EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — General manager Jerry Reese called Tom Coughlin an “outstanding” coach Tuesday despite a 2-6 record that puts the New York Giants in danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
Reese said the 67-year-old coach has kept the team together after six straight losses to begin the season and scoffed at the idea that Coughlin’s age was an issue.
Speaking at a news conference during the team’s bye week, Reese was asked if the start has shaken his faith in the coach who has led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles.
“He’s a heck of a football coach and he didn’t forget how to coach, either, at this point, regardless of what our record looked like,” he said. “He’s still an outstanding football coach.”
Reese’s comments would suggest that Coughlin would be on solid ground to return next season. That decision, however, ultimately rests with ownership, which has been mostly silent on the matter.
The general manager refused to say if the owners felt the same way he does about Coughlin, saying they had to speak for themselves.
Coughlin, who was not available to the media Tuesday, was asked about his age in a radio interview with WFAN in New York City and challenged anyone to show up at work with him at 5 a.m. and work as hard as he does.
Reese talks with Coughlin every Monday about a range of topics. Reese said he and Coughlin have used each other for support during the losing streak, but their conversations have turned contentious at times.
“We were very honest in our meetings,” Reese said. “We don’t sugarcoat anything, we talk out loud. I remember one morning I walked in, I don’t remember what the game was, but obviously we had lost the game, and I was like, ‘Coach, the sun came up.’ He was like, ‘Really, it did?’ They’re very good meetings, they’re very productive and they’re very honest. We’re all together.”
In winning the past two games, the Giants’ defense has not allowed a touchdown and the offense has not turned the ball over.
Reese believes the Giants still have a chance to win the weak NFC East. They are two games behind Dallas (4-4) with eight to play, including one against the Cowboys.
When asked what kept the team going in the drought, Reese was blunt.
“Tom Coughlin,” he said.
“This is not Tom’s first rodeo,” said the 50-year-old Reese, who took over as general manager in 2007 and saw the team win titles that season and in 2011. “He’s been around for a while and the passion that he brings to the table, all of our players can see that, owners can see that, and that’s never an issue with him. For him to keep this team together, I think it shows you how much respect the players have for him and what he does for this organization.”
Reese said his focus now is this season, not the future. The second half starts with a three-game homestand against Oakland, Green Bay and Dallas. New York has five at home in its final eight.
“Our players have a lot of pride and our coaches have a lot of pride and, of course, our head coach has a lot of pride,” Reese said. “I still believe we can get it turned around, but we don’t have a lot of margin for error. “
Reese refused to blame anyone for the Giants’ worst start since a franchise-worst 0-9 beginning in 1976.
“When you’re 0-6, you can frame it however you want to frame it,” Reese said. “Underachieving, or whatever, the GM’s decisions, coaching, how players are playing, how they’re executing plays. Again, you’ll be right. Our focus moving forward is we have eight games left and we’re going to try with every fiber that we have to win these games and have a chance to even be there for the division.”
Reese also had a vote of confidence for two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who threw 15 interceptions in the first six games.
“I think Eli is still a very good player and after 10 years, he didn’t forget how to play his position all of a sudden,” he said. “There are a lot of things involved with his play and everybody’s play. It’s all of us. We win together, we lose together. Eli has been through some rough patches before and we’ve seen him pull himself out of it and really play well and I expect him to do that again.”
Reese had no word on second-year running back David Wilson’s neck injury. He has not played since he was hurt against Philadelphia three games ago and there is concern that the narrowing of his spinal column could be career threatening.
Reese also refused to speculate on the future of veteran offensive linemen Chris Snee (hip) and David Baas (knee) who went on injured reserve early.
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