Tom Coughlin appears likely to stay, but staff should change
The Giants have a plethora of questions that need answering — specifically the employment status of head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff.
The Giants’ 2013-14 campaign finally came to an end following Sunday’s 20-6 win over the Redskins.
And in the wake of their rocky 7-9 record— and the fact they’re one of 20 teams whose season ended too early— Monday’s infamous “trash bag” day brought upon a different meaning for Big Blue. The Giants’ home turf, MetLife Stadium, will host the Super Bowl in about a month, meaning the players had the extra gall of having to clear out their comfy confines so it can be used by the NFC’s Super Bowl representative.
“I don’t know if it’s more frustrating [cleaning out the locker room for another team]. I think it’s just frustrating enough without thinking about the Super Bowl because 31 teams are going to be disappointed this year regardless, and unfortunately we’re in the first 20,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “Going back and just looking at the 0-6 start, if we were able to pull out two or three of those games, we’re probably still playing. Yeah, it’s disappointing to be doing this [cleaning] but I don’t necessarily know if I’ve even thought about adding the disappointment of somebody playing in our stadium and winning the Super Bowl.”
Failing to be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in its home stadium is the least of the Giants’ worries, as they have a plethora of questions that need answering— specifically the employment status of head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff.
Coughlin held his season-ending press conference on Monday and reiterated his desire to return next season.
“I do want to coach here, no question,” Coughlin said, while also declining to say whether he's already talked to ownership about his future. “I’ve always been a coach. My feelings are exactly the same as they always have been. [I’m] competitive by nature. I want to be the best that I can be and the people that surround me, I want them to be the very best they can be. I’ve always had the energy, the drive and the determination [to continue]. Everybody wants to know what’s next for me. I hope it’s coaching the New York Giants. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about me, and my circumstance, and my situation -- rather it’s our team.”
Speaking of his team— specifically any potential shakeups along his coaching staff— Coughlin didn’t sound as if he’d like any changes, noting he still had “great confidence in this staff [and] I believe in them very strongly.”
When the topic of personnel changes reared itself, though, the head coach acknowledged there certainly needs tweaking at every positional group.
“There’s no question that this team did come together and have an identity [down the stretch where the Giants finished 7-3],” Coughlin said. “But there’s also no question that we need help on this roster.”
The man in charge of making the roster moves, general manager Jerry Reese, showed his full support for Coughlin, while also agreeing that help is needed if the Giants are to contend next season.
“We haven’t had a conversation [with Coughlin], but absolutely I want him back,” said Reese. “Obviously 7-9 is not what we set out to do ... and I really don't have any answers as to why we started 0-6. But when you finish 7-9 there are obviously personnel issues.”
Those personnel changes will be of the highest priority, according to the opinion that matters most, team owner John Mara. Big Blue’s longtime overseer said this season was “very disappointing — as disappointing as any in my mind” and reasoned it mostly stemmed from “obviously overvaluing some people” and “not getting the production out of certain draft spots” in recent years.
Mara pinpointed fixing the offensive line as the team’s “No. 1 priority” this offseason, adding despite the team’s shortcomings in depth, Reese’s job was also safe.
“Certainly there are some changes within the entire organization that need to be made [but] I firmly believe [Reese] is the right guy going forward. I still trust his evaluation skills,” Mara said, adding he’d also like to have Coughlin remain, but offered a cryptic answer about his head coach’s staff. “I’ve expressed to Tom we do want him back. I do have confidence in him ... [but as for staff changes] I have my opinion on that.”
Tuck, who may himself find a new address next season, offered is opinion on the job Coughlin did. And regardless of his own employment next season, the defensive co-captain said it should be “no-brainer” to bring back Coughlin.
“Nobody is as prepared as he is. As far as my nine years here — I pride myself in being here pretty early on Wednesday through Friday and I never beat him here and I don’t think anybody is beating him here. He prepares his butt off and I think the fire is still there,” said Tuck. “I think he still feels like he has a lot to prove in this league and I think he’s going to go into this offseason just like all of us, figuring out ways to have a better season next year. ... You’re not going to find anybody that’s going to prepare a team as well as he does. Obviously I’m biased, but I damn sure hope that he’s manning the sidelines next year.”
Tuck declined to delve into his own status, although he allowed he wants to return. But when asked about other changes to the roster, he figured the front office won’t take too long of a hiatus— if any.
“I think they’re going to make changes and they’ll do it the right way,” Tuck said. “Jerry Reese and the Mara family and Tisch family are pretty smart about what this team needs and what needs to be changed. I do think they’ll probably start today. I think they’ll jump on it real quickly. But I don’t know if you would consider it major changes. But then again I don’t get paid to answer those questions.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Reese on whether he’s talked with Coughlin about shaking up the assistant coaching staff: “Look, 7-9 sucks, so I anticipate there’ll be some changes [but] we haven’t had that conversation yet.”
»Reese said the Giants “do not necessarily” have to redo Eli Manning’s contract this offseason to create salary cap room, but added “everything is on the table” with regards to restructuring any players’ deal.
» Running back David Wilson may need neck surgery, but Reese noted the “doctors think they can fix that and he'll be able to play” in 2014. Reese, however, added he’d be remiss if he didn’t have a “contingency plan” should Wilson not be ready to return next season.
»Left tackle Will Beatty fractured his leg in the Washington game, but Reese said that “from [the doctors’] early reviews” it’s expected that Beatty will be back in time for the start of next season.
»Mara said now that former quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is available, following the firing of the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, he wouldn’t mind a reunion: “We obviously think very highly of him.”
Sullivan was Manning’s positional coach, and judging by the beating the 39 sacks and plethora of other hits had on him, the quarterback would welcome the return of his sounding board.
»Regarding the struggling receiving corps, wideout Rueben Randle said there was a “disconnect” between Manning and the receivers: “I felt like for some reason we weren’t on the same page from time to time.”
Randle also said he’s “without a doubt ready” to take over for Hakeem Nicks next season, if necessary, but added, “I already told him to come back.”
»Mara had an interesting take on the offense as a whole— but specifically wideout Jerrel Jernigan.
“I think our offense is broken,” he said, adding, “I’m not sure why it took three years to find out that Jerrel Jernigan could play. … Sometimes you have to play younger players and give them a chance to fail.”
»Coughlin wants Tuck back.
“He played well all year,” Coughlin said. “He did what I had wanted him to do and what he wanted to do. He was just an example and he played hard. I thought he was an excellent example for our younger players. He practiced. He played well. He really kept his mouth shut most of the year and did a nice job with that. He responded well and had a very good year.”
»The last time the Giants finished 7-9 was 2001.
»Final NFL rankings for the Giants offense: 28th in yards, 28th in points per game, 19th in passing yards and 29th in rushing yards.
»Final NFL rankings for the Giants defense: eighth in yards allowed, 18th in points per game allowed, 10th in passing yards allowed and 14th in rushing yards allowed.
»Running back Brandon Jacobs says he’s undecided about playing next year, but he’ll need four months of recovery time from his knee surgery: “I will only play here. Screw all them other teams. I’m a Giant.”
»Offensive lineman David Diehl will require another thumb surgery now that season is over and said if he’s not brought back he’ll mull retirement because he “can't imagine playing anywhere but” for the Giants.
»All nine of the Giants’ losses were to teams that finished .500 or better — the first time that’s happened since their 5-11 season in 1995. The last NFL team with at least nine defeats against teams .500 or better was the 2009 Chicago Bears, who also finished 7-9.
»Giants averaged 83.3 rushing yards, their lowest season-long average since they rushed for 76.9 yards a game in 1945.
» According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jernigan’s 49-yard touchdown run against Washington was the longest by a Giants wide receiver since the 1970 merger. The Giants were one of four teams this season to have their longest run by a receiver (Rams, Browns and Packers).
»Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said he will continue to rehab his ailing shoulder and will decide whether surgery is needed by the end of January.
»Linebacker Jon Beason, who led the Giants to seven wins of the 11 games in which he played significant snaps, said he’s not only rooting for the Panthers in the playoffs, but added he might attend the game in Carolina next week.
»Safety Antrel Rolle, who was the only Giant to finish in the top-5 voting at his position, was unhappy with the Pro Bowl snub: “Did I get screwed? Absolutely.”
»The Giants had three sacks, including two by Tuck on Sunday. Their season total of 34 is one more than they had in 2012.
»The Giants had an NFL-high 44 turnovers and became the only team to have at least one turnover in all 16 games this season. This is the first season since 2007 in which the Giants had a turnover in all 16 games.
»Coughlin won his 90th regular-season game as the Giants’ head coach. He is just the second coach in franchise history to reach that plateau (Steve Owen, 153).
»Coughlin’s 158th regular-season victory ties him with Hall of Famer Bud Grant for 14th on the NFL’s career list. Coughlin also has 12 postseason victories for a total of 170. That ties him with another Hall of Famer, Paul Brown, for 14th all time on that list.
»It was just the second time in his 10-year career that Manning left a game early with an injury. On Sept. 9, 2007 at Dallas, Manning bruised his shoulder on a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. He later threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, but was replaced by Jared Lorenzen on the Giants’ final possession. Manning started the following week against Green Bay.
»Manning finished the season with 18 touchdown passes and a career-high, and Giants record, 27 interceptions, the first time since his rookie season in 2004 that Manning threw fewer touchdown passes (six) than interceptions (nine). Manning’s season had symmetry as his first and last passes of the season were each intercepted.
»The Giants’ 7-9 mark earned them the No. 12 pick in next May’s draft. The last time the Giants picked 12th was 1964 when they selected running back Joe Don Looney, whom they traded to Baltimore a month later.
» Giants players were told they’ll report back for the offseason program on April 21.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.