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Tom Coughlin Plays the "Refs-Are-Against-Us" Card

Coughlin "sick to his stomach" about officiating in Giants loss

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011  |  Updated 5:14 AM EDT
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Tom Coughlin has never seemed like the kind of guy who would be sympathetic to one of his players coming to him with excuses that went beyond "I wasn't good enough and I'll try harder next time, coach."

So it was surprising to see him at Monday's press conference waving around a photo that seemed to show Jake Ballard's knee down in the end zone on a first quarter play that was ruled no touchdown upon review. Coughlin, the man who once vowed his team would never get injured, said he was "sick to my stomach" and railed about how his team got robbed.

The picture certainly makes the case that the refs blew the call, especially if you ignore that you can't actually tell if there's space between the knee and the field, but let's look at things as they really are.

Referees don't make reviews based on still pictures, and they need indisputable video evidence that the call on the field (in this case, that Ballard was out of bounds) was incorrect, something that is a very different standard than a coach with a picture 24 hours after the fact. 

That doesn't mean the call was correct; it just means that the call was handled correctly, and Coughlin knows that even if he doesn't like the result. What's more, Coughlin knows that the Ballard call going the other way doesn't mean his team winds up winning the game.

Ballard's play occurred in the first quarter, and assuming the entire game plays out exactly the same way if it is ruled a touchdown is an exercise for the foolish, which probably explains why so many announcers act that way during games.

The Giants didn't lose the game because of that call; they lost the game because of everything that went on over the course of 60 minutes, including calls that went their way that shouldn't have.

One can only imagine that Coughlin is making a big deal out of this in order to keep his players feeling like the entire world is against them in hopes of eliciting the same kind of performance from them against Dallas on Sunday night.

It is impossible to imagine a coach of Coughlin's experience and intelligence could actually focus on a call from the first quarter of a game that saw his team give up 38 points as the thing that made him sick to his stomach.

Beyond that, Coughlin is smart enough to know that calls go for you and against you over the course of games and seasons with the final result still resting on the players and the coaches. Seriously suggesting otherwise, as Coughlin seemed to do on Monday, is the refuge of conspiracy theorists and men who know that they can't possibly win without extra help from the officials.

That's not Coughlin.

Playing up the angle of how the whole world seems to be lined up against the Giants has to be it, then, and it isn't a bad angle to use with this team, because none of the other ones have worked. Ignoring the warning signs of the first half led to the Niners loss, doing nothing then led to the Eagles loss, ripping their effort against the Eagles led to worse effort against the Saints and last week's dissatisfaction with execution brought about another loss.

So why not play the "Us-Vs.-the-World" card ahead of the biggest game of the season? It has worked well for the Giants and plenty of other teams in the past, so it certainly is worth a shot with so much on the line.

The Giants showed that they weren't as dead as they looked in New Orleans on Sunday, but this hasn't exactly been a team that's been good at sustaining effort from week to week over the course of Coughlin's tenure.

They need to do it now, though, or the strong effort against the Packers will mean about as much as the pathetic game against the Saints. For Coughlin's sake, let's hope his decision to make a mountain out of a molehill doesn't wind up sending the message that it's okay to make excuses for losing instead of rallying the team around the big, bad forces holding them down.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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