EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — For anyone who thinks Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat because the New York Giants have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, guess again.
Leading the Giants to two Super Bowl championships since 2007 trumps two bad seasons.
Don’t believe it? Giants co-owner John Mara has visions of the recently turned 68-year-old running the team for years to come.
“You can’t be impulsive,” Mara said. “When things look bleak, you have to have the confidence you can crawl out of a hole. This team has shown that and Tom has shown that.”
Mara wouldn’t say that Coughlin can run the team for as long as he wants. There has to be some positives soon; it wouldn’t hurt if the Giants rebound from a 7-9 season and get back to the postseason.
However, 2014 seemingly isn’t make or break for Coughlin, who is entering his 11th year with one of the NFL’s founding franchises.
“It’s a matter of pride and of motivation, and it all comes back to the head coach,” Mara said. “They buy into that, the players. You have to ask: ‘Are they still playing hard for this guy?’ And the answer is yes. I never at any point felt our players were not playing hard for him or had tired of him. That’s a testament to his leadership and to his coaching ability.”
It’s also a testament to Coughlin’s flexibility. He is a much different man than when he took over a team in disarray in 2004. Sure, he’s still a disciplinarian. He’s also more mature, a little gentler and a lot wiser.
Coughlin time is still Coughlin time. If a meeting is called for 9 a.m., be there five minutes early or you’re late.
He’s a workaholic, a teacher and he loves football. He arrives for work before sunrise and he’s still in the office when many on the East Coast already have eaten dinner. On the field, he goes nonstop from unit to unit for drills and to talk with coaches.
Doing it right is paramount, beginning Monday night at Detroit.
When free agent rookie receiver Corey Washington jumped offside on a team drill last week, Coughlin yelled at him to “Watch the ball.”
There is also the tender Coughlin who coming off the field always has time for the Make-A-Wish Foundation children attending practice, or to say “thank you” to servicemen there.
Football is football, though, and this season is just another chapter for Coughlin, 158-130 in 18 seasons as a head coach.
“There are always challenges, there is always maneuverability,” Coughlin said. “Very rarely is it set exactly to where you want it to be.”
Veteran defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka has noticed a more eager and intense Coughlin after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. It’s akin to 2007, Coughlin’s first Super Bowl win, when the coach focused on details and held everyone accountable.
“You can see it in his eyes, he wants to win,” Kiwanuka said. “There is no waiting until next year. There is no waiting until whenever. It’s about getting this group of guys here to win right now. … and I think that will bleed right into the rest of the team.”
Coughlin refuses to say how much longer he wants to coach, joking what else would he do?
Those around him know, age is not a factor. Coughlin even laughed when asked if his wife, Judy, had enough candles for his cake.
“It is surprising a guy of his age is still going and doing what he does,” receiver Victor Cruz said. “He still has energy. He is still walking around with that spunk. It’s good to see because it motivates not only me, but all of us out there. If this guy can wake up early and come out there here and do it, so can we.”
Coughlin has also earned respect from players whose parents might not have been born when he was playing football at Syracuse.
“He is a pretty straight-up person,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “He’s not a fake. He’s himself. You know what you are getting with him and you have to respect it.”
Whatever happens, Coughlin likely has done enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame.
“I think everybody aspires to it,” he said. “You want to be the very, very best you can be, and if the highest point of recognition in our game is the Hall of Fame, then why not think about that? But do I think about it every day? No.”
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