TOM COUGHLIN HAS GIANTS BACK IN PLAYOFFS AFTER PLAYERS - LIKE ANTREL ROLLE - BUY INTO "THE COUGHLIN WAY"
"The morning after one of the season’s ugliest losses – a heartless,
lackluster effort by the Giants against the Washington Redskins at home on Dec.
18 – Tom Coughlin’s players
were braced for the worst. Their season was falling apart, a playoff berth
seemed like a long shot, and their coach’s job was on the line, too.
were ready for him to scream.
He had done it before. He was known for it.
So imagine their surprise when, after their fifth loss in six games, with their
once-promising season in ruins, with their coach seemingly on the way out, and
with their crosstown rivals already loudly claiming victory over their city,
their embattled coach stepped onto the stage in front of them, smiled and said,
“Get your heads up … Get the frowns off your face.”
Those words not only
shocked a Giant team expecting to be ripped apart by its coach, it sparked a
turnaround that led to two straight wins, the NFC East title and earned Big Blue
Sunday’s wild-card game against Matt Ryan and
the Falcons at MetLife Stadium.
“Quite frankly we deserved to be screamed
at,” said guard Chris Snee. “I’m
pretty sure he did that after the game. I’m sure that after watching the tape he
wanted to do it again. But you also have to be honest and lay it all out in
front of us, man to man. We had more games to be played.”
been here apparently Tom has calmed down quite a bit,” added veteran defensive end Dave
Tollefson. “He really has. It’s composure. This game is a stressful game and
it’s really about staying composed, understanding what you need to fix,
understanding what you do well and just moving forward.”
They did that
and likely saved the 65-year-old coach’s job with two stellar performances
against the Jets and Cowboys that featured more passion and energy than the
Giants had shown in their first 14 games.
It wasn’t all because of
Coughlin, of course. But he got the credit from his players for doing what he’s
done so often ignoring the circling vultures, brushing off the pressure, and
getting his players to focus on their jobs.
“I think he’s done a great
job of that,” left tackle David Diehl said. “With
everything that happened, he had us stay on course. He had everyone
“To be honest, I don’t think anyone really cared what was being
said that’s what I’ve always loved about being part of this team,” Snee added.
“We don’t worry about what people said. We just listen to Coach and the obvious
fact that we were still in position to win the NFC East by winning the last two
They would need more than just Coughlin’s focus, though, to pull
the season back from the brink of the “historical” collapse that Justin
Tuck warned about after the Giants finished the first half of the season
with an encouraging 6-2 record. A big reason for the late-season revival has
been a return to good health. Tuck, after a season of battling injuries, is
finally playing like his old self. Even Osi Umenyiora
returned for the finale after a four-week absence and chipped in with two
When the Giants play their first playoff game since the 2008
season, this team that has been battered all year – it had a ridiculous 23
players either placed on injured reserve or waived with an injury settlement
since August – will be as close to being in one piece as it’s been all season.
All 53 players on the roster could be healthy enough to be on the
“The last two weeks it seems like we kind of put all that behind
us,” Tuck said. “We’re healthier one way or the other. We’re healthier either
mentally or physically. I don’t really know which one it is right now, but the
playoffs kind of give you a rebirth. The aches and the bruises don’t hurt as
Don’t underestimate the “mental” part of that. During the Giants’
second-half swoon, there were plenty of opportunities for this season to
unravel. There were moments where it sure sounded and sometimes looked like
players in the often-confused secondary were pointing fingers at each other.
There has been an underlying uneasiness all season with the oft-angry Brandon Jacobs about
how he is used.
And then there is Antrel Rolle, the
mouthy safety who admits he’s hardly a “Coughlin player.” He did a seemingly
un-Coughlin-like thing, too, after that loss to the Redskins when he criticized
injured teammates for not practicing during the week – what appeared to be a
shot at Tuck, the oft-injured team leader. Rolle said it wasn’t.
Coughlin has noticed that Tuck and almost everyone else has been out at practice
every day since.
Rolle is a great example of how Coughlin perseveres and
endures, despite all the struggles and the unending speculation. He didn’t waver
in his principles, beliefs or rules, even as the volatile Rolle chafed under him
last season. He bit his tongue and waited for Rolle to come around. Eventually
Now, Rolle is much more of a “Coughlin guy.” And though Coughlin
likely would have preferred that Rolle hadn’t taken his concerns public, he
admits Rolle’s postgame rant had a positive impact on the team.
there was some impact,” Coughlin said. “It just brought it out. It just pointed
out that we need all hands on deck. Everybody’s got to go with this thing. … I
asked for more positive peer pressure from the players.”
That was another
key part of this turnaround. He wanted his leaders to lead and his players to
act like men. That’s a big reason why he was willing to risk so much during the
first half of the first game against the Cowboys on Dec. 11 by benching his best
running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, for
violating team rules. Leave the chaos, broken rules and the bad chemistry to the
Jets. Coughlin wasn’t going to let one irresponsible player spoil the whole
That’s the Coughlin Way. He wants everybody on board. One team,
one goal, same rules for everybody. And even when he gets furious at an
inexcusable performance, he never loses sight of his only objective winning the
And sometimes he knows it’s best to look at the task that lies
ahead without even glancing back.
“No one’s going to wait for you,”
Tollefson said. “He always says that. ‘No one’s waiting.’ You’ve got to stay on
that even keel because this game is such a game of ups and downs. It’s about
moving forward and not falling down.”
When asked this week about that
pivotal after the Redskins debacle, Coughlin, true to form, was dismissive of
the question. His only response to being asked why he chose to smile and give a
pep talk when his battered team was bracing for a verbal storm was short and
“Because I know the team,” Coughlin said. “I know the
And those people, in turn, know their coach.
“I think he
has a good feel for this team, a good understanding that when we are up against
the wall and things seem bad that seems to bring out our best play,” Eli
Manning said. “He knows how to get our best football and how to get us ready
to play that next week and the players have done a good job responding to
They always have, at least since Coughlin’s survival instinct
kicked in after his tumultuous 2006 season, when he nearly lost the locker room,
lost any goodwill he had earned from the media and fans, and almost lost his job
because of all the chaos. He changed after that, at least a little, and listened
a little more closely to the pulse of his team.
The result was the
Giants’ miraculous Super Bowl XLII championship. Now, four years later, with his
finger again on the pulse, Coughlin has also somewhat miraculously put them in
position to make a run again. And all he had to do was keep his team pointed in
the right direction.
He knew that was all they would need.
guys don’t understand what you have at stake, they’re not going to get it by
raising your voice at them,” safety Deon Grant added.
“I have to say that approach definitely worked because it got guys back focused
and ever since then we’ve been playing good ball.” Read more...