FROM MY RECLINER, VA — After 12 years (also known as my entire adult football life), Tom Coughlin is stepping down as the New York Giants head coach.
This isn’t a surprise. It’s something that has seemingly been speculated about every season the 69-year-old has been at the helm, and I’ll admit I even hoped for it a few times during his tenure.
Early on it was probably adolescent naivety (a lot of frustration too), but my biggest problem was always the coordinators he chose. Coughlin has proven to be a very loyal man (certainly an admirable quality), and that seemed to handcuff him to mediocre coordinators he had a history with.
The coordinators employed by the Giants during his tenure were John Hufnagel (not in the NFL), Kevin Gilbride (not in the NFL), Tim Lewis (SF secondary coach), Bill Sheridan (DET linebackers coach) and current coordinators Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo.
See a trend? None of the Giants previous coordinators have been offered the same position on another team after the Giants released them.
This year was different. McAdoo and Spagnuolo are likely the best coordinators employed during the Coughlin-era
6-10 isn’t a good record, but with this roster, a 6-10 record and -22 point differential should put Coughlin in Coach of the Year consideration. The Giants started midseason transactions at both safety spots, middle linebacker, offensive line, tight end and even had its starting fullback take snaps at defensive tackle!
There were times during the season that Odell Beckham Jr. was the only reliable offensive target with Victor Cruz’s injury, Preston Parker’s early release, Rueben Randle’s Rueben Randleness and Larry Donnell’s injury issues. Our second-best receiver was probably third-down back Shane Vereen, and as his role indicates, he wasn’t on the field most snaps.
*I could probably write another 1,000+ words on all the holes that litter this roster*
And yet, there were only two games the Giants outright lost: The 27-7 debacle to the Philadelphia Eagles, and a 49-17 embarrassment against the Minnesota Vikings with ODB suspended.
Why is GM Jerry Reese safe?
I’m not a Giants beat reporter. I have no sources to support this, it’s just speculation by a fan who has obsessed over this team for most of my life.
The Giants owners, John Mara and Steve Tisch, want stability. New York has had just three General Managers in its history: George Young (1979-1997), Ernie Accorsi (1998-2007) and Jerry Reese (2008-present). Young and Accorsi were only replaced after they retired.
But after three losing seasons (the first such stretch since the 70s) the Giants had to make a move. They couldn’t fire Reese and keep Coughlin — any good GM is going to want to pick his own coach. So why not just remove the oldest coach in the NFL who showed signs of slipping with his poor clock management? Not to mention the embarrassment over the ODB debacle.
Reese has been with the organization since 1994, and while his recent success has been limited, he’s shown a ton of promise in that time. The owners believe in Reese the man, and now they’re letting him learn from his mistakes.
For all his failures, he was heavily involved in the mostly homegrown teams that won Super Bowls during the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Steve Smith, Jay Alford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mario Manningham, Terrell Thomas, Andre Brown, Will Beatty, JPP and David Wilson have all had their careers cut short (or diminished) because of unpredictable injuries. Smith is the only player in that group that’s 30.
And for all the blame Reese deserves, Coughlin should shoulder some for so many players failing to develop (how much? Who knows. I personally give more blame to Reese since so few players have caught on with other teams, but I’m not exactly a scout).
You could also argue that his last two drafts have been markedly better (meh).
But what’s done is done. I might not agree with the decision, but I’m currently writing my thoughts on wordpress in my bedroom, not whispering into the ears of Mara and Tisch (probably for good reason too).
Gun to my head I think the Giants promote McAdoo to head coach.
The owners like McAdoo, and have stated on record that they consider him a future head coach. The Giants currently employ a 35-year-old, two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning, who has had the two best statistical seasons of his career in the West Coast attack, and has publicly stated he respects McAdoo and would prefer to remain in the same offensive system.
The move would also allow the Giants to retain Spagnuolo, another coach the owners have publicly expressed a lot of confidence in, which in turn would keep most of the Giants coaching staff intact. Clearly something that would sit well with Coughlin.
I’d be against the move. It’s not that I don’t believe in McAdoo, but if you’re going to keep the coaching staff largely intact, why dismiss the most prominent and successful member?
McAdoo has only two years of experience as a coordinator. Before that he was a quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. That doesn’t mean he can’t have success (and Mike Tomlin got the job in Pittsburgh after only one year as a defensive coordinator), but it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
Again, this isn’t to say McAdoo can’t succeed, or that he’s been a bad coordinator for New York. But Coughlin’s voice wasn’t being tuned out in the locker room, fans weren’t clamoring for his firing and he isn’t retiring. There are already reports he’d be interested in continuing his coaching career if the right situation presented itself. Why move on from a Hall of Famer if you’re not completely overhauling the staff?
Who said that’s the plan?
Of course, that assumes the Giants don’t even want to interview other candidates. While their last few coaching searches could hardly be described as exhaustive, this is the first time they have an opening at head coach in 12 years.
And when Coughlin was hired the Giants also interviewed Lovie Smith, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis.
But there have been two times in recent memory the Giants simply hired from within. The first was in 2006 when Coughlin stripped Hufnagel of his play-calling responsibilities midseason, and gave them to then-quarterbacks coach, Gilbride. The second was after Spagnuolo was hired away to be the Rams head coach following the 2008 season, and Sheridan was elevated to defensive coordinator.
I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.
The market, history, amenities and stability make the Giants opening one of the most sought after in the league. And while the roster is mostly barren, Manning and Beckham are two incredible building blocks for any perspective coach.
So what would my plan be?
I’d look to Sean Payton or Chip Kelly (Disclaimer: All the reports out there make both seem unlikely).
Payton is tough because of the draft pick compensation likely tied to his hire, but he’s still a great offensive mind, who is a former Giants offensive coordinator. He has a Super Bowl win as a head coach, and would be a coach that could get the most out of Eli and ODB.
My biggest complaint with McAdoo (and there aren’t many), was his inability to incorporate multiple running backs onto the field. I tend to believe the Giants three best offensive players this past season were Beckham, Vereen and Rashad Jennings. So while the Giants insistence on a running back by committee is its own debate, I thought the Giants should’ve worked to get multiple backs onto the field at the same time.
That shouldn’t be an issue with Payton’s offense.
While the Saints have struggled in recent years, they’re a team that’s been hollowed out with cap room casualties, and are still recovering from Payton’s year-long suspension (which was just insane in retrospect).
He’s still highly regarded, and has every right to be highly regarded.
For Kelly, if the Giants hire him it’s clearly with the intention of keeping Reese at GM (again, pretty much no chance on Kelly).
The other big problem Kelly seemed to face was controlling personalities. From the (way) outside, it just seemed like he didn’t take the time to relate to his players. Kind of reminds me of early Bill Belichick, who’s success endeared him to players.
And for as bad as this season was, he won 20 games in his first two seasons with Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles (oh, and Michael Vick and Matt Barkley).
He is more than a scheme, and there are countless examples of all the innovative ways he’s cultivated success during his career. I’m sure I’m far from alone in my belief that he’ll find success in the NFL.
But there are tons of names out there, and presumably tons of qualified coaches interested in the opportunity. So, with as little information as we have of the owner’s thoughts, let’s leave the remaining speculation for another day.