Beyond the Bison: “Do Not Resuscitate”

Julian Dorey, Senior Writer

The New York Giants are done. Their two Super Bowl championships in 2007 and 2011 are a distant memory. Their defense is primed for complete deconstruction. Eli Manning may not even be in the plans much longer.

And their head coach? The three-time Super Bowl champion, most-likely-future-Hall-of-Famer, Tom Coughlin? It’s time he bid the Meadowlands farewell, too. Rebuilding a franchise is never easy, especially when some of the casualties include people responsible for the glory days of not-so-long ago. But in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business that is the NFL and major American professional sports, many organizations have no choice but to whip out the bulldozers when the first cracks develop in the foundation.

The Giants face an awkward, touchy predicament. Coughlin is no one-hit-wonder or slouch. This is a man who had success in the NCAA before commandeering the glory years in Jacksonville (where football goes to die) and eventually manning (no pun intended) the ship in the biggest market of them all, New York. Not only has Coughlin manned the ship since 2004, he’s brought home two Lombardi Trophies. That puts him in rare company as one of only 13 coaches in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowls.

That list includes names like Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Bill Belichick (who Coughlin defeated en route to both of his Super Bowl victories), and even the trophy’s namesake, Vince Lombardi. Considering his impressive 11-season tenure and the fact that he is only three seasons removed from the last time he led the boys in blue to the glory land, firing Coughlin at the end of this dismal 2014 season will certainly cause some controversy.

The only other coaches in NFL history who were fired after winning two or more super bowls with a team were Jimmy Johnson and Mike Shanahan. Johnson was a completely different case because he was coming off of a second Super Bowl victory and simply did not get along with Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. And, technically, Johnson wasn’t fired. It was a “mutual agreement” for him to leave the team (and collect a $2 million bonus on his way out the door). Shanahan won two Super Bowls with Dan Reeves’ all-pro roster led by Hall of Famer, John Elway. He won just one playoff game over the next 10 years before Denver canned him.

In essence, Shanahan may be the only real precedent to compare Coughlin’s situation to, and his team gave him 10 seasons after his Super Bowl victory. Coughlin has had three. Thus, the Giants’ terrifying struggles this year and last year probably aren’t enough to merit an out-right termination of Coughlin’s contract. What might override that, though, is the fact that Coughlin coaches in the highly-inflammatory, overly-judgmental New York market. Seeing a team with many faces leftover from their last Super Bowl victory fall flat on its face is simply unacceptable in the five boroughs and their extended fan base.

And you know what? The fans aren’t wrong. Coughlin’s Giants have spiraled out-of-control and his hard-nosed style that received complaints even during his Super Bowl years may finally be falling on deaf ears. The Giants have almost pulled the trigger on a coaching change before and they’ve been rewarded for showing patience. However, I think they’ve played out their hand as far as they can at this point. Eleven years is a long time and change can benefit everyone, including Coughlin.

John Mara and the Giants organization will have a tough, lose-lose decision to make when 2014 mercifully ends for the team in four weeks: fire Coughlin, or retain him out of respect for his past accomplishments.

Of course, Coughlin could save them the decision and backlash by voluntarily stepping aside at the end of the season. The question is, though: what would legitimately make us believe his “voluntary” resignation is voluntary at all? If that ends up being the case, chances are we’ll never know for sure. Such is the back door business of sports.

No matter what—whether Coughlin decides to resign, gets fired, or he and the Giants reach a “mutual agreement”—the Giants should ignore any precedents here. The team needs new blood, a new philosophy, and a new direction. The old-school Coughlin can’t be the answer in 2015.

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