The Man Who Rehabilitated Animal House
NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: Before dropping blame for this season at the feet of Tom Coughlin and rushing to hasty judgment regarding his future, the general manager should be taken to task first.
Unless the Giants go 6-2 the rest of the way, they are assured of their worst record under Coach Tom Coughlin. But this certainly wouldn't be the worst season in recent Giants history. Or, did everyone forget Coach took over a 4-12 team from Jim Fassel, and had them in the playoffs two seasons later.
I think Jim Fassel continues to be one of the greatest x-files in Giants and NFL history. Regarding Big Blue, let's face it, Fassel operated a Delta House, and he played Hoover. My Giants fandom goes back to the late 70's, in the last days just before Ray Perkins took over. After Bill Parcells left, I wallowed in self-pity, and immediately thought the Giants would never ever be good again. Then Ray Handley happened and reaffirmed my worst nightmare. Jim Fassel inherited some talent from the Dan Reeves days, and with GM Ernie Accorsi, turned the Giants into a contender again. For that, I was very appreciative of Jim Fassel.
At the same time however, I knowingly turned a blind eye at his team's tremendous lack of discipline. His was the team that fought amongst themselves on the field in the playoffs against the Vikings and lost in embarrassing last-second fashion. His was the team that looked like a deer in the headlights, and couldn't keep their (Sehorn) pants up in SB XXXV. And his was the team that blew a 500-point lead against the 49ers in the playoffs, and lost on a botched last ditch field goal attempt. Above all else, the team's propensity to pop-off at the mouth throughout the Fassel years was astonishing.
Coughlin took over and instantly sparked a rebellion. By year two of Coach's dictatorship, the Big Blue doomsday clock had ticked two minutes closer to midnight. Michael Strahan flat out hated him Coughlin and his five minute rule, and Tiki Barber infamously accused Coughlin of getting miserably outcoached after suffering a playoff blowout against the Panthers. At that very moment, it appeared as if Tom Coughlin had just lost his locker room on national TV. I admit, like Tiki, that game did not sit well with me either. But at the time, Coughlin didn't care to be liked. He was content with being feared. Obviously, that came with consequences. But for who?
After watching on TV and listening to Tiki Barber lash out at his coach through the media that night, one thing became very clear to me. Tom Coughlin wasn't the one who needed to go. Instead, I knew then, the Jim Fassel era finally needed to be purged once and for all.
On their watch, Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin cut penalty flag magnet, Luke Petitgout, from the offensive line. They then handed Tiki Barber's job to Brandon Jacobs. Jerry Reese in particular told Michael Strahan to take a hike, and Jeremy Shockey was traded as far away from Eli Manning as possible. Michael Strahan, to his credit, agreed to return to the team on Coach Coughlin's very certain terms, and became an important leader.
Since then, Coach Coughlin has evolved from the days of eliciting fear, to being respected. Heading into SB XLVI, he was down right cuddly, telling his players he loved them. Today, he is a little more soft spoken, but just as demanding. Starting this year 2-6 certainly put the Giants in a very bad spot, but these Giants are not nearly as dysfunctional as the team Coach recovered nine years ago, and returned to NFL prominence.
Under Tom Couhglin, the Giants have been to the playoffs five times, including four years in a row, and of course, won two Super Bowls. The Giants could have made it three Lombardy trophies, were it not for Plaxico Burress shooting the Giants attempt at a repeat in the thigh. The Giants posted a 12-4 record in 2008 - their best regular season mark under Coughlin. That season came at the exact mid-point of his tenure.
Over a (now) ten year run, Tom Coughlin's victory curve follows a very natural rise and decent. The Giants went 6-10 in his first season, then went on to achieve double digit victories in four of the next six years. By 2011, he managed to capture his second Super Bowl with an aging team on the decline. The Giants record tapered off these last two seasons, which brings us to the present.
The Giants are clearly in need of another overhaul. That's not on Coach Coughlin. Time stands still for no one, and in his tenth season, the top half of Big Blue's hour glass has just about emptied. But in this immediate gratification society we now live in, I caution more than ever, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Before dropping blame for this season at the feet of Tom Coughlin and rushing to hasty judgment regarding his future, the general manager should be taken to task first.