Dazed And Confused Giants May Be Helping Coughlin Reach The End Of The Line

The NFL does not make it easy for its heroes to go marching off into the sunset.

There are a few players who have done it, including the great Jim Brown who walked away from his spectacular career with the Cleveland Browns at the age of 29. He left football to become a movie actor and a social activist. Even though Brown probably had at least five years left in him, he has never had any regrets for stepping away from the game when he did.

Head coaches usually don’t get a pass either. Nobody fired Don Shula from the Miami Dolphins, but there was quite a bit of relief when he retired after the 1995 season at the age of 65. Nearly everybody associated with the team thought his time had come and gone.

Bill Walsh retired from the San Francisco 49ers after the 1988 season in which the Niners won their third Super Bowl, saying the pressures from the position had forced his hand. However, several years later, Walsh was regretful about the decision. “There’s no telling how many Super Bowls we could have won,” Walsh told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m really disappointed in myself.”

Tom Coughlin may be coming to the time when he has to say good-bye to professional coaching.

The Giants’ coach may have led his team to two Super Bowl triumphs, but the Giants have been wandering in the pro football desert for three seasons, and there is no evidence to suggest that they will be turning it around any time soon.

Coughlin was at the peak of his powers in 2011. The Giants were little more than a slightly above average team that season, and they barely made the playoffs as a Wild-Card team with a 9-7 record. They had to sprint to the finish line by winning three of their last four games to earn that playoff spot.

Few outside of the Giants lockerroom expected New York to do anything but fade out of the playoffs in the first or second round.

However, New York found its running game and discovered defense in the postseason. They rolled over the Atlanta Falcons, and then handled the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on the road before meeting Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl.

That’s when Coughlin showed off his true skill. He pushed and cajoled his team to its second Super Bowl title in four years when they outlasted the Patriots 21-17. Somehow, Coughlin and his team managed to get the best of Belichick twice in the Super Bowl. No other coach had ever beaten Belichick in a Super Bowl, and Coughlin did it twice even though his team did not appear to matchup with heavily favored New England.

The Giants demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion and play their best game under Coughlin when it was most needed.

But that was then. It has definitely not been the case during the last three seasons.

The Giants were 9-7 once again 2012, but that time it was not good enough to make the playoffs. The results were disappointing, but easily forgiven because the Giants won the Super Bowl the year before.

But New York was a disaster last year as the Giants lost their first six games before they rallied to finish 7-9. Those end-of-season wins were little more than fool’s gold.

Coughlin brought in a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo to give the attack more of a West Coast look and help Eli Manning get back on track. After two opening losses, the Giants rallied to win three in a row over the Texans, Redskins and Falcons. It seemed like they were ready to play with the big boys again.

But it has not played out that way. They couldn’t play a 60-minute game against Philadelphia, Dallas or Indianapolis, and the Giants are in big trouble this week with a road game at Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Barring a miracle, the Giants are going to fall down the rabbit hole and lose nine or 10 games this season.

And what of 68-year-old Coughlin? If he had an answer for this situation, it would have emerged by this time.

Coughlin has been a head coach for 19 years, and he is one of 13 coaches in NFL history who have led their teams to multiple Super Bowl victories. He is also 13th on the list of all-time regular-season victories with 161. By all the ways that a head coach is measured, Coughlin has had a remarkable career.

More than the numbers, he made changes to his coaching style in his latter years that made him more accessible and approachable to his players. He was an old-school tyrant for the first 11 years of his career, but he listened when Michael Strahan told him that he was too demanding and made everything about the game a miserable chore.

Few coaches would have listened and made an adjustment. But Coughlin did and it brought him two Super Bowls.

But now he is about to see his team falter once again. Even a coach with two Super Bowls to his credit has to look in the mirror and decide when it’s time to say goodbye.

This is almost certainly it, or someone else will make the decision for him.

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