nobody's job was safe.
This remains true to this day; only making the playoffs and winning at least one game would secure Coughlin's spot at the team's general in 2012.