Thursday, March 27, 2014
Big Blue Morning: Tom Coughlin's future
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
Many thanks to Rich Cimini, who was down in Orlando, Fla., at the NFL owners meetings and spent a good chunk of his Wednesday populating the New York Giants blog with items from coach Tom Coughlin's media session. I have some thoughts on a few of the things Coughlin said, including the part where he talked about himself.
"I feel good. I'm healthy. Judy is really good towards it," Coughlin said when asked about his coaching future. (Judy is his wife.) "The family is positive and supporting. As long as I feel good, productive and energetic -- and, of course, the players respond -- I'd like to think I can keep going."
The topic of Coughlin's future comes up all the time because he's the oldest coach in the NFL. He will be 68 when the 2014 season opens. But when it comes up, it's clear that Coughlin doesn't think he's as old as the narrative assumes him to be. He points out that his NFL head-coaching career started late and that he feels young in coaching years. He says he has no hobbies or anything he's planning to do once he retires. And, oh by the way, he did win the Super Bowl less than 26 months ago, so any argument that the game may have passed him by justifiably strikes him as foolish.
Now, of course, 2013 was Coughlin's worst year since 2004, which was his first as Giants coach. The team extended his contract through 2015 so that he didn't have to go into 2014 as a lame duck, but he and everybody else knows that arrangement guarantees him no security beyond this season. If things go south for the Giants this year, there's going to be talk inside and outside the building about succession plans for the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, whether that's fair or not.
I personally think it's all premature. I know that, when new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was hired, there were people who believed that put him in line to be Coughlin's successor. But McAdoo is 36 years old and has never even been a coordinator before, so I think it's a good idea to pump the brakes on that. And while the Giants surely have many questions to answer and Coughlin's task of putting all of their new pieces together into a successful team is a big one, it's disrespectful to the man's legacy to assume he can't do it.
This is his thing. He solves puzzles. He's not the kind of coach who goes out to find "his kind of guys" to run "his system." The new faces in the locker room should energize Coughlin. The challenge of the new will appeal to his innate coaching and teaching instincts. I don't know what the results will be, because nobody can know that. But I do know that pulling last year's 0-6 Giants out of their tailspin and finishing up 7-3 while teams that didn't start 0-6 collapsed and gave up was a pretty nifty coaching trick. Especially with a roster that, as it turns out, had to be completely overhauled. My stance on Coughlin has been and will continue to be that he's not as old for his profession as everyone seems to want to make him. And I honestly don't think he's thinking about the end.