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Tom Coughlin's Wild Ride Back to the Top

Coughlin saved his job and secured his legacy in five games

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    That smile wasn't on Tom Coughlin's face a few weeks ago.

    Where does Tom Coughlin rank among the list of the best Giants coaches?

    For a franchise that holds itself in such high regard, there aren't many contenders for the throne with worthier resumes than Coughlin. Sunday's 23-20 win over the 49ers has the Giants going to their second Super Bowl of his tenure and that makes him worthy of discussion for the top spot.

    The only two people you could put above him would be Bill Parcells and Steve Owen, but since Owen stopped coaching more than 50 years ago -- in a very different age -- you would have to make one honey of an argument to place him above Coughlin. If Coughlin wins in Indy, he would have the same number of Super Bowls as Parcells but placing him above Parcells would require totally ignoring the way Parcells took the Giants from being a sadsack franchise back to the elite of the NFL during his run.

    Coughlin has done much to continue the legacy that Parcells built, with Coughlin as an assistant coach, and another trophy would make his position as number two unassailable.

    Since we're on the subject, we'd like to enlist your support in a petition to throw the next writer or talking head who opines "Can you believe that people were calling for Coughlin's head when this team was 7-7?" into a jail set aside for tremendous hacks fond of asking rhetorical questions that don't make a bit of sense. Not only can anyone with a brain believe such calls were being made, it is totally sensible that they were being made.

    When the Giants were 7-7, they had lost five of their last six games and were on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third straight year after being in control of their own destiny halfway through the season. Beyond that, Coughlin had won a playoff game in just one of his years at the Giants' helm and the Super Bowl win felt like it was a long time ago.

    People suggesting a coaching change weren't being hysterical. They were merely expecting more from a team that was too good to be losing five of six games.

    It was a perfectly reasonable response to the way things were at that moment in time  -- and that's what makes Coughlin's year, his whole tenure really, such a remarkable story. He's been rightly hailed for his moments of achievement, but every criticism and trip to the hot seat, real or imagined, has been equally well earned.

    No one will ever really come up with a good explanation for why Coughlin's teams have underachieved for so much of his tenure, but Sunday's win over the 49ers means that it ultimately won't matter. He's come up with the right formula for unexpected, thrilling runs to the Super Bowl twice since taking over the Giants job and that will linger much longer than the baffling losses and teams that quit on Coughlin in other seasons.

    It almost didn't work out that way. But one game turned into two and, now, five that have changed things entirely for Coughlin and the Giants.

    If you're looking for an unbelievable part of this story, that's the place to start. Everything else just makes way too much sense.

    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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