By Ernie Palladino
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In many ways, Tom Coughlin runs his football team like a business.
His Giants are expected to come to work every day — on time. They’re expected to get to meetings on time, and to help them every clock at the Quest Diagnostic Training Center is set five minutes ahead. Lateness costs money — not only the team’s, but the players’, too.
And like most businessmen, Coughlin expects them to put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay — a rather handsome sum, by the way, compared to the rest of us working stiffs.
He also expects players to maintain some measure of self-control during their time outside the structure and restrictions of the NFL season. Coughlin is not unlike any of the other NFL coaches in that respect. There is nothing new about that — or any, of his demands — and nothing hard.
Be a pro at all times.
Yet, despite Coughlin’s mundane demands, he occasionally runs into the ones who just don’t get it. His coaching brothers all deal with their own problem children differently. Straying outside the lines of acceptable behavior draws various degrees of consequence around the league. Some players in other cities serve their suspensions, come back, get in trouble again, come back and continue the ever-repeating cycle of chances until their legs and performance give out. It all depends on the coach’s valuation of the offender’s statistical contribution. The 50th guy on the roster probably won’t get the lenience a starter would.
Coughlin carries around a much shorter rope. Screw up like safety Will Hill and cornerback Jayron Hosley did to trigger suspensions under the league’s substance-abuse policy, and he’s not going to wait around for the guy. Hill, a high-performance member of the secondary, was cut shortly after his third suspension in three years. Hosley, who will miss four games in his first-ever suspension, is now in the process of begging for a second chance at sticking in a free-agent fortified depth chart.
He may not get it. If Coughlin takes his job from him, he loses the paycheck along with it.
That’s what happens in real life. If Coughlin is about anything, it is real life.
“When you run a business, you have to be able to rely on people to be there when you need them to perform their duties,” Coughlin said. “This is your job, and if you’re willing to jeopardize your job for some other reason, then perhaps you don’t have your mind where it’s supposed to be in the first place.”
Sage words. Words for real-world living. Simple, too. All Coughlin is saying is, “Do the right thing.” When nobody else is looking, when out from under the thumb of the bosses and left to one’s own devices, do the right thing.
Hill and Hosley chose to go the opposite direction, just as the great receiver Plaxico Burress did in 2008 when he put a bullet hole through his thigh at the Latin Quarter. Coughlin didn’t wait around for him, either, even though his touchdown catch won Coughlin a Super Bowl in 2007. Burress didn’t do the right thing when he brought that Glock into that night club. If his surroundings were dangerous enough to conceal a gun, he shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Lighting up a joint, sniffing up a snootful of powder or taking some whacky pill — whatever triggered Hill’s and Hosley’s penalties — pales in comparison with gun play. Society is moving toward legalizing recreational marijuana, anyway, and it won’t be long before the rest of the population joins the truly needy victims of disease who really will benefit from legalized medicinal marijuana. But that is another discussion. The fact is that recreational drugs remain illegal, and until things change it’s up to the Hills and Hosleys of the league to just say no.
It’s not hard to do. They need only to think for a second. Weigh the lifestyle — the nice condo, the big car, the adulation — along with those few minutes of pleasure that the smoke or the powder or the pills afford.
If they choose right, they get to maximize a lucrative livelihood. If not, and they have a real-world boss like Coughlin, they risk losing it all.
People in the business world have forfeited a lot less for just as much.
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