Super Bowl XLII: Tom Coughlin Earns Spot Among NFL's Elite

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Super Bowl XLII: Tom Coughlin Earns Spot Among NFL's Elite

In 13 years as a head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin has amassed 103 regular-season wins and an above .500 playoff record, now including a Super Bowl title.

With a few more years of double-digit wins, it's possible that Coughlin will end up with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside Bill Belichick—his onetime staff mate with the Giants 20 years ago.

Funny.  At this time one short year ago, Giants fans were hoping head coach Coughlin's days were numbered. 

Coughlin was coming off his second straight playoff season after his third year with New York, but Big Blue finished 2006-07 just 8-8 and was vanquished in the first round of the postseason by Jeff Garcia and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Entering this past year at the forefront of a seemingly unimpressive team that had ended the previous regular season on a 2-6 skid, Coughlin was somewhat of a lame duck.  The Giants had given him a one-year contract extension, but the feeling was that 2007 would be a do-or-die campaign for Coughlin.  And after the Giants began the season with consecutive losses, the noose began to tighten.

But the 61-year-old managed to show even his most biting critics (the Giants' fans) that he is among the NFL's top head coaches. 

He rallied his team to a 10-4 regular season finish and helped them roll through the playoffs with four straight road victories (New York was a cumulative 11-1 away from the Meadowlands), including an enormous Super Bowl upset over the supposedly unbeatable Patriots—who went into last Sunday's game shooting for immortality but left as the most pedestrian 18-win team in football history.

Coughlin followed the likes of Weeb Ewbank (1969 New York Jets) and Herb Brooks (America's 1980 Olympic hockey team) to outcoach the enemy while rallying his own players to full confidence. 

Though Bill Belichick walked into Glendale receiving all the praise, in the end it was Coughlin—with his staff, game plan, and players— who earned the victory. 

Quite simply, the Giants' coaches (Coughlin, coordinators Steve Spagnuolo and Kevin Gilbride, and others) and players outdid the Patriots' Hall of Fame-bound curmudgeon and his team.

Now that he's atop the NFL mountain, expect Coughlin to receive a long-term, big-money contract extension from the Giants.

From lame duck to golden goose in one five-month season.  Not bad.

*E-mail: cbyrne@realfootball365.com.

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