By Jason Keidel
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If Sunday was a de facto audition for our two football coaches, what grade do they get? The Giants beat a better team, on the road, with everything to play for. The Jets beat a team, at home, probably planning to play elsewhere next year.
Does their past matter, or does the sport’s acrid acronym — “Not For Long” — apply to even the most heralded head coaches?
So many irascible Giants fans, who suffer from supreme amnesia, call for Tom Coughlin’s head with the same preamble…
“I know he won those two Super Bowls, but…”
Well … duh.
Why so dismissive of a Lombardi Trophy? Much less two of them. As Mike Francesa asserted recently, blindfold any owner and tell them they would hire a coach who would get him two rings in seven years … and he would sign in blood.
Frankly, Big Blue devotees regard Dan Reeves with more fondness; I’ve even heard them invoke Jim Fassel with more reverence. No matter how glittering his resume, there’s a phalanx of fans ready to shove Coughlin out the back door. But before you bum-rush the guy, answer a couple quick questions.
Who is the only coach to win two Super Bowls since 2007?
How many teams have won a Super Bowl since the Giants’ last rode along the Canyon of Heroes?
We’re acting like Coughlin last bagged a title 10 years ago and is merely living off the fumes. Frankly, firing Coughlin is just dumb. We’re so ADD-addled, starved for attention and the sound of our own voices that we call for coaches heads the moment their team doesn’t match the prior year’s prosperity.
The black hole between Bill Parcells and Coughlin is too easily forgotten (Ray Handley, anyone?). This is the only really wretched year the team has had under Coughlin, save his first campaign, when all first-year coaches get a pass while they implement their own styles and systems.
Why such fervor to fire him? Is it because of his age? His wage? His understated, professorial, almost military mien? Do you want more Rex Ryan from Tom?
Speaking of the head coach of the Jets we all heard Jay Glazer’s report that Ryan told his team that he was about to be fired — perhaps to fire up his troops, perhaps because it’s true.
Two coaches couldn’t be more contrasting then our two locals. Like the city in which they ply their trade, there’s room on the NFL for diversity.
In their own ways, they are perfect for Gotham. Ryan does it more with smoke; Coughlin with mirrors. Ryan leads with his tongue; Coughlin with his classroom pointer. Ryan is large; Coughlin is lean. Ryan is loquacious; Coughlin is laconic. Ryan is emotionally elastic to the point of snapping; Coughlin is reserved to the edge of rigid, his face allergic to drastic expression.
The Jets may fire Ryan in a few days, but it wouldn’t make sense. If this year were the trial balloon, then he soared. With a dearth of decent players — particularly on offense — seven wins is pretty hearty. And if they beat the Dolphins to finish 8-8, then Ryan would be in the discussion for Coach of the Year, finishing somewhere behind Andy Reid, Ron Rivera and Bruce Arians.
We all agree that pro football is a QB-dependent game, yet a dependable QB isn’t something the Jets have. To a man, to the media, to all who will watch, the Jets play all-out for Ryan and, assuming there are no abject tactical blunders, that’s enough to keep any coach.
Is a new coach going to make Geno Smith a great quarterback? Will he make Santonio Holmes unselfish? Will he fix Dee Milliner? Will he be more charming on the dais? Will he be more entertaining?
It’s not just about the devil. Ryan has an implicit leadership quality that makes men run through fire for him. Just ask Jason Kidd if that counts.
The fact that he’s now missed the playoffs three consecutive years is indeed a concern, and the question as to whether he originally won with Eric Mangini’s players is valid. But with buckets of money coming off the cap and coming off a season where they may double their projected win total, Ryan makes a profound case to complete his contract.
No doubt Ryan is dangling by a distant historical thread. The “Sanchise” years have melted from memory. You can only play the poor personnel card for so long without at least a Wild Card berth.
But football, at its core, is entertainment. And Ryan, warts and all, is a gas, even if often too gaseous for his own good. The man knows football. He can bask in Broadway’s glow without burning in its glare. And he’s actually the most successful coach in team history, with four road playoff wins. And, yes, he needs a fifth next year to keep his job.
Every team and every town says it has the best fans in the nation. If we can assert the same, we should appreciate two guys who may not be the absolute best, but are far from the worst. Please don’t fire them and find out.
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