“He wanted this game really badly too, for obvious reasons,” Mara said.
The Giants came in as visitors and left as victors Saturday afternoon,
walking out of MetLife Stadium with a crushing, dominating, season-saving and
ultimately satisfying 29-14 decision over the Jets.
Coughlin got his message through during the week, a simple “win two and we’re
in” mantra that downplayed the silly notion of playing for the fictional
championship of East Rutherford
while building up
the real prize of a continued playoff dream. While Ryan talked of usurping the
Big Brother Giants the way he once vowed to topple the Big Brother Patriots, the
Jets somehow forgot to win enough games to control their own playoff fate,
turning their blustery coach into this week’s biggest NFL joke.
The Giants will host the Cowboys for the NFC East title next Sunday, a
playoff game before the playoffs that is more than any right-minded Giants
player would have asked for when this season opened. It is a scenario that
should guarantee Coughlin’s return next season.
The Giants’ coach maintained his usual deadpan attitude after a limping
ascension to the post-game podium [he took a shot to his left knee/hamstring in
the fourth quarter but refused medical attention] saying, “We won the game,
that’s the statement.” There were plenty of vindicated Giants to fill the verbal
void, however, led by none other than team owner John Mara, who said, “Given all
of the noise that was coming out of Florham Park, it’s a satisfying feeling.” Or
running back Brandon Jacobs, who admitted he all but challenged Ryan to a fight
during a profanity-laced postgame meeting.
But it was the words of Justin Tuck that backed Coughlin’s tenure most
strongly, with the Giants’ defensive captain turning in one of his best games of
the season when the Giants needed him most, fighting through the Jets’ vaunted
offensive line to harass Mark Sanchez into oblivion. Tuck credited a midweek
house call from his veteran coach for helping him escape the mental funk brought
on by a list of injuries and setbacks too long to recount.
“He challenged me to lead this team,” Tuck said. “I think I did a good job of
responding. What Antrel [Rolle] said [last week about guys not practicing
enough] struck a chord with me. Coach Coughlin confided to me how he’s seen me
play, and just asked me to give it all I had. I respect Coach Coughlin a lot.
He’s the only coach I’ve had. When he talked to me like that, it shows he cares,
and cares about more than me as a football player.”
Tuck made sure to return the favor after seeing Coughlin land in DJ Ware’s
crushing path, reminding his boss of the words he hears almost daily: “No
toughness, no championship.”
“He’s exactly right,” Coughlin said, a Santa worthy Christmas Eve smile and
Rudolph red nose lighting his face. “I’ll end up on NFL Films forever.”
Coughlin’s Giants’ reign is already among the best in franchise history, and
Saturday’s win was clearly one of the best regular-season ones he’s coached.
Mara wasn’t just speaking for himself with this postgame concession to the
weeklong buildup: “Let’s just say I wanted this game.” He was speaking for the
coach he hired eight seasons ago.
Not for the fictional battle of East
, but for the renewal of a playoff dream that felt like it died in
last week’s listless loss to the Redskins. For the win against a team that
wasn’t just chirpier, but more talented. For the win that sets the stage for
next week’s virtual playoff game.
“Absolutely, having a chance to win the division in the last game of the
season, can’t ask for more than that,” Mara said. “And it’s proven every year,
you get in the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Asked directly if speculation over Coughlin’s job was silenced by the win,
Mara demurred. “If I answer questions like that it just leads to more
speculation.” But his smile was impossible to miss. His belief that his coach’s
way is better than the other coach’s way is unshaken.
“It’s difficult to ignore [the trash talk] sometimes but I was proud of the
way our players kept their emotions under control,” Mara said. “They were jacked
up all week. But they kept their emotions under control.”
They are a reflection of their coach, at least most of them, anyway. Yet even
while ripping Ryan at every turn, the confrontational Jacobs pledged his
allegiance to Coughlin. “Shut up and play, that’s what he tells us. That’s what
he’s still trying to get through to me,” Jacobs said. “I love Coach
The Giants entered MetLife Stadium as visitors Saturday afternoon, greeted by
green jerseys and black curtains, the latter strategically placed to cover the
symbols of past Super Bowl excellence painted outside their locker room doors.
They left as victors, behind a coach whose message rang loudest this week,
behind a coach who knows what the real prize is."