EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has never before been 0-5 as an NFL head coach. Even his expansion 1995 Jacksonville Jaguars won their fifth game after starting 0-4. After the Giants' 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Coughlin worked hard to try to convey leadership and accountability.
"It's no fun, but I'm not concerned about me," Coughlin said. "I'm concerned about those players in the locker room. Whatever I can do, I'll defer whatever to myself. I lose the games and they win 'em."
Truth is, there's ample blame to go around, and Coughlin made a couple of questionable decisions in Sunday's loss. He explained them after the game.
Situation No. 1: In the first quarter, with the Giants up 7-0, the Eagles picked up five yards on a third-and-nine play that moved the ball to the Giants' 47. Eagles center Jason Kelce was called for holding, and had Coughlin declined the penalty, the Eagles would have had fourth-and-four at the 47. Instead, he accepted it, and they had third-and-20 from their own 37. Michael Vick ran 34 yards for the first down. Coughlin said he accepted the penalty because he believed Chip Kelly would have gone for it on fourth-and-four, and to be fair there is ample evidence to support that belief.
The explanation: "There was no question in our minds that the would go for it," Coughlin said. "So the consensus on the sideline was to take them back. We were doing a pretty good job with Vick at that time. Then, of course, the next play he runs for what would've been that first down and a first down from wherever the ball was."
My take: Even if you thought the Eagles would go for it on fourth down, I make them make that decision. Coughlin's right -- the Giants were doing a decent job on Vick at that point. The Eagles had 12 yards of total offense on nine plays so far, and there was no reason yet for the Giants to believe they couldn't stop them from gaining four yards. Crowd and defense would have been fired up. Instead, everyone was confused.
Situation No. 2: With 12:40 left in the third quarter and the Giants trailing 19-7, the Eagles converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard Nick Foles pass to LeSean McCoy. There was some dispute, among the Giants on the field, as to whether McCoy had control of the ball when he fell out of bounds and whether he had sufficient yardage for a first down. Coughlin called timeout to settle things down, then got word from his coaches in the booth that it was worth challenging the play. So he challenged the play and lost the challenge, leaving the Giants with only one more timeout for the final 27:40 of the game.
The explanation: "When I saw the players on the field, they were trying to get my attention to go ahead and challenge," Coughlin said. "The clock was way down, so I just instinctively called a timeout to settle everybody down. Obviously if I'd known in advance from upstairs what exactly I was going to do, I would have challenged first. Then I asked for the timeout back if they did reverse it. That wasn't going to be the case either. But I was very surprised, as was our sideline and upstairs, when they did not reverse it."
My take: At the time, with the game in reach and the Giants behind, it seemed like a bad move. Especially bad when they burned that final timeout with 4:48 still left in the third quarter. But this was desperation time for an 0-4 Giants team that had no reason to believe, based on its first four games, that it would be within striking distance late in the fourth quarter when those timeouts might matter. And as it turns out, they weren't.