No More Distractions for Tom Coughlin

Lack of effort reflects badly on coach

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jan 4, 2010  |  Updated 5:12 PM EDT
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No More Distractions for Tom Coughlin

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We were reminded of the first lesson taught to aspiring writers on Sunday afternoon when Giants coach Tom Coughlin met the media following his team's second straight humiliating defeat. That lesson -- show, don't tell -- is one that Coughlin forgot when he came out and said, "I do think we tried."

If that's true, Tom, you're the only one because the Giants showed nothing that looked remotely like effort. For a lot of coaches, that kind of disconnect between perception and reality would be the kiss of death. Coughlin isn't getting fired, though you have to wonder if that outcome might be different if the Yankees hadn't won the World Series.

The Giants, you'll recall, started the year 5-0 while the Yankees were preparing for the playoffs and polishing off the Twins in a brief first-round series. Life was happy around the Giants and people were making bold predictions about future glories. As things heated up in the Bronx, the Giants promptly went into the tank and lost four straight games before their bye week. Four straight losses at any point in a season usually bring a lot of heat on a coach, but it didn't seem like anyone noticed that the Giants were playing some seriously ugly football.

Even worse, the Giants showed no ability to fix the problems from one week to another. In an environment like New York, that kind of systemic failure usually leads to back page after back page calling for a coach's head. Thanks to Matsui, Damon and Rivera, though, there wasn't space for anything about Coughlin.

After the Yankees were done, the Giants returned to win three of five games and give people an excuse to talk about how resilient they were and, especially, how Coughlin was no stranger to rapid turnarounds of lost causes. Then came Carolina and Minnesota and a lot of shocked reactions to a team that played with no heart, pride or fire.

There shouldn't have been much shock after that four-game losing streak, though. Nor should there have been much shock after the way the team closed last season. It's hard to think the distractions earlier this season weren't the reason for the lack of heat on Coughlin, just as the Plaxico Burress incident got people looking in another direction last season.

The coach can't do anything about injuries or aging talent, and the Giants had plenty. That doesn't change the fact that he lost his team this season and he lost them early, even if no one noticed until the last throes of the season. That will be dealt with by changing coordinators -- defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan may already be gone and, after the last two games, Kevin Gilbride probably won't be running the offense anymore -- but the head coach will skate.

John Mara confirmed that in a meeting with reporters on Monday, but he also said that the status quo wasn't acceptable. Mara promised major changes, all of which will serve to put Coughlin (and general manager Jerry Reese) on the hot seat as they prepare to move into their new digs. Mara's words are a big change from preseason talk about how good the Giants were and how little they needed to do to remain among the league's best teams.

Coughlin's return is understandable, since Super Bowl wins buy you a deserved amount of leeway -- but the head coach is running out of ice. No more gunshots, no more World Series titles and no more assistant coaches to take the blame. Next season will start with him squarely in the crosshairs because, no matter what he says, his team just stopped trying.

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