By Ernie Palladino
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Steve Owen, Jim Lee Howell, Bill Parcells, and now….
That’s quite a coaching lineup the Giants’ former leader will join Nov. 14 when his name, along with defensive end Justin Tuck’s and former general manager Ernie Accorsi‘s, gets unveiled in the Ring of Honor.
The Giants announced the honor Wednesday, just six months after Coughlin’s rather uncomfortable departure as the team’s 16th head coach. His time, of course, had come, though he was loathe to admit it following 7-9, 6-10, 6-10, a string that would cost almost every NFL coach his job.
But Coughlin being the proud, self-confident man he had always been, took a lot of time to realize that 12 years was a long time for any coach to stay with one team, especially after three tail-end losing seasons. So it was understandable that Coughlin held a sense of bitterness after his forced resignation, even as he interviewed for the Eagles and 49ers jobs.
But that should all dissipate now. The Giants made the right move in January by “convincing” Coughlin to step away, and they made the right move now by not wasting any time to induct him into the Ring.
It appears that Coughlin recognized at least the latter.
“The New York Giants, to me, is the greatest franchise in the history of the NFL,” Coughlin said in the official press release.
That’s a good thing. The Giants did too much for him and he did too much for the Giants to have any lingering anger hanging over that part of the franchise’s history. And one can believe that the Giants have had their share of hard feelings when it comes to former coaches.
Owen, whose 23-year reign from 1931-53 marked the team’s longest tenure — with Coughlin’s coming in a distant second, never spoke to the Mara family again after they fired him the week of the season finale.
Wellington Mara and general manager George Young were none too happy when Parcells took off in May of 1991, just after the “Wide Right” Super Bowl victory against Buffalo five months before. Parcells cited his health, but others privately opined that Parcells saw the Giants’ window of success closing, so he got out while the getting was good.
The pain of Parcells’ departure only intensified over the ensuing two years of the ill-fated Ray Handley era.
Coughlin, of course, had none of that. He gladly would have taken another shot at turning the teams’ fortunes if the Giants had let him, even as he approached the ripe age of 70. He, like Parcells, had navigated his teams to two Super Bowl victories.
A more petty franchise might have made Coughlin wait a year or two as a little pinch for his pique. The Cowboys did nothing less with Tom Landry. They waited four years after his 1989 firing to ensconce his trademark fedora up there with Roger Staubach and the gang.
That, by the way, was three years after Landry’s bust went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And if one wants to talk about bitterness, Landry’s appearance for the 1993 Ring of Honor ceremony marked his only visit to Texas Stadium after Jerry Jones fired him.
There will be no such drama here. Coughlin goes in with Accorsi, the general manager who engineered the draft day trade that brought Coughlin his quarterback, Eli Manning, and his do-it-all defensive end, Tuck.
Together, they mark a triumvirate of success.
For Coughlin, it’s an honor well deserved.
Whatever emotional hatchets hung over the relationship between the former coach and team, all parties should now consider it buried.
The Giants did the right thing.
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