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Giants will change ways, not coaches

The Giants finished the 2010 season two games better than last season’s debacle, but the end result was nevertheless the same — home for the playoffs.   

The Giants finished the 2010 season two games better than last season’s debacle, but the end result was nevertheless the same — home for the playoffs.

Despite the boost in the final standings, most Giants (10-6) fans, from the casual to the diehards, are looking for a change. It won’t come on the sidelines, though, as Tom Coughlin was given another year by ownership on Sunday and said yesterday he isn’t likely to make any changes to his staff.

“There was never any doubt in my mind, never any doubt in [co-owner] Steve Tisch’s mind, never any doubt in [general manager] Jerry Reese’s mind,” said co-owner John Mara of the decision to keep Coughlin.

Speculation ran rampant about Coughlin’s job security following yet another season when New York started fast but faded late. If you’re playing the blame game, though, Eli Manning’s league-leading 25 interceptions and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s unbalanced playcalling deserve more criticism than the 64-year-old Coughlin.

“I’m a big supporter of Tom,” Tisch said. “A number of players have made their supportive opinions very public, to [the media] specifically. I never felt during this season that changes had to be contemplated.”

Coughlin said he was very appreciative of the public backing from Mara and Tisch, as well as the many players who publicly spoke on his behalf.

“I love this team. I think they’re strong character people, we work together on everything and that’s the way that it has to be,” said Coughlin, who also applauded the team for staying focused amidst all the distractions. “It’s a group of guys that don’t make excuses for anything and they accept responsibility. They’ve done an outstanding job this year of adjusting to some very unusual circumstances...and like I said, I’m very appreciative of the kind of effort, the attitude, the enthusiasm, and the fact that this year’s team was a very responsive team.”

The Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers [10-6] became the first NFC teams since 1991 to miss the playoffs despite double-digit victories. Instead, another team with a 10-6 record, the Green Bay Packers, got the conference's last postseason berth.

Coughlin said although the woeful Seattle Seahawks [7-9] made the playoffs instead, he’s not in favor of re-seeding to avoid such an anomaly again.

“I think by and large the system has been a good one because of the reinforcement it provides within your own division. In our game you focus on winning your division [because] that’s the direct route to the playoffs,” said Coughlin, who no doubt endeared himself to management for his stand-up character. “This is an unusual year in which a team won the division with a not-so outstanding record. From a standpoint of the league, I don’t have any complaints with the system [but] from a standpoint of being selfish, yeah, we’d like to be playing.”

When Coughlin was asked directly about his contract status, he said he had to remain unselfish and put the team first.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” he said. “[The media] keeps asking me if I’m aware of the situation that I’m in. I never was aware of anything other than I’m the head coach of the New York Giants. That’s all I cared about. This situation with the contract, that’s the first time I’ve even heard anything about that and I’m sure, as everything else, it will be addressed at the proper time.”

Whether Coughlin was aware of his contract status is up for debate. One thing that can’t be disputed, however, is that Tisch kept tabs. The co-owner said there were many factors in the decision to keep Coughlin around for at least another season. Tisch said the mounting injuries and the players’ respect played a huge part. And both owners also admitted that the instability of the soon-to-be expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] had an effect -- and will have an effect on all personnel decisions going forward.

“I’m very aware of the timing on Tom’s contract, as is John and Jerry,” said Tisch, who added that the CBA is basically holding up all personnel moves. “There is obviously a tremendous amount of uncertainty going forward in the league.”

The only uncertainty that’s left about Coughlin is whether management will extend his contract or allow him to be a “lame duck” coach in the final year of his contract. There’s precedence in these dealings, however, as Coughlin, who has been the Giants coach since 2004 and led them to the Super Bowl title at the end of the 2007 season, was also in the same predicament heading into the ’07 season. New York started 0-2 but ultimately rallied around Coughlin to win the title.

Such circumstances haven’t been lost on the team’s owners.

“I think Tom is an A-rated NFL football coach. He’s coached many great seasons and got us to the Super Bowl,” said Tisch. “I’d like to feel that we can be back in Indianapolis next February [next season’s Super Bowl site]. I’m not stressed about the conversations regarding Tom. He is a great guy and a tremendous leader. The players play for him and respect him. You can’t let a guy like that get too far away.”

Wideout Hakeem Nicks essentially agreed with the consensus and looked puzzled when the question of Coughlin’s security came up.

“Honestly, I didn’t even give it any thought [because] I felt like his job was secure,” said Nicks, who was enjoying a career season until injuries derailed him. “I wasn’t shocked at all [at management’s vote of confidence]. I pretty much assumed that he wouldn’t be going anywhere anyway.”

Who else is out there?

You can’t fire a coach who wins 10 games, it’s just not good business. Since this team doesn’t need a complete overhaul, Coughlin is a much safer play than any of these possible candidates:

» Bill Cowher
He would have been the obvious choice, but don’t forget he’s 12-9 in the playoffs, Coughlin is 8-7. He’s not much of an upgrade.
» John Fox
Former Giants’ D-coordinator loses veteran players in locker room.
» Marvin Lewis
Lacks leadership.

 
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