By Steve Silverman
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It seemed like the obvious move for the Giants as soon as they won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots and completed yet another memorable postseason run.
They had little choice but to lock up Tom Coughlin for a contract extension.
There was no burnout claim by the 65-year-old coach, and he said that he enjoyed coaching as much as ever. Retire to spend more time with his family?
That was not Coughlin’s plan.
But when it comes to the Giants and paying more money, never take anything for granted. Jerry Reese was hired by the Giants and has been kept on the job because he has a lot in common with George Halas. As Mike Ditka once said, Halas “throws nickels around as if they were manhole covers.”
But two Super Bowl titles four years apart means that Coughlin ranks among the best coaches in the history of the game. Multiple Super Bowl titles will do that for a coach’s reputation (with the exception of Tom Flores and George Seifert), and that’s why the Giants extended Coughlin’s contract through the end of the 2014 season. The Giants did not announce the financial terms of the deal, but Coughlin will be paid approximately $7 million per year, just below Patriot coach Bill Belichick’s $7.25 million per year.
It’s money that will be well-spent by the Giants. Earlier in his career, particularly during the eight years he spent as the front man for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Coughlin was a despotic boss and a control freak. Not only was he demanding of his players on the field, but he tried to control all aspects of the organization on and off the field. Coughlin wanted to know every bit of information that was released by the team, and if you had one word that he didn’t like you had to answer to him.
He was a miserable human being to work for at that point — and he was tough in his first couple of years with the Giants — but he has mellowed to a degree. He is still tough and demanding, but he lets his humanity show from time to time, and that makes it easier for everyone — including the players on the field — to do their job.
There has never been any question about his ability to come up with an excellent game plan and put his players in a position to take advantage of their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Coughlin understood from his days at Boston College and his time as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells that the matchup game was vital if you were going to become a winning coach. That means putting your strongest players up against the weak players on the opposition, and then giving them the plays that they can execute the best in crucial situations.
Coughlin is never going to be a “beloved” head coach, but not everyone can be Marv Levy. However, he is not one-dimensional, either. He speaks plainly and directly to his players, but he also has the ability to cut through the seriousness of the situation with his underrated wit. Belichick worked with Coughlin on Parcells’ staff and understands the man who has beaten him twice in head-to-head Super Bowl confrontations.
“I respect a lot of things about Tom,” Belichick said. “He knows how to evaluate talent and he knows how to attack opponents. He’s consistent, disciplined and his teams are resilient. Tom is a good guy, and he has a good sense of humor. He is a good guy to be around.”
Coughlin has found the right formula the last few seasons. His teams peak when they reach the postseason. That’s not a fluke. Coughlin has eased off the accelerator enough to get his team to reach its peak when it matters most. Few coaches in the history of the NFL have been able to do that consistently.
Coughlin is especially sharp on gameday, and he has the ability to modify his play calls if he finds that one aspect of his gameplan is working well and another is working poorly. He’s not going to quit on his game plan early, but he won’t let it sink him because of his own ego.
That’s a rarity in the NFL, and it is one of the factors that has allowed Coughlin to separate himself from a majority of NFL head coaches.
Coaches With Multiple Super-Bowl Titles:
Coach Team(s) SB Titles
Chuck Noll Pittsburgh Steelers 4
Bill Belichick New England Patriots 3
Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers 3
Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins 3
Tom Coughlin New York Giants 2
Bill Parcells New York Giants 2
Don Shula Miami Dolphins 2
Jimmy Johnson Dallas Cowboys 2
Tom Landry Dallas Cowboys 2
Tom Flores Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 2
Mike Shanahan Denver Broncos 2
Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers 2
George Seifert San Francisco 49ers 2
If he were to retire today, where would you rank Tom Coughlin on the list of the greatest coaches in NFL history? Offer your thoughts and comments in the section below…