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The Giants Still Have Decisions to Make on Tom Coughlin

John Mara's vote of confidence needs a second act to ring true

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jan 3, 2011  |  Updated 10:45 AM EDT
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Say this for the Giants, they don't let little things like missing the playoffs two years in a row screw with the narrative that they've created for themselves.

Shortly after Sunday's victory, team owner John Mara gave the smuggest speech you'll ever hear from a man whose team missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Mara confirmed that Tom Coughlin would be back for the 2011 season, that there was never any doubt that Coughlin would be back for the 2011 season and that the Giants are a little bit better than the rest of the world because they don't let little things like winning get in the way of making decisions about keeping coaches on board.

"In every sport, everybody wants to fire the coach,” said Mara. "If the Yankees lose in the playoffs, everybody wants to fire the manager. It’s not our culture. It’s not what we believe in."

That's not to say that Mara made the wrong call. Firing coaches off of 10-win seasons is pretty silly, even if they were once 6-2 and even if this is the sixth time in seven years that the Giants have fallen apart down the stretch. It would still be interesting to hear Mara explain why he didn't make Coughlin's job security known before the Redskins game, he said it was no one's business but it seems that it might have had more to do with not having egg on his face if the Giants bombed for the third straight week.

At any rate, Coughlin didn't do enough to earn a trip to the guillotine this season. It's hard to hold him directly responsible for Eli Manning's inability to decipher friend from foe or for the myriad defensive breakdowns that submarined the team in losses to Green Bay and Indianapolis. He doesn't get nearly enough blame for the team's continual lack of discipline, but he deserves credit for winning more than he loses in spite of that.

And the Giants' desire for stability is also laudable. In places like Denver, Washington and Oakland, you can see that running willy-nilly in different directions leads to nothing positive. That quest for stability has to be managed carefully, however, because over the last three years it has looked a lot more like an acceptance of mediocrity. Keeping Coughlin is fine, but resisting any meaningful change to the roster and coaching staff certainly is not.

More than anything, though, Mara has to put actual muscle behind his support of Coughlin. The coach's contract is up after 2011 and there has never been a case of a successful season under a lame duck coach in the history of football. That means the Giants will either have to give him an extension or they'll have to announce his retirement and succession plan in advance. The latter makes sense based on Coughlin's age, although it has had mixed success in previous incarnations. The former might be even more problematic, however.  

Giving Coughlin a one-year extension might thrill the directors from FOX who can't show Coughlin's childish sideline antics often enough, but it only means that the job speculation that Mara sneers at will get going in training camp. It also does nothing to say that the Giants have serious faith that Coughlin is the right man for the job. Going for two or three years, on the other hand, reinforces the notion that there's an acceptance of all the team's flaws without any proof that there's any fix in place for them going forward.

Tough choices all around, which isn't all that surprising given the recent history of the team that has to make them.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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