I don’t plan on this being an indictment of Coughlin as a head coach, but rather an argument that his time as head coach for the Giants has come to an end.
In professional sports, unless the man is brilliant at X’s and O’s (and even then there is no guarantee) his time as head coach is limited. You can’t shout the same things over and over again and expect to get the same response from your players. I do believe the Giants respect Coughlin, but I don’t believe he can adequately motivate them anymore.
There are two games that come to mind when making this point. The Eagles game against Vince Young, and, more recently, the match against the Redskins. In both cases the Giants had a winnable game on their hands, but failed to capitalize. This wasn’t an issue of talent, but an issue of motivation. In both games, it seemed like the Giants opponents were playing harder than the Giants.
On top of his lost voice in the locker room, Coughlin has shown an inability to pick adequate NFL coordinators. On offense he handpicked John Hufnagel. Hufnagel was never thought of fondly by fans or media covering the Giants, and, after the 2006 season, the Giants forced Coughlin to fire him. Since then, Hufnagel has failed to find a job in the NFL and now coaches in the CFL.
Coughlin replaced Hufnagel with current offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (a man more commonly referred to as Killdrive). Gilbride is not nearly as bad as Hufnagel was, and if he was fired I’m sure he’d find another job in the NFL, but he is not a great fit as offensive coordinator for the Giants. His expertise as a coordinator is in the “run and gun” offense, an offense that is not a match for what many consider to be “Giant Football” (the whole ball control, pound the rock type offense). This probably explains why Gilbride has a tough time getting the offense into a rhythm. Having him call plays just seems to be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. He doesn’t have a feel for the run game and it either causes him to stubbornly run with no success causing 3rd and long situations, or to neglect Eli and fail to get him into a rhythm (this was seen much more early on for Eli. More recently, it has been easier for Eli to get into a rhythm). His best season as coordinator came in 2008 when the offensively line was so strong they were able to run no matter what the defensive set was. (Honestly check the tapes. There weren’t complex schemes, just an offense that could run it down its opponent’s throat. No one could stop it.)
To add to those problems Gilbride tends to run a more complicated offense than is truly necessary. Receiver routes rely heavily on options. Basically, on any given play a receiver isn’t told to run a slant, or a deep post. Instead they are told multiple different routes and to adjust based on coverages. This leads to the receivers and Eli expecting different things. (This season the big culprit has been Manningham…last season it seemed to be everybody). The most frustrating part about this is Gilbride’s insistence on running the same plays with so many young receivers the last few years. Instead of adjusting his offense to make it easier for the younger guys to pick it up, Gilbride ran the same system, and the Giants turned the ball over a ridiculously high amount of times.
Gilbride is not a terrible offensive coordinator, but his inability to adjust to his team has hurt his time with the Giants.
As for defense, Tim Lewis, Bill Sheridan and Perry Fewell were big mistakes.
Let’s start with Lewis. Since Lewis’ time with the Giants he has held the role of secondary/defensive backs coach with three different teams. He hasn’t lasted more than two years in any place. He was a good defensive coordinator early on with the Steelers, but for some reason reverted to a more conservative defense and was then fired by the Steelers (the only defensive coordinator Cowher fired in his 15-year tenure). With the Giants he resembled the conservative coach that was fired, rather than the aggressive one Cowher originally hired.
I’m not gonna waste my time talking about Sheridan…he was that bad.
Now for current defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Like Lewis he started out aggressively, and has become more conservative. He has blamed this new approach on lack of playmakers, but that seems ridiculous. First off, the Giants have plenty of playmakers. Secondly, the defense has performed astronomically better when they have brought pressure. The best performance they had by far was against the Eagles week 3. Remember that game? The one where Vick basically cried after the game because the Giants hit him so many times? How can our secondary hold up so well against that explosive offense, but we couldn’t afford to blitz Alex Smith and the 49ers. Perry Fewell is a serviceable defensive coordinator, but he is in no way anything special. His best attempt at getting creative led to a lopsided loss to the Colts a season ago. (Remember that game? No defensive tackles, just ends playing all four spots. More corners than linebackers. It took
Caldwell Peyton all of 3 seconds to realize if he ran the ball they would win).
The only good hiring Coughlin made was Steve Spagnoulo. The thing is, Coughlin seems to be more concerned with hiring someone he is friendly with, then someone who is legitimately good at his job. In addition, he only fires them if management forces him to.
I like Coughlin, and I’m not entirely happy saying he should be fired, but this team is in need of a makeover. With the potential for a third straight collapse, no seems to be the perfect time to switch things up.