By Jason Keidel
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Lawrence Taylor isn’t on the Mount Rushmore of contemporary defensive players — because it presupposes that other busts belong next to his.
But for all his gridiron greatness, Taylor was a wreck off the turf, his mail forwarded to the police blotter. He appeared on Mike Francesa’s show a few times, a precursor to a weekly endeavor, until it was clear after a few shows that either his sanity or sobriety was in doubt.
He came this close to prison for rape. His love affair with narcotics is amply archived; he even got busted by the NFL for trying to submit another person’s urine for a drug test.
Only an athlete of Taylor’s gravitas would even be quoted after all his dubious and deviant conduct over the last 25 years. So it’s with all his conflicting impulses in mind that you must ignore his recent remarks about Tom Coughlin. Taylor seems to think, as some others do, that the clock has ticked midnight on his tenure as Big Blue boss.
Coughlin is being wrapped in the cliche that all coaches must leave eventually because his messages, mantras, and mindset have an expiration date. It’s patently false. And, frankly, Coughlin is the one who taught us this.
It’s just silly to assert that Coughlin has lost the locker room when only a handful of players are left from the team that won the Super Bowl six years ago.
We’ve strolled down this perilous path before. The world screamed for his head in ’07, and he won the Super Bowl. The world screamed for his head in 2011, and he won the Super Bowl. But now we’re sure he’s done.
Coughlin hasn’t forgotten how to coach. The Giants are ancient and injured. They have no running backs. They have a geriatric defensive line, an emaciated secondary, no linebackers of note, and a franchise quarterback who has thrown an appalling 25 interceptions.
After a dazzling rookie season, Jason Pierre-Paul has just a fraction of the traction we expected. The Giants haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since the Civil War. Manning is dancing like Gene Kelly in the pocket, shell-shocked from being pummeled over the last four months.
There are infinite issues with the Football Giants, and you would point to dozens before landing on the HC of the NYG. If anything, Coughlin broke the baleful cycle of retreads who were recycled through the Meadowlands, a comical coaching carousel that started when the team’s coaching patriarch, Bill Parcells, began his epic wanderlust around the sport.
If you’re fair or fairly objective you’ll find that Coughlin’s Giants career has been just as decorated as the aforementioned, iconic “Tuna.” But some people, perhaps by accident or by dint of their emotional understatement, are never properly appreciated. Coughlin is such a man.
If you live in Northern New Jersey and grind through the Lincoln Tunnel with any frequency, you crawl across Route 3, the Garden State’s equivalent of the Cross Bronx Expressway — a crumbling, traffic-choked monstrosity that belongs in Baghdad more than Clifton.
Driving eastward, toward Manhattan, you see the round, glowing edifice on the left, rising from the swamp like a glowing toilet bowl. There is nothing redeeming about the Meadowlands other than the book bearing its name and the stadium that occasionally houses some hearty sporting events.
A billboard flashing the stadium’s name stands sentinel about 10 feet from 3 West, selling some concert or product. On top is a digital clock, which is often comically wrong. It’s almost always 11 p.m. and the temperature is about 10 degrees off — on a good day.
Such is the clock Jerry Reese planted in the Giants’ locker room, counting down to this season’s Super Bowl, presumably to inspire his Big Blue brethren to play with the heart and hardihood we’ve grown accustomed to since Coughlin has been the coach.
But the move went from coax to hoax in a New Jersey minute, with the G-Men starting 0-6 and panting up a treadmill ever since. After getting obliterated by the Seahawks on Sunday, the cognoscenti need a voodoo doll, and Coughlin is the trendy pincushion.
The Giants had less than 50 yards in the first half, didn’t step on Seattle territory until the second half, and scored zero points. Manning tossed five more picks, and made Richard Sherman look like Night Train Lane. There have been two shutouts this year in the NFL, and the Giants have been the victims each time.
And this is all Tom Couglin’s fault. Sure. He was the frowning, red-faced, avuncular genius who twice outfoxed Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. (Is anyone calling for Belichick to resign?) Now Coughlin is just an old man who can’t keep up with the “nu skool” types, with their tattooed and bejeweled bodies, ears popping with the latest swollen headphones, speaking in young tongues and rhymes, speeches scrawled across their broad backs…
Nonsense. For all the changes in culture and clothing and language, people want to succeed, and will follow people who are successful. Coughlin has plenty of respect. He just doesn’t have any talent.
How about the man who built this rancid roster? Maybe Jerry Reese, more than anyone, should shoulder this collapse. Coughlin coaches the players he’s given, and Reese gave them to him. To use Parcells’ culinary metaphor, someone has to buy and cook the groceries. Reese served a rotten broth, and it only adds to the rancid smell wafting from MetLife, which is officially dead.
Just don’t kill Coughlin for it.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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