By Steve Silverman
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It seemed like Super Bowl XLVI would have been the perfect time for Tom Coughlin to say goodbye.

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His team had won its second Super Bowl confrontation with a favored New England Patriots team and had done it by outworking and outplaying the Patriots in the fourth quarter. There are many ways to look at the outcome of any championship game and one of the conclusions that any football analyst could come to was that Coughlin had outcoached Bill Belichick.

The margin was small but it was clearly decisive. Not many coaches can get the best of Belichick, let alone in the fourth quarter of two Super Bowls. What better way to call it a career? Talk about going out on top.

Coughlin will be 66 when the Giants kick off the season Sept. 5 against the Cowboys. By the time Bill Parcells was 66 years old, his coaching career had come to an end. He had taken off for two full seasons when he decided to coach the New England Patriots in the 1993 season and missed three full seasons when he took over the Cowboys in 2003. It all came to an end for Parcells after the 2006 season when the Cowboys lost a heartbreaking playoff game to Seattle as Tony Romo dropped a snap on an extra point that would have sent the game into overtime.

There have been no such absences for Coughlin. After he parted ways with the Jaguars following the 2002 season, he did not coach for one season but was on the Giants sidelines in 2004 when the coaching opportunity presented itself.

Coughlin will not coach forever but there was no way he was about to call it a career in 2012. Why? His team is too good. The Giants should have as good a chance to repeat as NFL champions since the Patriots managed the feat in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX by beating the Panthers and the Eagles.

The Giants should be explosive on offense and ferocious on defense this season. It’s the latter category that gives them a big edge on the competition. Throughout the majority of the 2011 season, the Packers, Saints and Patriots were the dominant teams in the league. All three were about lighting up the scoreboard and running away from the competition with big plays in the passing game.

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It seemed the overall philosophy for winning in the NFL had changed dramatically. Those in the know had come to the conclusion that concepts like the running game and tough defense were ancient history. You needed a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady to have a chance. You needed indefatigable receivers who could go down the field and catch it play after play. Stopping the opponent? That would be nice, but it wasn’t necessary as long as you could continue to add big numbers to the scoreboard.

But as tempting as that philosophy was, the Giants refused to go along with it. They continued to use their running game and they had one of the hardest hitting and nastiest defenses in the league. The Giants proved to be an ordinary regular season team with a 9-7 record, but that was good enough to win the NFC East.

But that unimpressive regular-season team was clearly the best team in the postseason. Eli Manning was razor sharp in the playoffs, completing 106-of-163 passes for 1,219 yards with 9 TDs and just 1 interception. He had receivers like Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to make big plays and a running game that did enough to keep opponents honest.

The defense was sensational in the postseason and should be among the best in the league in 2012. No team can put together the pass rush that the Giants can put on the field. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have dominant speed and strength. Add in Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka and you have a plethora of pass rushers who cause havoc. Linval Joseph and Chris Canty are powerful in the middle of the defensive line and the depth at the defensive tackle position is plentiful.

In the NFC, the Bears believe they can play dominant defense and the 49ers are also coming off a sensational year. However, Chicago’s defense has significant age and lacks depth while the 49ers have to prove their consistency after one notable season.

Training camp is still about a month away, but this is a season that has historic potential. The Giants have won four Super Bowls and could join the 49ers as the No. 2 team with a triumph this year. That would leave only the Steelers with six ahead of them in the all-time Super Bowl standings.

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy).

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